Entering play Sunday, having traveled across three time zones and staring 0-4 in the face with their bye week coming up, the Washington Redskins faced as much of a “must-win” situation as a team could against the Oakland Raiders. When they fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter, you couldn’t help but think, “Oh, no. Here we go again.”
But the Redskins rebounded from the terrible start to get within four points at halftime, then imposed their will a little bit on the terrible Raiders, winning 24-14 to avoid the ignominy of being winless going into their bye week.
Robert Griffin III still did not look much like his old self, but did enough, passing for 227 yards, one touchdown and — most importantly — no interceptions as Washington (1-3) won for the first time this season.
Even better, the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys all lost in Week 4 as well, keeping the worst division in football right now a tight race.
Things didn’t get off on the good foot. After their second straight three-and-out to start the game, Sav Rocca’s punt was blocked by Rashad Jennings and recovered by Jeremy Stewart in the end zone to give Oakland a quick 7-0 lead.
The Raiders extended that lead to 14-0 as a 10-play, 81 yard drive culminated in an 18-yard strike from Matt Flynn, playing for the injured Tyrelle Prior, to Mychal Rivera, who was wide open in a seam.
But that ended Oakland’s scoring for the day.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Skins marched on an 11-play, 73-yard drive which stalled at the eight yard line, where John Potter made good for a 25-yard field goal.
On the next series, Flynn tried to find Denarius Moore on a slant route, but cornerback David Amerson jumped the route, stepped in front of Moore for the pick, and raced 45 yards for his first NFL interception and touchdown to cut the score to 14-10.
Finally playing with a lead, the Redskins defense did some good things in the second half against Flynn and the Raiders offense. They applied a lot of pressure on the backup quarterback, disrupting him on just about every throw.
But the Skins offense still couldn’t get into a good rhythm. On their second possession of the half, Griffin found backup tight end Logan Paulsen for a short pass the Paulsen turned into a 33 yard gain while breaking tackles left and right. Unfortunately, he was double-teamed at the end and stripped of the ball to end the series.
But the next time the Skins had the ball they ground out an eight-play, 58 yard drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon on a slant play that upped the Redskins lead to 17-14.
The bad news on the drive was that Alfred Morris got banged up and left the game with a injury in his rib cage. After the game, head coach Mike Shanahan didn’t think it was broken, but Morris would be reevaluated when the team returns to D.C.
Washington capped the scoring a few series later. Ryan Kerrigan sacked Flynn and forced a fumble that gave the Skins the ball on the Oakland 42. Griffin escaped containment and connected on a check-down pass to Roy Helu, Jr. for 28 yards, then on the next play Helu burst up the middle untouched for a 14-yard touchdown run.
Flynn led the Raiders on one last chance to get back into the game, but he fumbled attempting a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one and lost the ball, sealing the Redskins’ first win of the season.
SKINS NOTES: Morris finished with 71 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game. Helu ran 13 times for 41 yards.
Garcon caught six balls for 59 yards. Leonard Hankerson grabbed four catches for 49 yards.
Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo and Barry Cofield all finished with two sacks apiece.