Washington Redskins: 2013 Week 4 WAS at OAK

Redskins 24, Raiders 14: Ten Observations

September, 30, 2013
OAKLAND -- Thoughts from the Washington Redskins' 24-14 victory against the Oakland Raiders:
  1. Santana Moss offered the best way to look at this game. He knows it’s hard to win in the NFL. He’s not beating his chest over just one win when you already have three losses. “Honestly, you’re not gonna sit here and be like ‘We’re world beaters,’ “ Moss said. “We won one game. 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. We still have to go out there and be better."
  2. The Redskins deserve credit but the point is: We still don’t know what this one win will do, though they could be playing at the Dallas Cowboys for a share of first place in two weeks. It’s also true that the Redskins faced a team with its backup quarterback and with its starting running back exiting the game early. So, yeah, they should have done well against this offense. However, when you’re on the road and you go down 14-0, with a blocked punt for a touchdown, you can’t dismiss any victory by just saying it was against inferior backups. They still needed to make plays and they did. The Raiders’ defense isn’t bad.
  3. Even teammate Barry Cofield, who continues to be the best player on this defense as we saw again Sunday, knows to take this game for what it is. “It’ll be a tougher task [going forward],” Cofield said. “It won’t be the backup quarterback. Just like we didn’t get too down when we were struggling, we’re not going to get too high when we have a good performance.” We need more proof to think they’ve turned their season around. But they did what they were supposed to do and that’s a start. People worried during the week that even Flynn could pick this defense apart. He did not.
  4. One positive part for the defense was the lack of blown coverages that hurt them in the first couple games, often by rookie corner David Amerson. His big mistake Sunday was failing to get a jam on receiver Denarius Moore, leading to a 34-yard gain. Amerson also forgot to tackle Moore on one play in which the receiver went to the ground without being touched. A rookie mistake that Amerson has made twice this season. It didn’t hurt Washington, but it did allow Moore to get an extra three or four yards.
  5. But Amerson more than made up for it. He did so by knowing what the offense was doing and how he should play it. The Redskins applied pressure with Stephen Bowen coming off his man after a stunt with linebacker Perry Riley. The downfield coverage was sound and Amerson knew his man was the likely second read on the play, with Flynn looking high to low. When his first option, Rod Streater, wasn’t open thanks to DeAngelo Hall's coverage, Flynn looked to his second option, Moore running a shallow cross. But Amerson played it perfectly, undercutting Moore after his cut. With Bowen racing at Flynn, perhaps he didn’t see Amerson. Regardless, it was a game-changing play.
  6. I love the touchdown to Pierre Garcon. He simply beat his man off the line and also received a bit of a screen from tight end Logan Paulsen. That ploy works well against man coverage, which is what the Raiders played. However, Garcon really didn’t need the help on this one. He had his man beat.
  7. The hurry-up attack was a fantastic twist to the Redskins’ offensive attack, one they knew during the week that they would use. It wasn’t just about changing tempo, though that was a huge benefit. It also was a way to force the Raiders into a more simplified scheme. The Raiders present so many looks that they cause offenses to think a little too much, taking away from the ability to make plays. Especially an offense that has been as inconsistent as Washington’s. But when the Redskins went into the no-huddle, the Raiders could not change up their looks and it helped the offense generate momentum. They managed 92 yards on that second-quarter drive, ending in a field goal. “It was a spark for us,” Griffin said. “It caught them off-guard.”
  8. Linebacker Brian Orakpo needed this game. It wasn’t so much that he was terrible in the first three games – his pass rush last week wasn’t bad at times, but the short passes killed chances to finish. I also think people still expect him to be an elite rusher. He’s not; he’s a good one. There’s no way he can do this every game -- two sacks, two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits and two passes defended. He also had a big-time stop on a third-and-1 in the third quarter, leading to a missed 52-yard field goal. Orakpo needed to remind everyone he can still be a big-time threat. They need him to play that way for this season really to turn around. "We refused to get on that plane with a loss," Orakpo said. He played like it.
  9. Playing on a dirt infield was a little different for the players. You could see players taking different steps when trying to cut on the dirt -- Alfred Morris slipped on the dirt when he had a chance for a nice run. Griffin tightened his footwork when running bootlegs on the dirt, just to make sure he had his footing.
  10. Linebacker Perry Riley admitted what seemed obvious: He blew it on the blocked punt. The Raider ran a little stunt on his side and he lost his man. “We worked on that,” Riley said. “Good call by them, bad play by me. No excuse for it. My fault.” It’s yet another breakdown by the special teams units that were criticized roundly for such plays the past couple years. The Redskins need to start getting more from this unit under first-year coach Keith Burns.

