By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 14, 2009
OAKLAND, CALIF. --Because he has played in only 13 NFL games, it's not saying much to note that Brian Orakpo's sack total Sunday marked a career high.
But going back to his youth football days in Houston, the rookie quarterback hunter couldn't recall any other time in which he had tallied four sacks, as he did in the Washington Redskins' 34-13 win.
"I had three one time. It was in high school, I believe," said Orakpo. "I didn't even have three in college. So this is really a huge number for me, and hopefully we can build on it."
Orakpo's four sacks tied a franchise record for sacks in a single game, etching his name in the team's record books alongside Dexter Manley, Ken Harvey, Phillip Daniels and Diron Talbert.
"That doesn't happen around the NFL, to be able to dominate that well," Coach Jim Zorn said. "He had some near misses last week, and I think he was determined this week to finish it."
Orakpo's big day was just a part of the team's ferocious pass rush Sunday. The Redskins totaled eight sacks against the Raiders, their most since Sept. 23, 1990. Defensive end Andre Carter added two, and Lorenzo Alexander and Reed Doughty chipped in one apiece.
Carter and Orakpo have quickly grown into one of the league's top sack combos. In fact, statistically, the pair overtook Indianapolis's Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis as the NFL tandem with the most sacks this season. Orakpo and Carter share the team lead with 11 apiece, one more than Freeney and Mathis's combined total of 21. Individually, Orakpo and Carter are tied for fourth in the NFL.
The pair has developed a friendly competition, sharing banter at practices and in games.
"One thing about him and I, we always compete," said Carter, who at 30 is seven years older than Orakpo. "He calls me Old Man now and then. But I say, I'm still young, man. . . . It's good that we compete that way because it makes us both better."
On Orakpo's fourth and final sack of the day, the rookie wrapped up Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell near the Raiders goal line and forced a fumble. Carter was nearby and seemed to have a gift-wrapped touchdown -- if he could've only held on to the ball.
"I told him, he's getting too old," Orakpo said. "He can't bend the knees no more."
Zorn said of the play: "I was thinking about his hands and all of the goop and stuff that was on his hands -- dirt, all the tape, there was no way. They were like salad tongs, and he just couldn't get it."
The Redskins' defensive game plan was aggressive Sunday. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache mixed in more blitz packages, gave LaRon Landry time at strong safety instead of free safety and the unit feasted on Russell in the second half.
The Redskins found success chasing the quarterback despite the absence of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who usually draws double-teams. The team's other starting defensive tackle, Cornelius Griffin, suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, and the Redskins had to clog the middle with Alexander and Daniels instead.
They knew quarterback Bruce Gradkowski likes to scramble and made a concerted effort to control the edges. Gradkowski was chased from the game late in the first half with a knee injury. When the less mobile Russell took the field in the third quarter, he was greeted by boos from his home crowd. The Redskins noticed the fan reaction but felt little sympathy for the embattled third-year quarterback.
"As a defense, we show no mercy and we just got to go hunting and get to him," said Carter. "And that's what we did."
Russell had little time in the pocket and was chased by the Redskins from all angles. Six of the team's eight sacks came in the second half.
A defensive end at the University of Texas, Orakpo has split his team between the end position and strong-side linebacker. He said on Sunday, he spent about half the game at each. All four of his sacks, he said, came from the edge -- three as a defensive end and one as linebacker.
Orakpo, the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft, is the first rookie to record four sacks in a game since Buffalo's Cornelius Bennett in 1987. He also became the first rookie to record 10 or more sacks on the season since Kamerion Wimbley in 2006.
And with his two sacks Sunday, Carter has reached double digits for the third time. His career high is 12 1/2 sacks, which he posted in 2002 with San Francisco.
Carter and Orakpo became the first Redskins tandem to post double-digit sacks since 2000, when Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman combined for 22.