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Speaking of receivers, I would have given WR Santana Moss a game ball if it weren’t for his drop that resulted in an interception on third-and-11 in the fourth quarter. Moss is one of the best route runners in the game, but he stumbled coming out of his break on that drag. QB Rex Grossman got rid of the ball quickly against a six-man blitz, and Moss didn’t regain his balance and compose himself in time. He tried to backhand the catch, which he often does, and it went through his hands.

Moss‘ touchdown, however, was nice. He separated from the defender, who was playing with inside leverage, with a sharp break to the sideline. He knew where he was on the field and got both feet in bounds.

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It turns out RB Tim Hightower played with an injured left shoulder. Coach Mike Shanahan on Monday referred to times when he can see the game isn’t coming naturally to a running back. Perhaps Hightower’s injury contributed to such an assessment. While RB Ryan Torain exploited cutback lanes and ran through and over the Rams‘ defense for 7.1 yards per carry, it did not come easily for Hightower, who averaged only 3.0.

However, Hightower was a major asset in pass protection. Despite his shoulder, he did not hold back the force with which he hurtled himself into oncoming rushers. And his tackle of CB Justin King on a fourth-quarter interception return was a hustle play that saved a touchdown.

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In rewatching the game, the offensive line didn’t appear as dominant as I thought it would. First of all, there were too many penalties. RT Jammal Brown committed a false start on fourth-and-4 that changed Mike Shanahan’s mind about going for it. LT Trent Williams committed holding on a screen. C Will Montgomery also had a holding penalty.

Each lineman had his share of successful and unsuccessful blocks. In speaking with LG Kory Lichtensteiger after the game, he was displeased with his performance on the late-fourth-quarter series on which the Redskins‘ began at their 2-yard line. DT Justin Bannan shed the Steiger’s block on first down and bottled up RB Roy Helu. Bannan pushed him back again on second down by getting better hand placement.

But a team doesn’t rush for 196 yards and give up zero sacks without quality blocking up front, by the tight ends and on the perimeter. On RB Ryan Torain’s 20-yard touchdown, Lichtensteiger blocked LBBen Leber. Montgomery locked onto Bannan despite being a half step behind him off the snap. TE Chris Cooley put DE James Hall on the ground on the edge, creating the cutback lane.

In pass protection, Brown, RG Chris Chester and the tight ends did well keeping DE Chris Long quiet. When Brown’s base is strong and he’s sliding his feet well, he’s tough to beat.

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Kyle Shanahan does a great job using bunch and stack formations to get receivers open. I counted three third-down conversions on which the Redskins‘ receivers lined up bunched or stacked, and I probably missed some others.

A good example: Third-and-8 from the Redskins‘ 42 in the third quarter. WR Santana Moss lined up wide right, directly behind WR Donte Stallworth. Stallworth began his route by getting up the field and pushing outside at the cornerback that was playing outside leverage. That cleared space for Moss to cut out to the sideline behind Stallworth after he crossed the line to gain. DE Chris Long tried to drop and cover Moss, which is a major mismatch. It was an easy read for QB Rex Grossman, who was on time with his throw. First down.

The stack forces defenders to either wait to see which receivers break in which direction or it forces them to commit early. It’s one way Shanahan gives his quarterback options and challenges coverages.

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