LOS ANGELES—Here are my five key observations from the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Rams:
You have to run the ball to run the ball—The Redskins didn't have much traction in the running game last week against the Eagles. Sunday they ran early and often, setting the tone for the game. In the preseason Trent Williams often preached patience, saying that the running game needs time to wear down a defense. They never had a chance to do that last week. But in LA they got it rolling with 39 rushing attempts. They don’t need to rush that often every game but something in the 25 or more range will help.
Defense got the quick shut down—In four games last year the Redskins’ opponent need a touchdown in the last two minutes to win the game. They won three of those games, against the Ravens, Eagles, and Vikings but not before the Redskins had to survive a drive into the opponent’s territory. Sunday, a potential game-tying drive in the last two minutes was shut down immediately with Mason Foster’s interception. That’s the way good defenses do it. I’m not sure in the Redskins are there yet but it’s a good start.
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Getting a win with a subpar game from Cousins—The Redskins have had trouble winning if Kirk Cousins is not on the top of his game. He wasn’t awful vs. the Rams—he didn’t turn the ball over unlike last week when he had two fumbles lost and an interception—but he wasn’t good enough to win without the strong running game. To his credit, he came through at the end, completing four of four passes on the winning drive with two completions to convert third downs including the game winner to Ryan Grant.
The Rams are an improving team—It’s early but it appears the Sean McVay has the Rams on the right track. You could argue that Jared Goff was the better of the two quarterbacks on the field in this matchup despite the interception. Todd Gurley had 88 yards rushing, his best game since December 13, 2015. I don’t see them as playoff contenders or anything but they will battle everyone on their schedule.
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The Redskins needed this win, badly—As I said coming in, it wasn’t a must-win game but an 0-2 start would have been miserable and alarm bells would have started to go off. Now they can look to a pair of matchups against the AFC West with a degree of confidence. If they can win at least one against the Raiders or Chiefs they would be no worse than 2-2 going into the bye week. And it’s too early to pay that much attention to division standings, but after the Cowboys and Eagles lost they will be in either a three- or four-way tie for the division lead, pending the result of the Giants game Monday night.