- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

They claim to ignore outside opinions, but Washington Redskins players and coaches knew what everyone was saying, craving and expecting in their home opener against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday: a rout. The time had come for the offense to get healthy and the defense to maul Marc Bulger.

And the Redskins did roll over St. Louis… except on the scoreboard.

In front of a FedEx Field crowd that booed throughout, the Redskins escaped with a 9-7 victory thanks to three Shaun Suisham field goals, a timely Chris Horton forced fumble and four consecutive St. Louis incomplete passes in the final two minutes.

The quick rundown: one win, zero style points.

“Yeah, we would like to run for 300 yards, pass for 600 yards and win by 50 points,” center Casey Rabach said. “People looked at this game like we would roll our hats out there and win. But a win’s a win, and I’m going to take this one and be happy with it.”

The Redskins (1-1) avoided the embarrassment of losing to St. Louis at home in consecutive years; one of the Rams’ two wins in 2008 came against Washington, a game the Redskins dominated statistically.

This year’s meeting had the same look. The Redskins outgained St. Louis 362-245 and ran 20 more plays. But not until Bulger’s downfield heave was broken up by Horton - who earlier ended a Rams drive at the Washington 5-yard line - with 1:40 remaining could Jim Zorn and Co. relax.

Instead of facing a crisis week of unfathomable drama, the Redskins can travel to Detroit knowing the softest part of their schedule began with a victory, and they had survived going 0-for-4 in the red zone.

“I feel really good about the win,” Zorn said. “When we walked into the locker room, it was quiet. We knew that we underperformed in areas, but we were really good in a lot [of areas]. … We’ll celebrate the victory and celebrate what we did well and then get back to work. The thing I know about this team, including our coaching staff, is we’ll find a way. We’ll get better next week.”

Suisham booted field goals of 21, 28 and 23 yards that capped drives of 83, 64 and 74 yards. The winning kick came with 6:27 left in the third quarter.

The Redskins won without a touchdown for the first time since the 2005 opener against Chicago (also 9-7).

Jason Campbell played the second half with an ankle injury and completed 23 of 35 passes for 242 yards. Chris Cooley caught seven passes for 83 yards.

The win also proved costly; right guard Randy Thomas could be out for the season with a right triceps injury. Zorn called it a “strain,” but teammates said Thomas told them the tendon was torn, which would require surgery and several months of recovery time. Will Montgomery replaced Thomas, and the Redskins now must decide whether the former Virginia Tech player or last year’s third-round pick, Chad Rinehart, will get the call at Detroit.

“It’s big especially when you’re talking about not a lot of depth at the offensive line position,” Campbell said. “We were hoping we would get through the year [with the same starting five]. That means other guys have to step up, and we have to help them along the way, but it’s definitely tough.”

With Thomas, the Redskins struggled to gain yards once they moved into the red zone.

Without Thomas, the Redskins continued to struggle to gain yards once they moved into the red zone.

Not counting the kneel-down time at the end of the game, the Redskins reached the St. Louis 8-yard line four times and came away with just three field goals.

“That’s unacceptable, it really is,” Rabach said.

And just as the Redskins stayed within striking distance of the New York Giants last week because their opponent struggled scoring touchdowns, St. Louis kept up with the Redskins.

• On their second drive, the Redskins had first-and-goal from the St. Louis 8. Three plays netted 5 yards when Portis gained a yard, Campbell threw 4 yards to Portis and a falling Devin Thomas couldn’t corral Campbell’s pass in the end zone.

• The Redskins’ next drive reached the St. Louis 8. But Portis lost 2 yards, Mike Sellers dropped a touchdown pass and Campbell threw it away under duress.

• Now trailing 7-6 (Bulger threw for 2 yards to Laurent Robinson late in the first half), the Redskins had first-and-goal from the 7. But questionable playcalling - a Portis stretch play, a Portis draw and a Portis pass attempt to Cooley - preceded a field goal.

• And trying to run out the clock, Zorn ordered two fourth-down calls. Portis gained 9 yards from the St. Louis 24 with 3:47 remaining, but at the two-minute mark, Portis was stuffed near the goal line for a loss of 2 yards.

“It was tough,” Campbell said. “When you kick field goals, it keeps the other team hungry and gives them confidence and they continue to fight and stay in the game.”

Said Zorn: “We’re moving the ball. It’s the [not] scoring that’s frustrating. … We’re not going to stay [ineffective]. I could wave all kinds of magic wands, but I have to come up with the right plays and put our guys in the right position.”

The Redskins appreciated Zorn’s two fourth-down calls even if the results were mixed. St. Louis got the ball back at its own 4 with no timeouts, playing right into the Redskins’ pass rush. Rookie Brian Orakpo had two pressures, and Albert Haynesworth batted a pass during the final, four-play drive.

“When he went for it the first time, I thought he was saying, ‘I feel confident in my defense. I trust my defense that if we don’t get it, they’ll bail me out,’ ” middle linebacker London Fletcher said. “As a defensive player, if you feel like your coach is putting trust in you, we need to go out and reward that trust.”

And even if the on-field product hasn’t confirmed it through two games, the Redskins trust they’re on the right track. But they realize Sunday’s efforts won’t be good enough down the line, even against this seemingly soft stretch of the schedule.

“You take the win anytime,” defensive end Phillip Daniels said. “We just have a lot of improving to do across the board.”

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