Just win, baby. That’s a fitting opener to a game the Redskins had to have in the stadium that the late Al Davis made famous.
There will be plenty of time over the next two weeks to pick apart the Redskins’ flaws. There were enough of them on hand in a 24-14 loss to the Raiders – a game they trailed 14-0 in the first quarter.
For a time it seemed like the Redskins were cooked for 2013. Only one NFL team has ever recovered to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start. Not that 1-3 is a guarantee. But in the NFC East it’s actually good for second place. Beat Dallas (2-2) on Oct. 12 and Washington – hard as it is to believe – will have a share of first place. Still, it’s not exactly time to throw a party.
“Honestly, you’re not gonna sit here and be like ‘We’re world beaters.’ We won one game,” wide receiver Santana Moss said. “This game is hard to get a “W” every weekend. That’s why I’m being as calm as I can with it because I’m not gonna get geeked off one win. I understand this game. I’ve played it too long to know that this one game ain’t gonna make us great.”
No disrespect to the Raiders, but with a banged up offensive line, their best running back (Darren McFadden) out by the second quarter and a backup quarterback (Matt Flynn) running the show, the Redskins HAD to win this game.
Huge play by rookie corner David Amerson to return that interception for a touchdown in the second quarter with his team down 14-3. It got Washington right back in the game at 14-10 and counteracted the blocked punt that Oakland used to take a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Redskins were in man coverage, but Flynn either didn’t see Amerson or his receiver, Denarius Moore, ran a bad route. The play had no chance and Flynn didn’t exactly fall on his sword afterwards, saying “all 11 of us have to clean it up.” Okay.
Amerson said he knew Oakland was going to do an “over” route based on how the receivers were split out so he simply wanted to stay close enough to Moore to break on the ball if Flynn went in that direction. He did and Amerson did.
That more than made up for some missed tackles and a whiff on a jam at the line of scrimmage on Moore, who raced past Amerson and caught a 34-yard reception on Oakland’s second offensive series of the game. That put the ball at the 21 and three plays later Flynn hit Mychal Rivera for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
All week long everyone with a tape recorder shoved in their face said it made no difference to the Redskins if Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn started Sunday’s game for Oakland. Washington would prepare the same either way.
I’m calling shenanigans on that one. As porous as Oakland’s offensive line was on Sunday, Pryor has the elusiveness to escape pressure. Unfortunately for the Raiders, he suffered a concussion in last Monday’s loss to Denver and couldn’t go. Flynn, a far less mobile option, was sacked seven times.
Once Darren McFadden went out with a hamstring injury – and took his team’s running game with him – Oakland had no chance. It had 28 rushing yards in the second half. And it’s not like they were down big and had to throw the ball. The Raiders led until Pierre Garcon’s touchdown catch with 3:03 left in the third quarter and even then were down just 17-14.
The biggest defensive play, other than Amerson’s interception return, was Ryan Kerrigan ripping the ball out of Flynn’s hand at 8:03 of the third quarter and Barry Cofield recovering it at the 42. Two Roy Helu plays later and the Redskins were up 24-14.
Kerrigan finished the game with two sacks. Fellow outside linebacker Brian Orakpo finished the game with two sacks. Cofield had two sacks. Even Darryl Tapp had one when he subbed in for Orakpo, who had his foot stomped on by defensive lineman Stephen Bowen and had to leave the game. If you’re counting, that’s seven sacks. Washington hadn’t done that in a game since Week 4 of the 2011 season vs. St. Louis.
“Really, it’s being about seeing the field,” said a blunt Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “What I talk about is seeing coverage and being able to deliver the ball. So some of those sacks are partly on [Flynn] and partly on protection.”
The Redskins used a no-huddle offense to great effect against the Raiders. It didn’t necessarily result in long drives or enough points. It did help to keep a decent defense off balance and buy time until Flynn made his inevitable mistakes.
“When nothing is going your way you’ve got to try something,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “I think guys responded to it well and it kind of tired their defense out a little bit.”
That wasn’t a bad idea on a relatively warm day in the Bay Area.
The injury situation looked worse than it was early with corner Josh Wilson (shoulder), wide receiver Josh Morgan (hamstring) and DeAngelo Hall all going down in the first half. But all returned to the field to play.
The news might not be as good for reserve defensive lineman Chris Neild, who suffered a calf injury. He joked he should have stretched a little more to deal with the grass surface and the baseball infield dirt in the middle of the field at O.Com Coliseum. He will have an MRI on Monday. Neild was hurt in the first half and labored just to get off the field under his own power at halftime.
Running back Alfred Morris is probably the biggest concern after he left with bruised ribs. Mike Shanahan said initial indications are no breaks, but Morris was clearly in pain. He told a few teammates who stopped by his locker postgame that he would be fine. We’ll see. The bye week comes at a perfect time for Morris, who left in the third quarter just before Washington scored the go-ahead touchdown.