The Redskins defense was much maligned during the first 3 weeks of the season, but they came up with their best game of the year (maybe best game in years) as the Redskins beat the Raiders 24-14 to improve to 1-3 on the season. While the offense will get credited with two TD drives to give the Redskins the lead in the 2nd half, it was the defense that clearly won this football game, and got the Redskins their first win.
Early on it didn’t necessarily look like the defense was going to give much of an advantage. On the Raiders first drive Darren McFadden had 20 yards on two carries, and the team was missing tackles left and right. The Defense came up with the stop on an Orakpo sack, but it looked like an ominous sign. Things looked worst the next drive with the Raiders already up 7 on a blocked punt, Oakland drove down 81 yards for the touchdown and a 14 point lead. That drive the Raiders marched right down the field, and did so for the most part without McFadden. Missed tackles and blown coverages plagued the Redskins, and it looked like it was going to be a long day for the Redskins defense even without QB Terrelle Pryor and RB Darren McFadden playing.
The Redskins defense tightened up after that and didn’t allow a single point the rest of the game. Time and time again the defense came up with the big play and they kept the Redskins alive in the game. Their first real big play came early in the 2nd quarter after the Redskins had cut the lead to 14-3. The Raiders had picked up a first down and were near midfield, but on 3rd and 5, the defense got good pressure and Matt Flynn had to dump it off, and cornerback David Amerson jumped the route and returned it 43 yards for the touchdown.
The Redskins were now back in the game and in a position to take the lead. Amerson’s TD was the Redskins 3rd defensive TD of the season. With the special teams giving up one of the Raiders touchdowns, it meant that the defense finished the game tied 7-7. Giving up one score, but scoring on their own as well. You really can’t ask for a better defensive performance.
The Redskins defense wasn’t done yet as there was plenty of time left in the game, and the Raiders kept getting the ball in good field position. On the Raiders next drive the defense stopped them for what looked like a 3 and out as the Raiders were looking at 4th and 1 from their own 28 yard line. A fake punt though not only got them the first down, but 19 yards putting them at the Oakland 47. The defense held again forcing them to punt 4 downs later on the Redskins 45. After the Redskins went for it on 4th and 3 and Griffin was sacked, the Raiders had the ball on their own 49 yard line with just under three minutes remaining. It would have been easy to understand the defense giving up a touchdown or at least a field goal with that short field, but they held firm forcing a 3 and out and a punt. After the Redskins went 3 and out, the Raiders got the ball on their own 32 with 1:04 remaining and two timeouts. They had a great opportunity to get into field goal range, but again the defense held firm.
The Redskins defense continued to play lights out, forcing three 3 and outs to start the third quarter. The last one of those was the most impressive, as the Raiders recovered a fumble on the Redskins 42 yard line, and weren’t able to get a single first down. That forced the Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski to not only attempt a 52 yarder, but to kick it off the dirt which is never easy. The Redskins defense only allowed two first downs until the final 6:30 of the game, at which point the Redskins were up by two scores.
The defense still wasn’t done though, as they set up the 2nd touchdown after Ryan Kerrigan sacked Matt Flynn, and stripped the ball away. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield recovered at the Raiders 42 yard line and the offense was able to score their 2nd TD two plays later to give the Redskins a 24-14 lead. On the ensuing drive the Raiders finally found a little success moving the ball down the field. They had the ball 3rd and 1 from the Redskins 17 yard line with 3:38 to go. If the Raiders could score there, they would only need a stop, and likely a handful of yards to get in Janikowski’s field goal range for a chance to tie. The Redskins held them on 3rd down, and with the Raiders unsure if they could get the ball that far down the field again, they opted to go for it on 4th and 1. Brian Orakpo dove over the pile and stopped the attempt giving the Redskins the ball back.
While there were some defensive issues (particularly on the second drive) and the Redskins did beat a Raiders team that was without Pryor, McFadden and FB Marcel Reece, it was a great game by the defense. The defense came up with big stop after big stop, and two crucial turnovers which led to 14 points. The Redskins punished Flynn and the Raiders offensive line with 7 sacks and numerous pressures and hits. The defensive backfield held up and didn’t have really any major blown assignments after the Raiders offensive touchdown. The tackling was still a question mark, but it was far better than it was in the first three weeks.
One of the biggest keys was the Redskins defense played penalty free football. Key defensive penalties have kept drives alive in previous weeks, but here the Redskins didn’t commit a single defensive penalty. Though you can’t make too much out of this game, especially with the Raiders injuries, what can be said is that the defense won this football game and has given the Redskins a chance to contend for the division.