The bye week turned out to be a perfect break for the Washington Redskins.
Jeff George threw three touchdown passes and the Washington defense, given extra time to study the St. Louis Rams’ No. 1-ranked offense with the week off, had a strong game in a 33-20 victory Monday night.
“I’m not going to kid you,” free safety Mark Carrier said. “We had some different things we put in specifically for this team. If it’s a short week, I don’t know how quick we would adjust to it like it did.
“But having that extra week helped.”
Redksins Second in NFC East
The rested Redskins (7-4) also got four field goals from 44-year-old Eddie Murray, signed during the bye week, and are back in the thick of the NFC East picture, tied for second with the New York Giants and a half-game behind Philadelphia.
The Redskins already have beaten both teams, and play them again at home in their next two games.
Washington, which entered the break with consecutive losses to the Titans and Cardinals, has won five in a row after a bye. This time, they handed the defending Super Bowl champion Rams (8-3) their second straight loss at home, where they had a 14-game winning streak snapped earlier this season, and their third setback in five games overall.
The Rams, who had been averaging 39 points, had their lowest regular-season point total since they scored 19 in the 1998 finale at San Francisco.
“All during the week, all we heard was the Rams this, the Rams that, how are we going to stop the Rams?” defensive end Bruce Smith said. “Like we couldn’t match up or go out and give them a competitive game. It was an insult, but it was inspiring as well.”
The Redskins got a big game from Smith, who had three sacks and tackled Trent Green in the end zone for a safety, and from most of owner Daniel Snyder’s offseason acquisitions.
George, subbing for the injured Brad Johnson, was 24-for-34 for 269 yards. LaVar Arrington, this year’s first-round draft pick, had two sacks. Champ Bailey, last year’s No. 1 pick clinched the game with an interception and 48-yard return after the Rams had driven to the 3.
That was the last in a series of mistakes by the Rams, who self-destructed after jumping to a 10-0 lead. St. Louis also lost two fumbles, one after a 64-yard catch by Torry Holt and the other on a kickoff return by Tony Horne that allowed the Redskins to take a 31-20 lead on Murray’s fourth field goal with 10:41 to play.
“The only team that can beat the Rams is the Rams,” offensive tackle Ryan Tucker said. “If we played our ‘A’ game, there’s no doubt in my mind we would have won.”
Special teams failed the Rams again when Redskins kicker Scott Bentley recovered his own onside kick at the end of the third quarter, leading to a field goal. Redskins coach Norv Turner said the team practiced that play all week.
“I was just thanking God they gave me the chance to do it,” Bentley said. “I knew if we got the chance to do it, we would give the offense the ball.”
Giving Defense a Break
The key sequence came late in the third quarter, with the Rams leading 20-19. George, who had first-half TD passes of 19 yards to James Thrash and 3 yards to Larry Centers, hit Irving Fryar from 34 yards out to give the Redskins a 25-20 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bentley recovered the onside kick to set up Murray’s 41-yard field goal that made it 28-20. On the next kickoff, Sam Shade recovered Tony Horne’s fumble to set up Murray’s 39-yard kick.
“The biggest thing that hurt us was three straight series without an offensive snap,” Rams coach Mike Martz said. “When you go out on defense three straight series, you get worn down pretty good.”