The St. Louis Rams seemed almost determined to sink to 0-5.
They fumbled at their own 4-yard line on their second play from scrimmage. They were going nowhere until a fluke turnover flipped the momentum. They blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter. They set themselves up for a gimme field goal to win the game, then committed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
But this is the start of the Jim Haslett era, so maybe the ball is finally going to bounce the Rams' way. The defense forced the Washington Redskins offense into its first three turnovers of the season, and Josh Brown kicked a 49-yard field goal on the last play Sunday to give the two-touchdown underdogs a 19-17 victory.
``I'm kind of, like, blank. I don't know if I want to cry or laugh,'' Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. ``A lot of emotions hit me at once. It's different, but a good different.''
A lot of emotions? Darn right. There was plenty of the bizarre in a game that ended the franchise's eight-game losing streak over two seasons and helped put Scott Linehan, fired two weeks ago before the bye, firmly in the rearview mirror.
The Redskins, guilty of playing down to the opposition after two big NFC East road wins, appeared set to win their fifth straight game when Clinton Portis' 2-yard run with 3:47 left gave Washington a 17-16 lead. St. Louis, however, had enough time to mount a comeback. Reinstalled starter Marc Bulger hit Donnie Avery down the right sideline for a 43-yard gain on third-and-13 to move into field-goal territory.
But the Rams (1-4), being the Rams, nearly botched it from there. With his team trying to kill the clock to set up for the easy kick, lineman Richie Incognito said something to an official that prompted a yellow flag. Brown, who was already 3-for-3 in the game, no longer had a chip shot to win it.
``I was just kind of angry,'' Brown said.
Incognito claimed he doesn't know what he said to provoke the official, and Haslett also tried to plead his player's case.
``If you're going to call a penalty on a guy who swears - if he did swear - then there's going to be a lot of flags flying out there,'' Haslett said.
Washington (4-2) was playing as a huge favorite for the first time under coach Jim Zorn, and it showed. Portis said the Redskins overlooked the Rams, who were supposed to be the first of three easy wins in the soft part of the schedule.
``The headlines got good. The guys started high-fiving,'' Portis said. ``We hadn't thought ahead all season long until this week. ... The previous four games, the focus was there.''
The Redskins entered the game as the only team in NFL history to open a season with no offensive turnovers through its first five games, but that bit of good fortune ended with three lost fumbles in four possessions.
The Rams were able to convert only one into a score, but it was the type of weird play that can give a struggling team the lift it needs.
With the Redskins in scoring position near the end of the first half, a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage ended up in the hands of offensive lineman Pete Kendall. Tinoisamoa knocked the ball away from Kendall, and Oshiomogho Atogwe picked it up and ran 75 yards for the touchdown that gave the Rams a 10-7 lead - and momentum that carried into the second half.
``I'm sitting there waiting for someone to blow a whistle or challenge the play or something like that to happen because that's how our year's been,'' Tinoisamoa said. ``But I think this kind of signifies the tides are changing.''
Kendall, meanwhile, took the blame for the loss, saying he should have just knocked the ball down.
``If I do that, all things being equal, we win the game today,'' he said.
Steven Jackson had 111 total yards, but his fumble on the first possession gave the Redskins an early touchdown. Bulger went 15-for-26 for 136 yards and had two potential interceptions dropped. The Rams, whose offense is run by former Redskins assistant Al Saunders, were outgained 368-200.
Portis ran 21 times for 129 yards, his third straight 100-yard game.
``We just lost to a team that's 0-4,'' defensive end Jason Taylor said. ``We're probably better than them, but they were better than us today.''
Notes: Rams CB Ricky Manning Jr. broke a bone in his ankle, leaving the team with three cornerbacks for the second half. RB Brian Leonard (shoulder) and LT Orlando Pace (pulled quad) were also hurt. ... Redskins injuries: RB Ladell Betts (sprained knee), LT Chris Samuels (sprained knee), S Chris Horton (sprained ankle) and WR James Thrash (sprained knee). ... Redskins P Durant Brooks struggled again. His 26-yard punt in the third quarter set up Brown's third field goal. ``We have to improve our punting or we're going to be in trouble every game,'' Zorn said.
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