1. What's the impact of Marcus Washington's absence? We thought it was a big one -- and did you see Warrick Holdman trying to chase after Steven Jackson? I think that confirms it. Not that Washington is great in coverage, but he's usually not beat by that much. Rocky McIntosh seemed to do OK, reacting decisively and playing physical. But you can't make these changes and not have a dropoff.
2. Have the Redskins turned a corner offensively? We thought more so in establishing an identity, but the lack of success in the red zone and the inability to score more than 20 points meant they had work to do. So, by game's end, they had turned a corner simply because they scored 31 points (seven set up by a blocked punt). And they were successful in the red zone, mainly because they ran the ball in this area. Their strength is run blocking and they used it. Campbell did not progress as much. I like him a lot, but he's still developing trust with the receivers. He seems late on many throws. His arm strength compensates, but earlier tosses would result in bigger plays. He's learning.
3. Will their red zone success change this weekend? We thought it would, at least a little bit. The Rams have a horrible defense, especially against the run. Our demand was that Ladell Betts get more involved in this area. T.J. Duckett is not a strong runner for a guy his size, but he ran through a nice hole for a score. The Redskins were smart here, going to their strength and then later ran a nice clearout for Chris Cooley as Santana Moss, running from the left slot, took out at least three Rams. That left Cooley one on one on the other side. But we still think they lack diversity because of the absence of a physical wideout.
4. Will Ladell Betts have another big game? We thought he should and we thought he would surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season before the end of the first half. Bingo. Betts continued to run hard. In the last five games, there's been no pitter-patter steps; he waits for his blocks then hits the hole. We'd still like to see him break longer runs, but there's no complaints. And the fumble was a nice play by the defense. He needed to protect it better, but give the Rams credit for a heady poke. It just happened to ruin Washington's last good chance to win.
5. Will Betts finally break a long one? He was close, but his longest run was 25 yards. We'd still like to see him break one for 30 or more yards. But it's hard to quibble with his numbers the past five games. He now has a chance to break a club record with a sixth-straight 100-yard game.
6. Did the defense turn a corner last week? We thought just a little bit; one good game doesn't wipe out the many previous bad ones. We thought it helped that Cornelius Griffin, Lemar Marshall and Shawn Springs all were healthier than earlier this season. And that Sean Taylor was coming off his best game. Well now. Taylor played one of his worst; he's horrible in open field tackling among other things. And Springs got hurt. We thought they would test the outside backers and they did, especially Warrick Holdman. We thought to prove that they had turned a corner, they would have to stop one phase of the Rams' offense, preferably the run. They did not. But they did play minus Marcus Washington all game and Springs for most of the game. It makes a difference.
7. Who provides the biggest worry for Washington's offense? We thought it was end Leonard Little. He entered with 12 sacks and was a Pro Bowl snub. We thought the Redskins would give Jon Jansen help and they did. But Jansen handled him well on his own, too. Little was not a factor in the game. The Rams' linebackers did better than anticipated and St. Louis a few times ended up with a speed corner on Chris Cooley, resulting in a knockdown.
8. Who's the biggest worry for the defense? There were a few of them: Jackson; QB Marc Bulger because of his fast decisions and the two receivers, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. When Springs went down, the receivers became more dangerous. Holt only had four catches, but Bruce finished with nine for 148 yards and a touchdown. That's not surprising given how well he runs his routes. Carlos Rogers did not have a terrific day and Ade Jimoh was flagged for a 43-yard pass interference. He looked clueless as to how to play the ball. He looked like a high school corner. And Jackson finished with 252 yards of offense. He controlled the game. The guy who really hurt was Bulger because he's hard to pressure given his quick decisions and he's accurate.
9. What other matchup can the Redskins exploit? We thought they might have an edge downfield against their corners. Silly us. Santana Moss was the only receiver involved in the action with three catches for 29 yards. The Redskins did not have much available downfield. Brandon Lloyd stinks and Antwaan Randle El was invisible. It doesn't help that Jason Campbell is often high to his wideouts. Makes you wonder if his size (6-foot-5) works against him when throwing to pipsqueak wideouts.
10. Will the Redskins win? We thought there was a reason the Rams had lost seven of nine. Turns out there's a reason the Redskins had lost seven of 10 entering this game. They're not good either. Yet we never learn. We thought they would pull off the road win, 24-21. What's that saying? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me? What if you're fooled for a dozen games? Anyway, we thought better red zone success would result in a win. But losing a couple key defensive players had a major impact on this game and it was enough to swing it in the Rams' favor. Still, if Betts doesn't fumble, Shaun ''automatic'' Suisham could have kicked the game-winner in regulation.