Redskins-Rams: Game Balls, Gassers and Observations — Defense

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is sacked for a 2-yard loss by Washington Redskins defenders Brian Orakpo and Stephen Bowen during the second quarter on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is sacked for a 2-yard loss by Washington Redskins defenders Brian Orakpo and Stephen Bowen during the second quarter on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins‘ defense and some observations after rewatching the TV broadcast of their 17-10 win over the St. Louis Rams.

GAME BALLS

ROLB BRIAN ORAKPO:Orakpo deserved the NFC defensive player of the week honor he received for this performance. Afterward, he said it was reminiscent of his four-sack game against Oakland in his rookie year. There were stretches last Sunday when LT Rodger Saffold simply couldn’t block him.

Orakpo had 2.5 sacks, all of them on bull-rushes and 1.5 from a 4-point stance. He beat Saffold twice by staying low and exploding up into his pads. On the half-sack he shared with DE Stephen Bowen at the end of the first half, Orakpo drove into Saffold so powerfully that he lifted Saffold onto one leg. Orakpo got his hands into Saffold’s chest, too. It was over right then.

He beat Rams C Jason Brown on his other sack. St. Louis’ protection on the play was very strange. The Rams ran a play-action stretch play to the right, away from Orakpo’s side. As the line blocked play-side, Brown peeled back to block Orakpo coming from the left. Why the Rams thought it a good idea to have their center block a two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker in space is probably a good indication why they’re 0-4.

Orakpo also set up Bowen’s fourth-quarter sack. He rushed from an inside linebacker’s position at Saffold, who was lined up over Bowen. LG Tony Wragge slid with Orakpo instead of passing him off to Saffold. Orakpo picked Saffold, and that opened a lane for Bowen to loop through and get to Bradford.

Orakpo wasn’t perfect on the afternoon. Rams RBStephen Jackson beat him for a touchdown catch. When Jackson sprinted out of the backfield on a pass route down the left side, Orakpo tried to turn and run with him in coverage. However, his feet tangled with TE Lance Kendricks’, and Orakpo stumbled. That allowed Jackson to separate enough to catch the pass.

Overall, though, Orakpo helped take the game over in the second half when the offense couldn’t put the victory away. That’s what marquee players do.

RDE STEPHEN BOWEN:Bowen had another strong game against the run, and he also contributed 1.5 sacks. His most impressive play, in my opinion, was the fourth-quarter second-and-3 on which he beat a double-team and limited RBStephen Jackson to 1 yard. First, he shed LG Tony Wragge by pulling Wragge through the block and ripping under him. Then LT Rodger Saffold cut off his path en route to the linebacker, but Bowen swam through that and got to Jackson. Bowen’s strength and quickness made that play.

He fought through LG Tony Wragge to limit RBStephen Jackson to 3 yards on third-and-4 in the first half. It’s clear that Bowen is getting comfortable with the reads he has to make in this scheme. He’s playing faster and stronger as a result.

In the passing game, Bowen made a second-half adjustment against Wragge that helped him generate pressure. “He just kept trying to jump me,” Bowen explained later. “I realized it kind of late, which I was kind of upset about. I tried to give him a little more space, and it forced him to make a decision.”

ILB ROCKY MCINTOSH: McIntosh had five tackles and now leads the Redskins with 27, according to the league. Improved talent on the line in front of him is keeping him cleaner and helping him make plays, but McIntosh also seems to be better with his run fits and angles. He stopped RBStephen Jackson for a 1-yard gain in the first half by filling his gap after OLB Ryan Kerrigan and DE Adam Carriker occupied three Rams blockers.

McIntosh stopped St. Louis’ screen for a 5-yard loss on third-and-12 on the game’s first series by diagnosing the play quickly and sprinting to the ball behind the blockers out in front. He forced an incompletion in the second half on a delayed blitz. He read Jackson was staying in to protect, and hit QB Sam Bradford as Bradford threw.

Coverage is still problematic at times for McIntosh. TE Lance Kendricks separated from him by faking in and then breaking out for an 8-yard catch on third-and-5 in the second quarter.

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