Best and worst moments from Washington’s 24-14 win over the Raiders in Oakland Sunday evening.
Best Comeback: At 14-0, fans were giving up and the season’s obituary was already being written. Twenty-four unanswered points later, there was life. Not an insignificant amount of life, either. Because….
Best Out of Town Scoreboard: The Giants got crushed and remain winless. The Eagles also got crushed. The Cowboys lost in San Diego. If next week goes as I expect — the Giants beat the Eagles, and the Cowboys lose to the Broncos — Washington vs. Dallas in two weeks will be for sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Best Pressure: Whatever you want to say about the Redskins defense this season, there was pressure in Matt Flynn’s face all day. He was constantly harassed, rarely looked comfortable, and was sacked seven times. None were bigger than Ryan Kerrigan’s strip-sack late in the game, which was recovered by Barry Cofield in Oakland territory. Two plays later, Washington was in the end zone. Cofield himself had two sacks, which he had never done in a single game before.
Worst QB Sneak: Matt Flynn did so many things horribly in that game, but perhaps nothing was more horrible than his play on the Raiders’ final meaningful drive. On 3rd-and-1, he rolled out and threw to New Zealand. On 4th-and-1, he attempted a QB sneak, which involved dropping straight down to the ground without advancing. The Redskins have three quarterbacks I’d rather have than him.
Best Third Down Streak: Washington’s third-down offense was a blight for several weeks, but in the third quarter Sunday, it suddenly became divine. On a 3rd-and-9, Robert Griffin III found Logan Paulsen for 33 yards. On the next third down — a 3rd-and-3 — Griffin found Leonard Hankerson for 17 yards. On the next third down — another 3rd-and-3 — Griffin found Pierre Garcon for a five-yard touchdown, giving the Redskins their first lead. You convert third downs like that, and you’ll win a lot of games.
Best Streak Ender: Garcon’s touchdown catch in the third quarter gave Washington its first second-half lead of the season. Sure, it was week four. But better later than never.
Best Improv: In perhaps the best glimpse of the old Robert Griffin III yet, late in the game RGIII wiggled out of pressure, rolled right, and found Roy Helu Jr. for a 28-yard gain, punctuated by a high hurdle at the end. It was pure excitement, something the Washington offense has lacked for most of the season. And on that play, at least, Griffin seemed to be moving without concern for what might be going on behind him.
Best Fill-In: Helu has been a mystery for months, missing almost all of the 2012 season with injury and rarely getting the ball in significant spots this season. He emerged Sunday at the best possible time, accounting for all 42 yards on the drive that salted away Washington’s first win. He finished the game with 41 rushing yards and 43 through the air.
Best Worst Stat: Washington cornerbacks have three first-half touchdowns this season. Redskins offensive players have one. That’s good, in the sense that the defense is making things happen. That’s bad, in the sense that the offense isn’t.
Worst Best Play: On a 3rd-and-long in the third quarter, Griffin fired a dart to Logan Paulsen, who gained 33 hard and important yards, dragging defenders behind him. Ultimately, though, he fumbled and Oakland took over, as the Raiders sideline went berserk. Oakland wound up missing a long field goal, though, so no damage was done.
Worst Penalty: The Redskins came out in the second half with an impressive run from RGIII. He didn’t exactly look spry, but it was an improvement, and it appeared to set up 2nd-and-short. Except there was a holding call on Garcon. Washington wound up punting.
Best Penalty: All heck was set to break out in the fourth quarter, when Helu fumbled a short completion and the Raiders grabbed the ball. (Although it’s sort of unclear whether Helu actually had possession of the ball.) It didn’t matter, though, because the Raiders were offsides.
Best Spike: Garcon’s spike after Washington’s first offensive touchdown had to have gone 20 feet in the air. Maybe thirty feet. It sky-rocketed out of the picture frame. It was done with much enthusiasm, and it produced much bounce.
Best Luck: Raiders starting running back Darren McFadden and fullback Marcel Reece both exited the game in the first half. Starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor didn’t even suit up. That came a week after the Redskins avoided facing Reggie Bush against the Lions. Can’t complain about the breaks when you get breaks like that. (And yes, after I typed that, Alfred Morris went out for the game, but not before he helped Washington take the lead.)
Best Carry: With the score 14-0 early in the game, Morris had a fairly nondescript four or five yard carry that turned into a nine-yard carry when the second-year back bulled his way through a mob of defenders. It was everything that made fans fall in love with Morris last season. It was also one of the first signs of life from the team all day.
