By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 14, 2009
OAKLAND, CALIF. -- On a dreary day with their disappointing season winding down, the Washington Redskins continued to play hard to the end and, in a welcome change for them, finished well.
They finally produced the strong closing kick that was missing in three consecutive close losses during a 34-13 rout of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Quarterback Jason Campbell again was sharp despite poor field conditions, new starting running back Quinton Ganther scored his first career touchdowns and the Redskins' fierce pass rush often overwhelmed the Raiders' offense in front of a rain-soaked announced crowd of 44,506.
"Well, it seemed like it was a long time coming," Coach Jim Zorn said. "We've been so close the last several games, to be able to close out like we did today, to be able to keep that pressure on the entire game, overcome some of the adversity that was put forth, I just can't tell you how excited I am for our players.
"Our coaches did a great job putting a plan together and going on and executing it. We left a lot of good players at home. And yet the players that are here have a lot of heart. You can feel the team continuing to stay together."
Despite playing without injured Pro Bowlers DeAngelo Hall, Albert Haynesworth and Mike Sellers, who did not accompany the team on the trip, Washington (4-9) scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to take a commanding lead in ending a road losing streak at nine games.
Washington's offense has scored at least 30 points in consecutive games for the first time under Zorn and the 21-point margin of victory also set a new mark for the second-year head coach. After experiencing many late breakdowns during the last three losses, which were by a total of seven points and included the demoralizing 33-30 overtime defeat in Week 13 to the New Orleans Saints at FedEx Field -- Washington's defense impressed in sacking Raiders quarterbacks a season-high eight times and limiting Oakland (4-9) to a 2.7-yard average on 24 rushes.
Rookie defensive end-strong-side linebacker Brian Orakpo had four sacks to tie the team's single-game record and defensive end Andre Carter contributed two.
"I was just in the zone. I felt like I was back at [the University of] Texas," said Orakpo, the first rookie to have at least four sacks in a game since Cornelius Bennett accomplished the feat with the Buffalo Bills in December of 1987.
"We had a lead and was able to get after it because we knew they had to pass the ball. You've got to give the credit to our [defensive] coordinator. Coach [Greg] Blache really let us loose."
Oakland backup quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who played the second half because starter Bruce Gradkowski injured his knee, was sacked six times for losses of 52 yards. The ineffective Russell -- the first overall pick in the 2007 draft -- was benched in favor of Gradkowski in November, and many in the small crowd booed when he entered the game in the third quarter. He finished with a 47.4 passer rating.
"Well, I thought it was a tough situation," Oakland Coach Tom Cable said of Russell's performance. "Could he have done better? Probably. But everyone could have."
Safety LaRon Landry, who has struggled in deep pass coverage against double moves, intercepted one of Russell's passes in the fourth quarter to help set up Ganther's second one-yard touchdown run within a two-minute span on the game clock. That was the Redskins' knockout blow.
"As you know, we had three tough losses three weeks in a row where we just couldn't solidify the deal," said Carter, who with Orakpo shares the team's sack lead at 11.
"But in the end, in this particular game, we finished strong. The offense did great, defense just played solid, special teams did awesome. You can't ask for a better game."
The Redskins had not won away from FedEx Field since defeating the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 23 last season. Playing in a steady rain and on a slick field, it seemed the Redskins could have slipped again, especially after the Raiders held a 7-3 lead after the first behind Gradkowski.
But Campbell's impressive run continued. He has consistently made plays in the second half of the season despite playing behind Washington's patchwork offensive line.
Although the Raiders consistently applied pressure with their blitz packages and Campbell was sacked three times, he completed 16 of 28 passes for 222 yards with two first-half touchdowns (for six and 17 yards to emerging tight end Fred Davis) and no interceptions. He had a 106.5 passer rating -- his second straight game with a rating of higher than 106.
"Jason has been playing very well. He had over a hundred rating again today," Zorn said. "He had a couple of audibles in the game that were key to some successful plays. He's seeing and he's doing. He's managing the line of scrimmage very well. His decision-making keeping the ball in our position was critical today because he got hit. He got sacked and he still held on to the ball and threw the ball away very well. All those plays to me are as big as any of those big completions that he had."
Campbell's bond is growing stronger with second-year players Davis, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. "A lot of it is having a feel for all the guys around me," Campbell said. "I've got young guys that are continuing to shine and shine each and every week. Fred Davis, it was a big day for him. And today was a challenge for us as a receiving corps because they play tight-man coverage. I thought guys did a good job creating some separation."
A Bay Area native, Ganther rushed for 50 yards with a 3.6-yard average in his first start. "Opportunities in this league are so hard to come by," he said. "And when they do come, you have to be ready."
New Washington place kicker Graham Gano converted his two field goal attempts -- from 46 and 41 yards -- and four point-after attempts. It was that type of day for the Redskins, who have not had many as good in a long time.
"There are some plays that need to be corrected, but for the most part we finished and came out with the win," Landry said. "It's good that we did what we did today, but it's too late to look in the past and think about how it could be different now. It is what it is.
"We can't say, 'Well, we could have done this.' Or, you know, 'We should have done that.' It's too late for that. You just have to keep playing and try to finish the right way."