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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.