After opening up against two of Texas’ best and staring at a road affair with the Philadelphia Eagles next week, the Washington Redskins were facing the proverbial “Trap Game” against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. It was a trap they would fall right into as the normally rancid Rams stole a victory against the Redskins, 30-16. A two-touchdown beat down by a Rams team that had previously lost 13-straight home games will surely have the phone lines ringing this week in Washington, and the AFRO sums up what they’ll be saying.

First Down: Costly Conversions
Redzone shortages have been a steady malfunction of the Redskins for a few seasons now and the problem went haywire again on Sunday. Stalled drives at the Rams’ 11, 13 and two-yard line were enough to turn the TV set off for most diehard ‘Skins fans. Washington was also 1-for-10 on third down conversions and just didn’t have that “click” on offense. The absence of prize rookie lineman Trent Williams may not show up in the stat sheet, as St. Louis only recorded one sack, but the Redskins’ offensive line suffered from an inability to push St. Louis off the ball all afternoon.

Second Down: The Adventures of the 3-4 Defense
Most teams don’t just switch to a new defensive alignment and have it work for them off the bat. There are going to be some ups and downs as players and coaches adjust to what they do well and what they don’t. So allowing 30 points to a typically low-scoring Rams team can be chalked up to growing pains. Through the season’s first six quarters, the defense had the look of a lockdown unit. Washington’s stop team had held the explosive Cowboys and Texans to a combined 17 points before Houston exploded in the second half. Whatever happened to the defense between the middle of the season’s first six quarters needs to be fixed and soon.

Third Down: Culture Change in Washington
There’s nothing more frustrating than losing to annual doormats (what we call teams that usually get walked on or ran over) but the Redskins keep turning nightmares into reality. Last year it was a stunner against the winless Detroit Lions, and the year prior it was the Rams, again. In ’07 it was the Buffalo Bills after the devastating death of Sean Taylor. The team annually plays down to its level of competition but the hiring of head coach Mike Shanahan and acquisition of star quarterback Donovan McNabb was supposed to change that. The season’s first couple of games went as expected ? a lot of energy and solid play. Sunday’s stinker against St. Louis will have the team members scratching their heads, however. Fans will be easy on Shanahan, considering he’s just breaking into his job, but the club can ill-afford to have games slip like this in the always-tough NFC East.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO