"The past two weeks we've been close but just haven't been able to put one away," rookie quarterback Sam Bradford said. "To be able to win the way we did tonight…we've put a lot of hard work into this throughout training camp, the beginning part of this year, and to get to celebrate with those guys in there, it was a great feeling."
St. Louis, which hosts NFC West rival Seattle next Sunday, improved to 1-2, snapped a 10-game losing streak and won at home for the first time since the 2008 season.
The Rams pulled off the victory after blowing an early 14-0 lead and with running back Steven Jackson and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe having to leave the game with injuries.
"What I told the team was, any win in the NFL feels good, but when you can rise above some adverse situations that's even better," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "And I thought the reason we did that is because we hung together, nobody bailed out, nobody panicked. The coaching staff did a nice job keeping it together and the players did too. We lose some of our best players and they are not out there and some other guys stepped in, did a nice job."
Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick out of Oklahoma, completed 23 of 37 passes for 235 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
The rookie quarterback led the Rams on touchdown-scoring drives on the first two series of the first quarter to build a 14-0 lead and then the first possession of the third quarter, after the Washington Redskins (1-2) had taken a 16-14 lead.
"I think it was huge for us offensively to come out and start the second half the way we did, especially after the past two weeks where we struggled to get going after halftime," Bradford said. "To come out and march down and score, I think that really gave a boost to the entire team."
Jackson rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown — a 42-yard run on the first series of the game for his first score of the season — on 10 carries before leaving the game with a groin injury midway through the second quarter. He said afterward he was hoping it wasn't a serious injury, but he wouldn't know for sure until getting an MRI on Monday.
"To have this win against the Washington Redskins means a lot," Jackson said. "The first two games were very close, and we talked as a team about finishing and putting games away. I think today that's what happened."
Jackson's backup, Kenneth Darby, got the job done on Sunday. He rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter on a 12-yard run, which was his first career touchdown.
"This ballclub has been through a lot since I've been here and this year is going to be a special for us," Darby said. "We're a lot more mature. We bonded together as a team during the offseason, during training camp. This is a different ballclub you see right now."
After Darby's touchdown gave the Rams a 21-16 lead, the Rams defense shut out the Redskins for the remainder of the second half while Josh Brown added to the lead with a pair of field goals.
Washington gained 349 total yards of offense, but was 1-10 on third down conversion attempts and the Redskins' three trips to the red zone resulted in three field goals.
Donovan McNabb completed 19 of 32 passes for 236 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Santana Moss caught six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown and running backs Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain combined for 60 yards rushing on 14 carries.
The Rams have allowed 17 points or less in all three games this season.
The defense turned a fumble recovery from safety James Butler into seven points in the first quarter when Bradford connected with tight end Daniel Fells for a 3-yard touchdown pass and cornerback Bradley Fletcher's interception in the final minutes, the first of his career, sealed the win.
"Well, let's face it, we didn't want to be faced with 0-3," Spagnuolo said. "We'd been in two prior games where we certainly all felt we could have won and we didn't and so you're looking to find a way to win and we did that today even in the middle of a lot of adversity. I'm talking about shuffling defensive looks because we get guys hurt. Same thing on offense when you lose your star running back who's a key cog in what we do. Our two captains on offense and defense didn't play a lot of football today, so I credit all the guys that stepped in there and played good football."