Football tops the other prominent North American professional sports in numerous ways. That includes the on-field product being the most mysterious.
Baseball, a few subtle managerial maneuvers aside, largely comes down to pitcher versus batter. Even though basketball action happens off ball, camera captures the entire scene. Following the puck is never easy, but the basic essence of putting the puck into the net is digestible.
Television watchers cannot see the evolution of football plays a mere few yards off the line of scrimmage. Replay might reveal insight, but battles exist all over the field each play involving many big men. Without knowing the play call, credit or blame may land with the wrong party.
That's why the term "genius" is thrown around in the NFL far more than among MLB, NBA and NHL circles. Many will grasp the basics of the various Week 2 results, yet it will take a deep dive into the game film for a true understanding of the exotic play calling, personnel packages and execution on both sides of the field.
No doubt, we'll learn more details about how the Washington Redskins dumped the St. Louis Rams 17-10 Sunday afternoon to even their record at 1-1. Here's what we know already: The Redskins kept it simple. They passed on modern era aerial theatrics and went old school running game.
Rookie Matt Jones ran past and through would-be tacklers for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Washington's 182 yards on the ground were only 31 less than St. Louis' generated offensively overall.
"In pro football, I think that's the blueprint for most successful teams in the history of this league," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said following the victory. "Very few of them are throwing it 70 times a game. There is a strong running game there and that is the blueprint that we have to have."
That is part of the blueprint general manager Scot McCloughan brought with him when he took over the personnel decisions in January. The plan is the easy part. Execution separates perceived geniuses from the unwashed masses.
Nothing subtle about McCloughan's vision based on his first two draft picks. He used the fifth overall selection on powerful offensive lineman Brandon Scherff and then jumped on the physical Jones in round three. Build up the offensive line, smash defenses with the run and counterpunch through the air.
"They wanted to get back to the old style, ground and pound football," Scherff said following his second straight quality outing. "Throw passes of play-action and get the defense to bite off those."
Despite facing a ferocious St. Louis defensive line, one that dominated Seattle in Week 1 win, Washington's offensive line controlled the game. The Redskins averaged 4.9 yards on 37 carries. The Rams sacked Russell Wilson six times last week. They sacked Kirk Cousins on the opening drive. They never brought down the Redskins quarterback again.
"I can’t say enough good things about the way our offensive line has played," Cousins said. "I feel like I could give you five reasons for us playing so well and it’d be those five guys."
Running games and strong run defenses are the ideal package deal. That is why adding free agent nose tackle Terrance Knighton plus defensive end Stephen Paea and Ricky Jean-Francois to a unit with Jason Hatcher and Chris Baker was smart. The Rams runnng attack never emerged.
Dumb down Cousins' performance with the "game manager" term if you must, but there is no denying his effectiveness Sunday. Cousins completed 23 of 27 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown. While St. Louis labored on third down, Washington sustained drives by converting 8 of 16 chances.
The Redskins also produced on the ground in last week's 17-10 loss to the Dolphins. They also committed turnovers, meaning more than one and numerous mistakes elsewhere. Other than a Jones fumble, which directly led to the Rams' lone touchdown, the Redskins avoided the gaffes. They also kept to the big picture script.
"We have a young quarterback. We don’t want to throw the ball 50 times," Gruden said. "We want to run the ball, be physical. It opens up a lot of things for us and it controls the clock like it did today. The blueprint was there last week but we just didn’t make enough plays to win the game. If we run the ball more than we pass it, have equal amount of rushing yards as passing yards, we’re going to win a lot of games this year."
It doesn't take a genius to see the logic with that plan. Look for more of the same on the road Thursday night against a mad and winless New York Giants team. Of course, the plan is the easy part. Execution separates the winners from the pack.
Instant analysis: Redskins run over Rams
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