LOS ANGELES -- The Washington Redskins aren't some powerhouse running team. They weren't when Sean McVay was calling their offensive plays over these past two years, and they definitely weren't in their Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
But they ran all over the Los Angeles Rams' defense on Sunday, and it wound up being the difference.
Aaron Donald started, as expected, but the Rams still allowed 229 rushing yards on 39 carries in a 27-20 loss from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, which put them at 1-1 to start their season. The Rams tied the game late with a field goal, in a drive that was prolonged by a perfectly executed fake punt between Johnny Hekker and Josh Reynolds. But the Redskins -- without primary running back Rob Kelley, who had to leave early because of a rib injury -- started chewing up clock.
Third-string running back Samaje Perine picked up 12 yards, then 5, then 10, then 3. That and a variety of short passes from Kirk Cousins, who got the ball out quickly as a way to neutralize his opponent's pass rush, put the ball in the red zone at the two-minute warning and forced the Rams to begin using their timeouts. On third-and-4 with the ball at the Rams' 11-yard line, Cousins hit Ryan Grant streaking toward the left sideline for what ended up being the winning touchdown.
Kelley had 12 carries for 78 yards before exiting, Perine had 21 carries for 67 yards later on, and Chris Thompson, primarily used as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield, picked up 77 yards on only three carries.
"We just weren’t playing physical enough to stop the run," Rams inside linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "When you don’t do that, those are the kind of yards they’re going to put up on you."
The Redskins frequently exploit teams down the field, but they did most of their damage against the Rams underneath and on the ground. Washington ate up nearly eight minutes off the clock on its opening drive, which resulted in a field goal, and gained 74 rushing yards on its first 10 carries.
At one point, Kelley gained 40 yards on only a couple of running attempts. Thompson, who frequently found himself open on the outside, broke off a 61-yard run for a touchdown on a draw play with less than two minutes left before halftime. Early in the second half, Thompson found himself wide open across the middle and could've turned in a 62-yard touchdown, but he dropped Cousins' pass.
Said outside linebacker Robert Quinn: "The big runs kept them in the game."
"They had success running it," Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said. "That's No. 1 -- you have to stop the run."
The Rams hung around, down seven with one timeout and 1 minute, 44 seconds remaining at their own 28-yard line. Jared Goff had a chance to march his team down the field and tie the score, but he threw an easy interception to Mason Foster on the first snap, while trying to hit Cooper Kupp on the outside.
The positive signs on offense came largely from Todd Gurley, who shook off an early fumble -- and an ineffective season opener -- to catch for a touchdown and run for a touchdown. Gurley picked up 88 rushing yards on 16 carries and 48 yards on three receptions. For his second score, he caught Goff's pass in the flat, quickly regained his balance, hurdled cornerback Bashaud Breeland, tip-toed the sideline and somehow reached for the pylon.
It was one of the best plays of Gurley's short career.
But the Redskins ran the ball better overall.
"We gotta play better on the run," said Donald, dissatisfied with his own play. "And when pass-rush situations come, you have to win your one-on-ones and get off the field."