It was not very pretty the way Oakland's musclemen bullied the Redskins' patchwork offense today, but the Raiders rarely use finesse to win. Instead, their 24-21 victory was the result of pure power that bruised a Washington team already seriously weakened by a crippling series of injuries.
Perhaps the Redskins at full strength might have been able to neutralize Oakland's brawn. But only the gutty play of quarterback Joe Theismann, who spent much of the afternoon evading the Raiders' relentless pass rush, kept Washington from being completely overwhelmed.
Theismann, who was sacked five times, still wouldn't give up even after he was cruelly tossed to the ground by Oakland's Willie Jones in the final moments of the game. Theismann left for one play, then came back to toss a touchdown pass to Ricky Thompson that made the final score closer than it probably should have been.
But more than three points separated these teams today. To win, Coach Jack Pardee hoped his team could produce a miracle. Despite their injuries, he knew the Redskins had to shut off Oakland's running game while producing enough of a rushing attack to keep the Raiders off Theismann's back. But Oakland had other ideas.
The Raiders refused to be stopped on the ground, grinding out 240 yards, including two crucial end sweeps that took the heart out of a courageous performance by the Washington defense. And they overwhelmed the Redskins' feeble attempts to run, limiting them to only 84 yards rushing.
If quarterback Dan Pastorini had enjoyed one of his better days, Oakland probably could have romped. But Pastorini, booed vigorously by the home crowd, was a shaky 17 for 34 that included 164 total yards and three potentially costly interceptions.
One of those interceptions, by Tony Peters, set up a four-yard touchdown run by Theismann in the third period that pulled the Redskins to within 17-14. The other two -- by Peters and Joe Lavender -- each gave Washington possession near midfield. But instead of capitalizing on these mistakes midway through the first half, Washington wound up punting both times. The Redskins could ill afford to give Oakland those kinds of breaks in this game.
"It's hard to beat a team like Oakland when you are less than full speed," Pardee said afterward. "I was proud of our guys, the way they hung in there. We had a break or two. If we had taken advantage of them, we would have had a chance to win. But we just weren't good enough. There were too many mistakes on both offense and defense.
"But it's hard to change your team around after training camp is over and play with the continuity you need for a whole game. This is not the team we are looking for. We'll get better when we get healthy. I just wish we could have some of those plays back."
Two defensive mistakes in particular will stick in Pardee's mind for days.
The first came early in the third quarter with Oakland ahead, 10-7. Reserve halfbacks Arthur Whittington cut around right end and turned upfield to find nothing but open field ahead of him. He raced 42 yards untouched into the end zone for a touchdown.
The Redskins had lined up in their nickel defense for that second-and-10 play. They anticipated so much that Oakland would pass that they also blitzed on the inside. Once Whittington evaded the on-coming linebackers, there was no defender on the outside to cut him off.
The second came early in the fourth when Oakland needed one sustained drive to put away the game. The Raiders got it, thanks to starting halfback Kenny King, who again swept right end against the nickel defense. He wound up 30 yards downfield at the Redskin 25 before being knocked out of bounds.
Six plays later, Pastorini lobbed a pass over the head of cornerback Lemar Parrish and into the arms of receiver Bob Chandler for a five-yard touchdown and a 24-14 lead with 9:45 remaining.
"They just out-executed us on the King sweep," Pardee said. "We had the right defense called but we still couldn't stop it. I had been talking about King all week. He's a new guy for them and he adds a lot to their offense with the way he runs."
King, who was obtained during the offseason in a trade with Houston for Jack Tatum, utilized a monstrous offensive line to gain 136 yards, mostly up the gut of the Redskin defense. Washington's game plan was designed to stop these up-the-middle thrusts, but King still ate up powerful chunks of yardage.
"Those were the biggest bunch of people I have ever seen in my life," Theismann said about the Raiders. It probably was a miracle that Theismann came out of the game in one piece, the way Oakland harassed him all afternoon. cEvery time he looked up, it seemed as if linebacker Ted (Mad Stork) Hendricks or gigantic defensive end John Matuszak was ready to trample him, but he somehow kept whirling and twirling away from danger.
