Steven Jackson, Josh Morgan trade unsportsmanlike conduct penalties
Steven Jackson tried once to score from the Redskins’ 1-yard line. He tried again. And then he found himself on the bench.
St. Louis trailed Washington 14-3 in the second quarter Sunday, but put a drive together that set up a 2nd-and-goal from the 1. The Rams called Jackson’s number on back-to-back plays, but he was stuffed both times. After he was ruled shy of the goal line on the second, Jackson spiked the ball out of frustration — an outburst that resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and forced the Rams to kick a 33-yard field goal.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher did not take too kindly to Jackson’s ill-timed penalty. Fisher benched his star running back — after the game, he said Jackson had suffered a hamstring injury, but it did not appear that way — and turned to unheralded backup Daryl Richardson, a seventh-round pick out of Abilene Christian in April.
Richardson responded by rushing for 83 yards and adding 19 on two catches. However, he also coughed up a critical fumble in the fourth quarter as St. Louis tried to run out the clock. Or, it would have been critical had the Redskins not suffered through their own petulant player display.
With Washington driving into field-goal range in the final two minutes following Richardson’s fumble, receiver Josh Morgan received a 15-yard penalty for throwing the football at Rams’ cornerback Cortland Finnegan. That mistake moved the Redskins from a 4th-and-1 at the St. Louis 30 — well within kicker Billy Cundiff’s range — to a 4th-and-16 at the 45. Cundiff then missed badly on a 62-yard try to tie the game.
Morgan’s blow up might have taken Fisher off the hook. Had the Rams lost Sunday as an indirect result of Richardson’s fumble, it would have been tough to swallow.
Instead, St. Louis escaped with a win and both teams are now left with questions of how to handle tricky situations. While the Rams responded well to Jackson’s benching, the mystery of how Jackson, the star of this St. Louis offense for years, will take it looms. And for Washington, Mike Shanahan will have to decide if Morgan deserves punishment for his egregious late mistake.
If nothing else, both Fisher and Shanahan have something to think about heading into Week 3.