- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 28, 2004

ST. LOUIS — If Joe Gibbs was hoping to see continued progression from his Washington Redskins, he was sorely disappointed.

If the coach wanted all of his players to make it through the game in good health, he wasn’t going to get it.

And if he wanted to see his young quarterback make a strong case for the starting job, he was in the wrong building.

There wasn’t much of anything Gibbs could hang his hat on following a 28-3 exhibition trouncing by the St. Louis Rams, an unsatisfying regression for a team coming off a positive performance.

“We didn’t play Redskin football and we paid the price for it,” the visibly frustrated Gibbs said. “We’ve got to realize if we don’t play tough, hard-nosed, smart, Redskin football, we have a chance to have this happen to us. Hopefully, it will be a lesson for all of us.”

Any progress Washington seemed to make in last Saturday’s 17-0 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins was lost as the Rams romped before a crowd of 65,393 at Edward Jones Dome. Where the Miami victory featured a crisp offense, aggressive defense and mistake-free football, last night’s loss was rife with sloppiness.

The Redskins (2-2) were thoroughly beaten in every phase of the game, a disconcerting sign for a team that now must shore things up in Friday’s preseason finale against Atlanta before the games start counting.

“Anytime you play like that, you want to get that taste out of your mouth,” Gibbs said. “You don’t want to play like that. It was my fault in a lot of ways for probably not getting the guys ready. It starts with me and goes on down.”

Washington’s coaching staff has plenty to be concerned about in the wake of this loss, but perhaps nothing will lead to more head-scratching than the porous play of the first-string defense, which previously had been its unquestioned strength.

The Rams’ explosive offense, known around these parts as “the Greatest Show on Turf” ran circles around the Redskins, picking apart Washington’s secondary with the greatest of ease.

Quarterbacks Mark Bulger (6-for-12, 78 yards, one touchdown) and Chris Chandler (9-for-15, 190 yards, one touchdown) sat back in the pocket and fired away, consistently finding open seams in Gregg Williams’ zone defense. Redskins cornerbacks Shawn Springs, Fred Smoot and Ralph Brown were left helpless, twisting and turning in a failed attempt to keep up with St. Louis’ receivers.

“I can’t say it was one of the Redskins’ best efforts, but it was one we can learn from,” Smoot said. “We hadn’t had this type of challenge since the preseason started. I think this is the one that we really needed.”

Brown, serving as nickel back with veteran Walt Harris still hampered by a knee injury, was a prime culprit on two touchdowns. He was beaten by Torry Holt on a 7-yard pass from Bulger in the second quarter, then blew a tackle on a 35-yard strike from Chandler to Shaun McDonald in the third.

Smoot and rookie safety Sean Taylor, making his second straight start, were both beaten by Holt on a 58-yard, second-quarter bomb. Taylor did atone for the mistake by racing across the field to pick off a Chandler pass late in the first half, the first-rounder’s third interception in four games.

Taylor’s play notwithstanding, last night’s defensive performance — even with LaVar Arrington, Mike Barrow and Phillip Daniels all back home nursing injuries — was upsetting considering the first string didn’t surrender a touchdown over the previous three weeks.

“This was a good learning experience for us tonight,” said Williams, who gave several of his younger defenders significant playing time. “You can’t picture their speed until you get into a game with them. We think we’ve improved our speed, but we’re not there yet.”

While the Redskins’ defense was surrendering big play after big play, the offense was sputtering along, practically going unnoticed.

Patrick Ramsey, in what was likely his last chance to wrest the starting quarterback job from Mark Brunell, was a nondescript 5-for-10 for 81 yards. His only big play —a 44-yard pass to Taylor Jacobs — was wasted after Jacobs fumbled the ball away.

Brunell wasn’t much better, finishing 5-for-8 for 28 yards in one quarter of action.

Tailback Clinton Portis carried only three times for 13 yards before departing, though he wasn’t the only rusher struggling to gain yards. The Redskins totaled just 62 yards on the ground after piling up 181 against Miami.

John Hall produced the club’s three points, connecting on a 28-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive.

Washington got a brief scare in the first quarter when left tackle Chris Samuels hobbled off the field with a sprained ankle. The injury is not considered serious [-] X-rays taken at halftime came back negative [-] but more than a few hearts skipped a beat when Samuels went down, three weeks after right tackle Jon Jansen suffered a season-ending tear of his Achilles’ tendon.

It was just the final indignity in a night full of frustration.

“I can’t think of anything we really did well,” Gibbs said.

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