- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif. | When the lead was 21 points and the opposing team’s fans were streaming out of the stadium, several Washington Redskins players admitted it was a different feeling. It had been that long since they entered the final part of a game in firm control, not struggling to hold on to a lead or furiously fight back from a deficit.

Sensational efforts from several individuals produced the Redskins’ most definitive victory of coach Jim Zorn’s two-year tenure, a complete 34-13 pasting of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Having squandered three straight fourth-quarter leads, the Redskins controlled the final quarter, outgaining the Raiders 91-24 and outscoring Oakland 17-0 to make for a happy cross-country flight followed by two days off.

“It seemed like a long time coming, and we’ve been so close the last several games,” Zorn said. “To be able to close it out like we did and to keep the pressure on the entire game and overcome some of the adversity that was put forth, I can’t tell you how excited I was for our players.”

Improving to 4-9 doesn’t erase the stench of not being in playoff contention, but the Redskins have achieved some form of offensive consistency. And if the Giants or Cowboys want to make the playoffs, they’ll have to beat an improving young Washington team in prime time.

“If we keep doing what we’re doing, we can do big things these last three games,” receiver Santana Moss said. “I saw it when we came off the bye with the second half of the Falcons game [in Week 9], and we’ve played that way since.”

The Redskins reached 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since October 2006, and the three-touchdown margin of victory was the largest of the Zorn regime, surpassing the 10-point win over Denver last month. That’s how many close shaves the Redskins have escaped since the start of last year - his first 11 wins came by a combined 56 points.

While the offense has found a groove, so has the pass rush. The Redskins posted eight sacks (the most since 1990), including four by Brian Orakpo, who has 11 in his rookie year. Other young players had major contributions: Tight end Fred Davis caught two touchdowns, running back Quinton Ganther scored two TDs and new kicker Graham Gano was 2-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points.

“This will help us a lot,” Davis said. “Most of the time when we’ve lost, it’s been in the fourth quarter and not finishing a drive, and today was one of the times we finished like we were supposed to.”

The finishing touches came during a key sequence early in the fourth quarter.

With the Redskins leading 17-13, Ganther’s 1-yard touchdown run extended the lead to 11 points, and on the next play from scrimmage, LaRon Landry intercepted JaMarcus Russell at the Oakland 41.

At the line, quarterback Jason Campbell audibled out of a run when Oakland presented an eight-man front to blitz, and he found Moss for a 30-yard gain down the left sideline.

“We had one play on, and they gave us a defense that was going to take that away, so I audibled to a pass when I saw Santana one-on-one, and he did a great job of making the catch,” Campbell said.

Said offensive assistant Chris Meidt: “An awesome audible.”

Three plays later, Ganther - in his first NFL start - sealed the game with 9:42 remaining.

Campbell was 16-for-28 for 222 yards and two touchdowns and achieved a 100-plus passer rating (106.5) for the third time in five games. He evaded heavy pressure to make good decisions while on the move. Eight players caught at least one pass.

“Our execution has been excellent,” Zorn said. “Jason has been playing well - he’s seeing, he’s doing, he’s managing the line of scrimmage very well, and his decision-making, turning a throw down, keeping the ball in our possession was critical because he got sacked and hit and held on to the ball.”

Oakland’s quarterbacks weren’t as fortunate to escape the Redskins’ pressure.

Bruce Gradkowski was sacked twice in the first half and left with a knee injury suffered when he got tangled up with Redskins pass rusher Chris Wilson.

Former No. 1 pick Russell was booed heavily the entire second half while going down six times for a whopping 52 yards.

In addition to Orakpo, Andre Carter (two), Lorenzo Alexander and Reed Doughty (one apiece) caused havoc.

“That doesn’t happen around the NFL, to be able to dominate that well,” Zorn said. “[Orakpo] had some near misses last week, and he was determined this week to finish it. This week, he made sure he grabbed up and pulled people down.”

The Redskins led 17-10 at halftime on Gano’s 46-yard field goal sandwiched by Davis’ touchdown catches of 6 and 17 yards. The second score (Davis’ team-high fifth) was set up by 30 of Oakland’s 118 penalty yards.

“Basically, I was the third read,” he said. “We really hadn’t taken that shot to the corner before today.”

Entering the fourth quarter up 17-13, the Redskins finished the job after failing to close out Dallas (despite leading 6-0), Philadelphia (up 24-16) and New Orleans (leading 30-20). And this win came without key defensive starters Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall.

“These last three weeks have been just heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching, and yet our players are continuing to push through,” Zorn said. “Regardless of who we have, the next guy has stepped up.”

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