Alfred Morris hurts ribs

September, 29, 2013
OAKLAND -- Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris, in the midst of a good game, suffered bruised ribs and did not return after exiting late in the third quarter. But coach Mike Shanahan said afterward that Morris did not break any ribs.

"My understanding is they're just sore," Shanahan said. "I don't know how serious it is. We'll wait and see on that."

Morris injured his ribs at the end of a nine-yard run late in the third, two plays before quarterback Robert Griffin III connected with receiver Pierre Garcon for a five-yard go-ahead touchdown pass. Morris finished with 71 yards on 16 carries. Roy Helu played the rest of the game at running back and gained 41 yards on 13 carries. Helu scored the clinching touchdown on a 14-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter.

Because the Redskins have a bye this week, Morris would get extra time to heal before Washington plays at the Dallas Cowboys the following week.

RG III, Roy Helu spark second half

September, 29, 2013
OAKLAND -- The corner blitz was picked up, but the pressure was still forcing its way to Robert Griffin III. Worse, his first two reads were covered. That’s when Griffin did something that Washington Redskins fans had been waiting to see: he returned to 2012.

Griffin, with a defender at his feet, escaped to the right and running back Roy Helu scampered to an open area. Griffin then dumped a pass to Helu, who hurdled a Raiders defender en route to a 28-yard gain to the Raiders’ 14-yard line.

It was set up by Griffin’s slowly-returning mobility after his January knee surgery. Helu’s hurdle returned some of the pizazz to an offense that has shown little of it this season. One play later Helu crashed through an opening for a 14-yard touchdown, sealing a much-needed 24-14 victory.

For Griffin, it was another game of mixed results as he completed 18-of-31 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown, a slant to Pierre Garcon for a 17-14 third-quarter lead. He did not turn the ball over, but he also had a costly intentional grounding penalty that left Washington with a third-and-goal from the 18-yard line.

But he again showed glimpses against a solid defense that gave the Redskins headaches all day with its multiple looks and blitzes. For a while, Griffin was unable to do much of anything as the Redskins had two three-and-outs and a four-play series on their first three times with the ball.

However, Griffin and the offense started to get a rhythm when they went to a no-huddle attack at the end of the first quarter. It led to a field goal drive, but it enabled them to get confidence after a bad start.

“When nothing is going your way you’ve got to try something,” Griffin said. “Guys responded to it well.”

Griffin did run three times for 10 yards, and still does not look like the same player he was a year ago. The Redskins knew it would take some time and it has. But he did do a better job avoiding pressure in the second half. The difference now is that instead of turning those plays into big gainers like a year ago, he’s turning them into throwaways on the run.

But he also showed excellent presence on one third-quarter pass to tight end Logan Paulsen. It resulted in a fumble by Paulsen after 32 yards. However, Griffin made the play by sliding to his left to avoid pressure, keeping his eyes downfield and zipping a pass to Paulsen.

More than Griffin, though, having Helu come through with Alfred Morris on the bench with bruised ribs was a must. Helu had not done much this season after missing most of last season with turf toe. He looked good this summer, but it wasn’t until late in the game that he resembled the player who was visible in training camp.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Garcon said. “We made a lot of plays … We left some yards out there. We still have a lot to do.”

The Redskins said that each of the past three weeks. This time they could say it after a win. They’re not complete yet. They did show more of what they used to be.

Redskins defense sacks Raiders

September, 29, 2013
OAKLAND -- As Ryan Kerrigan turned the corner, he just needed a little more help. That’s when everything worked in concert. The defensive tackles collapsed the pocket so Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn had nowhere to run. And the defensive backs did what they had done for most of three quarters and left no one open.

