LANDOVER, Md. -- After the final whistle, after an afternoon with as many boos as cheers from the home fans, the Washington Redskins retreated to a very quiet locker room. Anyone walking in would think they had lost.
As tight end Chris Cooley put it: "Everyone was a little down in here."
Then special teams coach Danny Smith spoke up.
"In the middle of Danny Smith's speech, he said: 'Well, we kicked three damn field goals,'" Cooley said. "And everyone laughed."
The Redskins narrowly avoided an unthinkable meltdown Sunday, beating the St. Louis Rams 9-7 in a result that leaves serious doubt whether Washington can stay competitive this season in the tough NFC East. Failing to score a touchdown against a team with only two victories since the beginning of last season was no reason to celebrate.
"We did what we had to do to win this game," center Casey Rabach said. "You can't keep on doing this, that's for sure."
Shaun Suisham kicked field goals of 21, 28 and 23 yards as the Redskins (1-1) had four drives of more than 60 yards that faltered inside the 10. They put the game away -- more or less -- with a 78-yard drive that ended on fourth down at the 2 with less than 2 minutes to play, leaving the Rams (0-2) with too far to go and not enough time to get there.
But that wasn't enough to satisfy the fans, who booed even as the Redskins kicked the field goal that gave them the lead for good in the third quarter.
"I understand that they want us to beat the Rams by 40," said Cooley, who led the Redskins with seven catches for 83 yards. "But we still won, and if we continue to win games, that's great. The booing was unnecessary."
The Redskins also took a hit to their thin offensive line. Right guard Randy Thomas strained his right triceps in the first half, an injury that appears serious. He will be re-evaluated Monday, but his teammates spoke as if he won't be playing again anytime soon.
The Rams, who got one of their two wins last season in a stunning victory at Washington, were the only team in the NFL not to score last week. Yet those same Rams again were given daylight by the Redskins' mistakes and were poised to take the lead early in the fourth quarter before a red zone mistake of their own: Donnie Avery, trying to reach the first-down marker after a third-down catch, had the ball stripped by safety Chris Horton at the 7-yard line.
"DB made a good play on the ball," Avery said. "I know better than that. Should have had it high and tight. It's all on me. I lost it for the team."
Coach Steve Spagnuolo wasn't as harsh on his second-year receiver, but there was no consolation in the fact that his team came close to giving him his first NFL victory as a head coach.
"I am very disappointed," Spagnuolo said. "There are no moral victories in this league."
After Avery's fumble, the teams exchange punts. The Redskins then iced the game with a drive starting from their own 20. Clinton Portis converted a fourth-and-1 at the Rams' 20, but he couldn't find a hole when fourth-and-1 arose again at the 2. The Rams took over but were out of timeouts. Bulger threw four straight incomplete passes, one of which was batted by prized defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
Steven Jackson finished with 104 yards rushing on 17 carries for the Rams, including a 58-yard run that set up a touchdown that gave St. Louis a 7-6 lead in the second quarter.
The Redskins, entering the early soft part of their schedule, needed the win after becoming the only team in their division to lose its opener last week. They dominated parts of the game, much as they did when they were upset 19-17 by the Rams a year ago.
Devin Thomas and Mike Sellers couldn't hang on to potential touchdown passes on back-to-back drives. Rocky McIntosh forced two fumbles in Rams territory in a 2 1/2-minute span, but one was negated by rookie Brian Orakpo's roughing the passer penalty and the other was recovered by St. Louis. Santana Moss lost a fumble on a replay reversal under a rule that wouldn't have applied last year.
Most of all, there were too many would-be touchdown drives that dissolved into field goals.
"I have got to look at this thing very hard because it is my responsibility," Washington coach Jim Zorn said. "I can wave all kinds of magic wands, but I have to come up with the right play."
Rams C Jason Brown, who was critical of Haynesworth's conditioning during training camp, was contrite after Sunday's game. "I was running off at the mouth," Brown said. "I apologized and asked him for forgiveness after the game." Brown also left the game in the first quarter with a right MCL injury, but he returned in the second quarter. ... Bulger (1,861) passed Jim Everett (1,847) to become the Rams' all-time leader in pass completions.