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.
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.”