LANHAM – Coming into an early season matchup against the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 17, Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden knew that the running game was a major issue from last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
But the tides turned Sunday, when a trio of tailbacks bullied the Rams all over the field until Washington took home a 27-20 victory.
Gruden's gameplan was quite simple: run the ball and then run it some more. Washington running back Robert Kelley was on his way to having a career day behind an offensive line that was firing off the ball. He recorded a team-high 78 rushing yards on 12 carries before exiting the game midway through the second quarter with a rib injury.
Kelley rushed for 63 yards in the first quarter, which was the most by any Redskins running back since Alfred Morris racked up 70 yards in week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens in 2012.
“I just think (the offensive line) came off the ball,” Gruden said. “I mean, every run scheme that we used had some success. Obviously, they stopped some runs there in the third quarter. They did better against the run in the third quarter for a little while, but for the most part, I think we were hitting on all cylinders as far as guys were finishing blocks, getting up to the right people.”
Quarterback Kirk Cousins put the Redskins ahead 27-20 with 1:49 to go in the game after he found Ryan Grant for an 11-yard touchdown. That left Rams quarterback Jared Goff the chance to lead a game-tying drive inside of two minutes, but Redskins linebacker Mason Foster intercepted his pass on the first play of the drive to seal the victory.
“They are a resilient group, man,” Gruden said. “I think you have a tough loss at home against the Eagles, one that we really wanted to come out and start fast on. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done, but for them to bounce back shows their mental toughness.”
Washington quickly jumped out to a three-point advantage after Dustin Hopkins nailed a 41-yard field goal. The offense scored 10 more unanswered points after running back Chris Thompson found the endzone from seven yards out off a Cousins pass, and then Hopkins drilled another field goal to take command early on.
“The one drive we scored on I don't believe we even threw a pass,” said Cousins, who finished with 179 yards and a touchdown. “I don't know how many times that actually happens during the regular season – the entire drive running the ball. That was unique. You have to credit the offensive line with the way they blocked.”
When Kelley went down, Thompson and rookie Samaje Perine picked up the slack. Thompson finished the game with 77 rushing yards on just three carries, including a 61-yard draw play that he took to the house late in the second quarter to push the lead to 20-10 before halftime.
Perine had his first opportunity to show what he could do in the Redskins offense as an early-down back and played admirably down the stretch. He totaled 67 yards on 21 carries against a vaunted Rams defensive front.
Goff led a scoring drive during the first offensive series of the second half after he hooked up with running back Todd Gurley. Gurley scored his second touchdown of the game on an 18-yard pass while leaping over Bashaud Breeland and diving into the endzone past Deshazor Everett. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein tacked on three more points later in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20 as Los Angeles attempted to make a comeback.
Fortunately for the Redskins, Cousins gave them the lead late while Foster locked the game up with his interception.
Washington will enjoy the hard-fought road victory, but will have their hands full next Sunday night against the visiting Oakland Raiders.