So Kerrigan turned the corner, stripped the ball from Flynn and nose tackle Barry Cofield pounced on the loose ball. Two plays later the Washington Redskins' offense scored the clinching touchdown.

A much-maligned defense did more than just participate in this win. They swung the momentum with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie David Amerson, cutting the score to 14-10. They kept it going with seven sacks of Flynn, a pocket passer behind a line that could not protect him. Washington more often than not only needed four rushers, allowing it to play coverage with seven.

The Redskins' defense was helped by facing Flynn, starting for the injured Terrelle Pryor. The Redskins found out for sure that Flynn would be starting Sunday morning. They had prepared all week for Pryor. Flynn held the ball at times too long.

“When we knew Flynn would play, we [knew] we had a little more opportunity to get there,” said Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo, who had two of the sacks. “He stays in the pocket longer than Pryor would.”

The Redskins’ secondary had been roundly criticized for their play in the first three games but they largely did their job Sunday. The Raiders had only two plays of 20 yards or more -- the Redskins had surrendered eight such plays in the past two games combined.

They mixed their coverages, rotated safeties Reed Doughty and Jordan Pugh -- even lining corner Josh Wilson up deep middle on at least one occasion. They played a lot of man, some three-deep zones and cover-2. Meanwhile, the front four was able to win one-on-one battles -- and then used games up front to create more. One of Kerrigan’s two sacks came off of one. Cofield also had two sacks.

“We did a good job mixing it up,” Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said. “Any time the back end is working the front end is working. We didn’t get a lot of chances to make plays on the ball because they beat us to the punch.”

It helped that the Redskins could rush with a lead in the second half for the first time this season. Three of their sacks came after they took a 17-14 lead – and Flynn was forced to run on two other occasions, getting tackled for short gains.

“It felt great,” Orakpo said. “We haven’t did it all year. It’s exactly what we talked about throughout the week, if we get a team that plays a conventional offense that tries to make plays downfield, holding the ball gives us an extra second we’re gonna get there. When stuff isn’t going your way, quarterbacks always try to make plays happen downfield and that gave us an opportunity to get there.”

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 24, Raiders 14

September, 29, 2013
OAKLAND -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 24-14 victory against the Oakland Raiders:

What it means: Washington can exhale for at least another game. After an ugly 0-3 start, Washington's victory at Oakland enables them to enter their bye week feeling a little better about themselves. Yes, Oakland's offense is not that great when quarterback Matt Flynn is starting. But the Redskins needed a boost and Oakland provided one. The Redskins will not spend two weeks answering as many tough questions as they would have had they suffered their fourth straight loss. The Redskins showed a little more swagger in the second half on offense, with flashes of the old Robert Griffin III -- and a heck of a hurdle by running back Roy Helu.

Hurry up: The Redskins’ offense started to find its rhythm when they went to a no-huddle attack in the second quarter. They did not get a touchdown out of that look, but it sped the tempo and provided them with a little surge. It also seemed to provide some confidence. The Redskins do not like to use that strategy for an entire game because they feel it changes too much of what they like to do. But they favor it as a change-up approach, and it did its job Sunday. But perhaps the play that really turned their momentum around was a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie corner David Amerson.

Stock watch: Rising: Nose tackle Barry Cofield. The past two weeks Cofield has been the Redskins’ best defensive player. His quickness in the middle, plus his ability to handle -- and occasionally beat -- double teams has been huge. He recorded two sacks in a game for the first time in his career. The Redskins’ defense recorded seven sacks and made one stop after another in the second half. Cofield recovered a fumble caused by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan's sack.

Falling: Special teams. They continue to make mistakes each game and put the Redskins in an early hole when Perry Riley allowed a stunt to get past him for a blocked punt and touchdown. They’re not atoning for their mistakes.

Fortunate bounce: The Redskins received a number of good bounces a year ago when they’d turn their fumbles into touchdowns. That hasn’t been the case this season. But they received one huge break in the fourth quarter when Helu fumbled a third-down reception. The Raiders would have had the ball inside the Redskins’ 30. But an offside penalty negated the play. The Redskins ended up punting on the play; it could have been worse.

What’s next: The Redskins have a bye on Sunday before traveling to face the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 13.