The Loser Papers – 2017 – Edition I

Loser Papers Washington Commanders

Is it that time already? Yes, Redskins fans, it is! After a tumultuous off-season, we are finally playing real football again. And, with the first victory of the young season in the books, the editors here at TLP have searched the greater Los Angeles area for newspaper articles to explain how the hometown Rams, led by former Redskins OC, Sean McVay let this one slip away. In case you didn’t know, that’s what TLP is all about; Giving you insight, from the other team’s perspective, on how they were beaten by the Washington Redskins. Was it the refs? A bad bounce? A costly mistake? Or did they simply not play up to their potential? Let’s find out. From the pages of The Los Angeles Times, we bring you two articles:

Rams coach Sean McVay sees life pass before his eyes in loss to Redskins

Gary KleinContact Reporter

Standing on the Coliseum sideline, Rams coach Sean McVay could see the past, the present and the future pass before his eyes.

Kirk Cousins, the quarterback McVay helped develop as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator, masterfully moved his team down the field and passed for a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Jared Goff, the young Rams quarterback McVay is charged with developing, then came onto the field with a chance to engineer a game-winning drive.

Goff had extended plays throughout Sunday’s game and made some good throws. But on the first play of their final drive, linebacker Mason Foster intercepted Goff’s pass, sealing the Rams’ 27-20 defeat before a crowd of 56,612.

“I probably could have given us a better play,” McVay said, “and we could have made a better decision with the football.”

The Rams also could have done a much better job stopping Washington’s rushing attack and eliminating penalties and fumbles.

But McVay and the Rams won’t have much time to dissect a loss that evened their record at 1-1. They play the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC West game at Levi’s Stadium on Thursday.

That’s probably a good thing for team that showed it is neither the juggernaut that routed the undermanned Indianapolis Colts in its opener, nor a group that will be overmatched by a top quarterback.

The loss ended an emotional week for McVay, who claimed there was no extra motivation for defeating a team he spent seven seasons working for before the Rams made him the youngest coach in modern NFL history.

Rams players have talked for months about how McVay has infused the organization with an ethos of accountability. McVay displayed it on Sunday, taking responsibility for the loss — and just about everything else — when the Rams came up short against an opponent the coach knows better than any other.

“It starts with me,” he said.

The penalties and other mistakes?

“We’ll look at ourselves critically in the mirror, coaches included, starting with me,” he said.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will need to examine the rush defense. Even with the return of star lineman Aaron Donald, who ended his holdout last week, the Rams gave up 229 rushing yards. Donald had two tackles, including one for a loss.

“Just need to knock out the cobwebs and get out there and play a lot better to help my team try and pull out close games like this,” Donald said.

Washington running back Robert Kelley gained 78 yards in the first half before being sidelined by a rib injury. Chris Thompson rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns. And Samaje Perine gained 67 yards.

“They executed really well in what they were doing and kind of caught us in some bad calls sometimes,’’ linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “And also we just weren’t playing physical enough to stop the run.

“And when you don’t, that’s the kind of yards they’re going to put up.”

A Rams defense that produced multiple turnovers and 16 points last week against the Colts could not force Cousins into a turnover. The veteran completed 18 of 27 passes for 179 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Grant with 1 minute 49 seconds left that put Washington ahead, 27-20.

“Always want to make plays in the passing game,” Cousins said. “Make no mistake, I also like to just hand it off to Chris Thompson and watch him go 50, 60 yards for a touchdown.

“So I’ve got no complaints with that either.”

Goff was not as sharp as he was last week against the Colts, but he completed 15 of 25 passes for 224 yards and helped the Rams come back from a 13-0, first-half deficit.

Goff kept alive plays for substantial gains, running back Todd Gurley ran for a short touchdown and turned a short pass into a spectacular scoring play, and Greg Zuerlein stayed perfect on field-goal attempts this season.

The Redskins led 20-17 in the fourth quarter when Rams punter Johnny Hekker completed a pass to rookie Josh Reynolds for a first down at Washington’s 17-yard line. But the Rams committed multiple penalties that forced them to settle for Zuerlein’s game-tying field goal.

Washington got the ball with 7:16 left and Cousins moved down the field with several clutch passes to Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder.

Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson left the field during the drive because of what McVay said were cramps. Cousins made the Rams pay, finding Grant in a matchup with rookie cornerback Kevin Peterson, who had been activated from the practice squad on Saturday.

Grant got open in the left corner of the end zone and hauled in the pass for a 27-20 lead.

Washington linebacker Mason Foster then intercepted Goff’s pass on the ensuing drive.

“Tough way to end it,” Goff said, “but I think there’s a lot of good things to learn from.”

Rams have their problems, but they’re at least showing promise

Sam Farmer Contact Reporter

The Rams had a spark, they moved the ball, they located the end zone … and they wound up losing to Washington 27-20.

A year earlier, in making their Los Angeles debut with a 9-6 victory over Seattle, the wrong-way Rams were as flat as a Johnny Unitas haircut.

Sunday’s was a hopeful loss. Last year’s version was a hopeless win.

Make no mistake, these Rams have a long way to go. They made mistakes, they left plays on the overworked turf, they were stalks of corn when it came to stopping the run, but there’s something different about this team.

Maybe that it’s actually interesting.

Coach Sean McVay has breathed life into the franchise, drawing up a game plan that plays to Jared Goff’s strengths, cuts loose Todd Gurley, covers up deficiencies along the offensive line, and gives the feeling that the seeds of success are planted.

Last season felt like a dead-end street, like those four wins were only rest stops on the road to irrelevance.

“Last year it would have been a lot different,” Gurley said. “It would have been 27 to, you know 3, instead of, you know, just us as an offense being able to put points on the board and be able to keep our defense in it. So it’s a start.”

The Rams can take heart in this, too: The rest of the NFC West looks lousy. The Seahawkssqueaked past winless San Francisco with a 12-9 victory in Seattle. Arizona, missing star running back David Johnson perhaps for the season, barely beat woeful Indianapolis, 16-13.

In retrospect, we didn’t learn all that much about the Rams with their season-opening 46-9 win over the Colts.

Now, with clear eyes, we can say that the Rams played the Washington Redskins in Week 2, and the Washington Generals in Week 1. Even Andrew Luck getting healthy isn’t going to fix that mess.

As for the Rams, they play at the 49ers on Thursday with a chance to wash away the bad taste of Sunday’s loss. It’s no layup — remember, the Rams accounted for San Francisco’s only two wins last season — but McVay’s team can create problems for an opponent.

Gurley, greeted in the backfield last season seemingly every time he touched the ball, generated 136 yards of offense Sunday both out of the backfield and on swing passes.

Goff was sacked twice, had the ball raked out of his hand, and had a game-ending interception. However, he also made some nice plays, including wheeling right against a defense designed to lure him into throwing left, and hitting tight end Gerald Everett in stride for a 69-yard gain.

Cooper Kupp made another Velcro-palmed catch, and punter Johnny Hekker, a former high school quarterback, coolly zipped a pass to Josh Reynolds for 28 yards on a fake punt. Everett, Kupp and Reynolds are all rookies, reminders that the Rams weren’t entirely hamstrung by trading away so many picks to move up and take Goff No. 1 in 2016.

Is the foundation there for the Rams to be an interesting team?

“Oh, absolutely,” Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. “You can see the creativity of that whole offense. Goff was back there and extended plays, made something happen when he extended those plays. Hey, man, you never know. Sky’s the limit for him, especially when you have a coach like Sean McVay.”

What tipped the scales was Washington’s ability to hoard the clock with the run. The Redskins dominated on the ground, 229 yards to 92, and therefore held the ball for 36 minutes, 19 seconds, compared to 23:41 by the Rams.

That kind of lopsided disparity left the Rams dog-tired on defense and the Washington defenders fresh.

“Those long drives, when you’re running the ball five or six times in a row, you can kind of tell the energy’s just dying down a little bit,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “That’s when we want to put our foot on the gas.”

With the players on that side of the ball, and with crafty defensive coordinator Wade Phillips drawing up the schemes, the Rams aren’t going to have a problem on defense this season.

They are 1-1, just like last year, but their ceiling seems much higher.

The Rams finally look to be what the relocation originally promised: an actual NFL team.

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