Oakland still wound up with those five sacks, but a far less nimble quarterback would have been dumped much more. And even after Jones slammed him down, a move which earned an unnecessary roughness penalty, Theismann managed to bounce up after giving Pardee some anxious moments. all over. But it was fun at times."
Theismann's brightest moment came late in the first half. Hendricks had him corralled on a blitz, but a quick hip fake got him free and two more moves evaded another couple of tackles. He wound up gaining 13 yards to the Oakland 29.
After a 13-yard pass to Art Monk, Theismann dumped a pass to tight end Rick Walker in the right flat at the 10. Walker was wide open and he raced into the end zone untouched. Mark Mosely added the extra point and Washington trailed, 10-7, with 1:13 left in the second period.
"I ran a delay pattern," said Walker, who played the whole game for injured Don Warren. "They cleared out the zone and no one was around. We had run the play before but I messed it up. I made a lot of mistakes out there, too many."
But that one good play helped to offset a 21-yard field goal by Chris Bahr and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dave Casper, who caught the toss on the 10 without a Redskin in sight and bulled into the end zone after running over two tacklers.
Offensive Coordinator Joe Walton chastized his unit at halftime for making too many mistakes and asked the line, which was starting new tackles Fred Dean and Gary Anderson (for injured George Starke and Terry Hermeling), to give Theismann better protection.
"We knew we had to run to win," center Bob Kuziel said. "But we couldn't get it going. Oakland did a nice job but we should have played better. They blitzed more than I thought and that hurt us too."
Theismann, who finished with 19 of 36 for 204 yards, admitted that the club "missed some audibles and had some unusual formations and made some assignment errors. But this is like training camp. We are trying to work a lot of people in. Once we get things in order, we are going to be a good team."
For a while in the second half, the Redskins seemed on the verge of being good today. A 26-yard scramble by Theismann had Washington at the Oakland 44 but the Raiders held and Moseley's 48-yard field goal try was wide to the left.
Oakland then got Whittington's 42-yard touchdown gallop for a 17-7 lead with 7:08 left in the third. Then Pastorini gave Washington a big lift by throwing an interception right into the stomach of Peters, who returned it to the Oakland four. Pastorini wasn't helped by the fact that Cliff Branch, the intended receiver, fell down on the play.
Theismann rolled out on first down and was going to pass to Wilbur Jackson in the corner of the end zone. Jackson fell down, leaving Theismann to sprint for the left flag. He made it just before the Raiders closed in. Moseley's conversion cut the Oakland margin to 17-14 with 4:24 to go in the period.
A fine catch by Casper on a third and seven from the Oakland 12 launched the clinching scoring drive by the Raiders early in the fourth. Moments later, King got loose around end for 30 yards, then Pastorini found Chandler for his second touchdown pass.
The Redskins used 15 plays and three precious minutes to score their last touchdown, a three-yard strike from Theismann to Thompson. Theismann completed seven passes in the march, which was aided by two penalties on Oakland. But Moseley's ensuing on-side kick, which he tried to loft over the Raiders' front line, was caught by Casper and the Raiders ran out the clock.
Pardee now will wonder how much effect a nullified Redskin touchdown in the first quarter would have had on the game. Pastorini, who was serenaded all game by chants of "We Want (Jim) Plunkett", was hit by a strong pass rush and the ball popped into the arms of linebacker Monte Coleman, who easily ran 50 yards for the score. But Washington was called for being offside and Oakland went on to set up Bahr's field goal.
"We knew we had to shut them down and we didn't," safety Ken Houston said. "They played a very, very physical game. But that still doesn't mean we can't play well too. We just didn't. It's that simple."
The Redskins reported just three injuries from the game. Peters had a sprained ankle, guard Jeff Williams bruised his already sore thigh and Theismann had a sore shoulder. Houston received a blow to the head in the first half but played in the second.