Worst Deep Ball: Whatever happened on that bomb from Griffin to Santana Moss, it didn’t work. Moss appeared to have a step, but the ball appeared to have two or three steps, and it landed well beyond the receiver’s reach.
Best No Huddle: With everything bad and nothing good, Washington turned to a hurry-up no-huddle offense late in the first quarter, and suddenly the offense started moving the ball. The drive ended only in a field goal (see below), but it was a heckuva lot better than what came before.
Worst Intentional Grounding: With many defenders closing in, Griffin chucked the ball very high in the air but to no one in particular on a 2nd-and-goal play. That led to an intentional grounding call and a 14-yard loss. The Redskins wound up settling for a field goal.
Best Black Humor: I was partial to this one.
@dcsportsbog This awful start to the Redskins season is due to the Strasburg shut down hangover.
— Poor Bill (@BillCutting) September 29, 2013
Best Black Humor: Also this one.
— PGPDNEWS (@PGPDNews) September 29, 2013
Worst Field: Who would have guessed the Redskins would be playing on a baseball field longer than the Nationals this season? The Redskins groundskeepers think the Raiders should be ashamed of themselves. Three yards and a cloud of basepath chalk. Or whatever joke you’ve got.
Worst Flaming Special Teams Disaster: Danny Smith left over the offseason, and a lot of Redskins fans were like ‘Cool, our special teams haven’t seemed to be particularly good, so things couldn’t really get worse,” and yet, things seem to have gotten worse. There have missed missed field goals and heinous returns and on Sunday, there was a blocked punt recovered by the Raiders in the end zone. This put Washington in a 7-0 hole, which is one of the things you attempt to avoid when you’re winless and on the road.
Second Worst Flaming Special Teams Disaster: The Raiders went with a fake punt deep in their own territory midway through the second quarter. Taiwan Jones ran for 19 yards and a first down. It seemed like Washington could have easily called a timeout to regroup before the ball was snapped. But no one did.
Best Momentum Changer: David Amerson, the ball-hawking rookie cornerback who led Division I in interceptions last year, did all he could do save the Redskins season, intercepting a first-half Matt Flynn pass and taking it 45 yards for a touchdown. Amerson became the first Washington rookie cornerback to return an interception for a touchdown since Champ Bailey in 1999. And honestly, he very well might have brought this year back from the dead.
Worst Pronunciation: A week after calling Robert Griffin III “Robert Griffin Jr.” at least twice, Dick Stockton opened this Fox broadcast with an early reference to “Brian Orapko.” While it’s true that Vinny Cerrato used to use this particular pronunciation, that is not the standard usage, seeing as how the “k” actually comes before the “p.” For the rest of the game, Stockton appeared to opt for “Orako” or possibly “Oracco,” which was interesting, but still not correct. Orakpo. You couldn’t hear it, but I just spoke the word. It was easy. Orakpo. Did it again. (Finally, late in the game, Stockton started saying it correctly, and with authority.)
Worst Read Option Thing: I’m not an offensive mastermind, but I know what it looked like when RGIII kept the ball last year — it was scary, and electric, and thrilling, and crisp. I also know what it looked like when he kept the ball on Washington’s second possession Sunday: clunky. Everything about it, from the operation of the play to his running, looked clunky. He gained a yard.
Worst First Series: The Redskins offense continued its recent trend of resembling a giant pile of spoiled cottage cheese on opening drives. This time, the rancidity came via a short run, then a short run, then a dropped pass by Santana Moss beyond the first down marker. The second drive wasn’t much better.
Worst Image: Whatever this is, I don’t like it.
Worst Tackling: The Redskins seemed much better in this regard, but there was one messy flashback. That came on a short third-down pass to Rashad Jennings in the first half; the running back broke three tackles — one short of the first-down marker — to get a first down, leading to a touchdown and that 14-0 lead.
Worst Injury: Kai Forbath missed his third straight game. Without doing any research, it sure seems like Washington has had a lot of injuries to place kickers and punters in recent years. Fire someone. Hire someone as Junior Vice President of Specialist Health Management and Maintenance, and fire him. Or her.
Best Bye: Teams often prefer to have late bye weeks rather than early bye weeks. Maybe not this time. The first quarter of the season didn’t go well. Forbath, Morris and Jordan Reed — three key point-scoring cogs — all ended this game on the bench. And in this year’s NFC East, maybe it’s better not to play and just let everyone else embarrass themselves.