- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2015

LANDOVER — Standing on the sideline Sunday during the Washington Redskins‘ game against the St. Louis Rams, Terrance Knighton had a memory pop into his head. In just his second game in Washington, Knighton felt like he was watching something familiar. It was not a fleeting deja vu recollection, rather a lucid thought: He had seen this before.

Knighton spent two years with the Denver Broncos before signing with the Redskins in March. The Broncos were pummeled, 43-8, by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle was built from brick and mortar, anchored in running the ball and stopping the run. Running back Marshawn Lynch was the team’s hammering heart, compiling mercy-free runs against all defenders. The defense absorbed and was fed by the physical persona. Seattle used the dual-punishment dynamic to beat Knighton and the Broncos for a Super Bowl win, and it followed with a return to the Super Bowl last year.

Years earlier, the San Francisco 49ers used much of the same idea to make it to three consecutive NFC title games. Scot McCloughan, the Redskins‘ first-year general manager, delivered much of the talent and philosophy to those San Francisco and Seattle teams Knighton had opposed. McCloughan is trying to wire the approach through the Redskins now.

“Listen, when he got here, knowing where he came from, we knew what it was,” Knighton said. “Him coming from Seattle, we knew the type of mentality he had, the types of teams he put together. He didn’t have to say much.”

Watching rookie running back Matt Jones — who at least in aspiration, if not yet pedigree, reminds of Lynch — couple with Alfred Morris made Knighton think of the philosophy he saw out west. Furthering the feeling is being part of a revamped and rotating defensive line that has allowed 89 yards to opposing running backs in two weeks.

Were the style of Sunday’s 24-10 win against the Rams handed to McCloughan as a blueprint, it would be printed on gold leaf and framed. For the second consecutive week, the Redskins ran more than they threw. A running back cracked the 100-yard rushing mark. Last week, it was Morris. This week, it was the rookie Jones, sweeping left with dreadlocks flying and anger in his steps.

Washington used packages with two tight ends to push back at the vaunted Rams front seven. Its clock management was steady and thorough. The Redskins had the ball a whopping 37:44 to 22:16 for the Rams. Control the ball. Control the line of scrimmage. Be the tougher group.

“Everybody calls the St. Louis Rams a great defensive team. They’re bullies, so to speak, because they’re able to fly around and dominate, and just bully offenses,” inside linebacker Keenan Robinson said. “Our offense today bullied them.”

The Redskins‘ final drive was the most emphatic, providing closure a week after it couldn’t. Knowing three points should be enough to finish the Rams, Washington started at its 23-yard line with 9:27 to play. It put together its second 12-play drive of the afternoon, running the ball eight times. Jones stormed around the left side with chugging left guard Shawn Lauvao alongside, ran into traffic, stuck his arm out and scored with 2:38 to play. Left tackle Trent Williams threw a fist in the air and hopped toward the sideline. The Redskins had participated in an offensive lineman’s philosophical dream of grabbing an opponent by the shirt collar and delivering direct blows with the run game.

“For a lineman, there’s nothing more satisfying,” Williams said.

Knighton’s flashback was in-game. Williams’ memory had sat in the back of the his head since last season. He chose to pull it to the fore Saturday night in the team hotel. Before going to sleep, Williams watched the Redskins‘ 24-0 loss to the Rams last year at FedEx Field. Morris ran eight times for six yards. Quarterback Colt McCoy was sacked six times. After that game, Washington was 3-10. Williams’ irritation was peaked. He took time Saturday to reboot the bitterness.

“Just so it would be fresh in my mind,” Williams said. “Those guys came out here and embarrassed us last year. There was no if, ands or buts about it. They were the better team. They goose-egged us at home. That’s a terrible feeling. That’s a terrible feeling. Especially when you know that you have offensive weapons that people would die for.

“I had to go back and watch it to let myself know how they did us last year.”

On Sunday, the Redskins were punching. Dominating, even. Jones averaged 6.5 yards a carry. Quarterback Kirk Cousins averaged 7.5 yards per completion. Balanced and bullish, Washington spent three of four quarters successfully playing a style so common to McCloughan and seemingly antithetical for coach Jay Gruden, a former arena-league quarterback who once threw 70 touchdown passes in a season.

“You look at all the successful teams in the history of this league and very few of them are throwing it 70 times a game,” Gruden said. “There’s a strong running game there, and that is the blueprint that we have to have. You know, we have a young quarterback. We don’t want to throw the ball 50 times. We want to run the ball and be physical. It opens a lot of things for us, and it controls the clock like it did again today.

“The blueprint was there last week. We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game. I think, if we run the ball more than we pass it, and we have an equal amount of rushing yards as passing yards, we’re going to win a lot of games this year.”

That would help Knighton and Williams have new memories.

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