Rams bring Redskins even lower, 23-20 Struggling St. Louis wins on Wilkins' field goal

December 01, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- Rock bottom.

That is where the Washington Redskins landed yesterday after they were beaten by a St. Louis Rams team that had not won a game since the last day of summer, 70 days ago.

The Rams shoved the final bit of dirt in Washington's face when Jeff Wilkins kicked a 25-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game for a 23-20 victory at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

That's right, the Redskins can no longer even count on beating a 3-10 team in their new stadium.

After a 3-0 start at Jack Kent Cooke, the Redskins (6-6-1) have gone 1-2-1 at home, with the Ravens starting the slide five weeks ago with a 20-17 win in Landover.

With three games left, Washington remains one game behind the first-place New York Giants (7-5-1) in the NFC East. The Redskins are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles (6-6-1) for second and the Dallas Cowboys are in fourth at 6-7.

While many of the Washington players took the latest embarrassment rather quietly and talked about holding out hope for a playoff berth, starting left guard Tre Johnson said he was sick and tired of many of his teammates accepting losses mildly.

"We have to all get together in one room and start taking blame for our mistakes," said Johnson, whose voice became louder and angrier as he talked. "People need to be embarrassed when they mess up. I don't mind standing up and saying I messed up. All I hear is one excuse after another and we could have done this or should have done that. This isn't working anymore. We need a major change in attitude."

When asked if Washington needed to throw caution to the wind more often, such as in a fourth-and-goal situation at the St. Louis 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter yesterday, when the Redskins kicked a field goal instead of going for a tying touchdown, Johnson said in a booming voice: "That's not up to me. You have to go ask the people who are responsible for making that call."

But the tone in his voice hinted that something needed to be done to shake up the Redskins.

"It's character and gut-check time," said the 6-foot-2, 326-pound Johnson.

Redskins coach Norv Turner said he considered going for that touchdown with his team trailing, 17-10, but decided against it because his running game virtually disappeared once Terry Allen bTC left early in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle.

Scott Blanton kicked the 19-yard field goal to reduce the St. Louis lead to 17-13, but the missed opportunity for four more points turned out to be the difference in the game.

St. Louis went ahead 20-13 on a 23-yard field goal by Wilkins with 4: 42 left in the game, but quarterback Gus Frerotte and wide receiver Michael Westbrook combined to lead the Redskins on a 15-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 20 with 1: 58 remaining.

Frerotte began the drive by scrambling for 19 yards and he ended it by throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Brian Mitchell.

In the middle of the drive, Frerotte completed two passes to Westbrook for 28 yards and one to Henry Ellard for 19, and suddenly it looked as if Frerotte and Westbrook might redeem themselves following last week's blunders in Washington's 7-7 tie with the New York Giants.

But a breakdown by Redskins cornerback Keith Thibodeaux when St. Louis had third-and-10 at midfield set up the chip shot by Wilkins to win the game.

On the critical play, Rams quarterback Tony Banks hit Amp Lee with a short pass over the middle and Lee dashed 45 yards to the Washington 5-yard line before free safety Stanley Richard could catch him.

Thibodeaux said, "I take full responsibility for that play. Lee was my man and I lost him coming out of the backfield. I'm very upset with myself. We were in man coverage with a dime defense and I didn't make the play."

St. Louis had lost eight straight games and had not won since Sept. 21, when it beat the visiting New York Giants, 13-3.

Rams coach Dick Vermeil said: "I hope all our fans feel better because they deserve it. Last time they [the fans] were in it in the fourth quarter begging for us to do well and we didn't get it done. We did not win the Super Bowl, but I think we gave something back to some nice people."

Pub Date: 12/01/97

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