Bruce Gradkowski tried to get his third win as a starter in the silver and black. [via cdn2.sbnation.com]
Fresh off of a win on the road as 15-point underdogs, the Oakland Raiders (4-8) took on the Washington Redskins (3-9) as underdogs once again. Trying to stay hot behind quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, the Raiders entered today's game 2-1 when he starts with wins over the Bengals and Steelers. Unfortunately, the game was blacked out locally. Banged up, Chris Cooley and Clinton Portis were among the many Redskins out for today's game. Dive in to see how the Raiders fared with the Redskins on a gloomy day at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. A bit of rain was in the air for this one.
Darren McFadden had a nice first quarter catching the ball. [via cdn1.sbnation.com]
First Quarter: A pathetic return by Gary Russell of 11 huge yards gave us the ball first. He did, however, make the only key play of the series before a sack by LaRon Landry forced the Raiders to punt the ball to the Redskins. Darren McFadden carried it twice on the opening series and basically went nowhere. Anyway, a 68-yard boot by Shane Lechler set up Washington at their own 20 for their opening drive. A five-yard run by Quinton Ganther was the only real positive play on the series. A sack by Trevor Scott, who has been on fire, and an incomplete pass by Jason Campbell forced a Hunter Smith punt. Johnnie Lee Higgins, who had some room on the return, managed to return it to his own 39 yard line. After Bruce Gradkowski hit Higgins for a nine-yard pass, Justin Fargas fumbled; however, Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot had one foot out of bounds on the recovery. It remained Oakland ball. Gradkowski then hit Zach Miller on a big play, but an offensive pass interference on Chaz Schilens brought it back almost to the original line of scrimmage of the drive. A timeout followed it up. The Raiders couldn't really amount anything after that. Another sack doomed a second consecutive drive and it was Lechler time again. A fair catch was called by Antwaan Randle El and the Redskins had it at their own 22. The defense made some nice plays, specifically Kirk Morrison and Chris Johnson, and a three-and-out forced the Redskins to punt. A big play opened up the next drive for the Raiders, as Gradkowski hit Darren McFadden on a slant for 43 huge yards. Unable to muster anything after that, a field goal by Sebastian Janikowski gave the Raiders a 3-0 lead with just over four minutes still to play in the opening quarter. Faced with a third down, Jason Campbell swung it out to Quinton Ganther on the left side. Busting through, Ganther picked up huge yardage to put Washington into not only Oakland territory, but also field goal range. Once again, the Redskins converted on third down. On the very next play, Fred Davis was hit for a touchdown. After whistled for a 15-yard penalty, the Redskins had to kick from their own 15. A 41-yard return by Gary Russell gave Oakland the ball at midfield. An acrobatic grab by McFadden at the 24 yard line capped a seemingly long first quarter.
Fred Davis found the end zone twice and celebrates with a teammate. [via cdn3.sbnation.com]
Second Quarter: Starting the second quarter, a stupid play call (a give to Gary Russell) cost the Raiders a yard. Zach Miller and Chaz Schilens each made grabs and the Raiders had a goal-to-go from the nine. After a miscue on the give to Justin Fargas, the Raiders hit Zach Miller on third down. He was short, however, but Tom Cable remained aggressive from last week. A fourth down carry and dive by Fargas gave the Raiders a touchdown as they had regained a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter. The rain got progressively worse at this point in the game, as noted by commentator Dick Stockton. Fred Davis, open in the secondary, caught a pass and it was for a good gain into Oakland territory. Back-to-back plays by the Raider defense stuffed Quinton Ganther in the backfield. Richard Seymour and Trevor Scott stopped the run and Kirk Morrison and Tommy Kelly blew the next play up on a screen in the backfield. Needing 12 yards on third down, an offsides penalty by Greg Ellis gave the Redskins five free yards. So, another offsides penalty hurt; however, it didn't hurt as much. Hiram Eugene made a great tackle on Randle El and Washington had to settle for a field goal. Graham Gano, just signed out of the UFL, connected on a 46-yard field goal. We were tied, 10-10, in a pretty evenly matched game with 7:27 left to go in the first half. After a three-and-out, a great 58-yard punt from Lechler set the Redskins up at their own 21. The Redskins didn't get far at all, and some good pressure by defensive linemen Matt Shaughnessy and Gerard Warren forced a punt. Jason Campbell was shaken up after the hit. A couple of stupid calls -- runs up the middle by McFadden and Russell -- brought up a long third down. Nearly intercepted by Reed Doughty on a pass intended for Oakland's Zach Miller, Doughy was flagged for illegal contact. It give the Raiders an automatic first down. On the very next play, an open Miller flat out dropped the ball. It was a good pass by Gradkowski, too, but Miller just let it slip through his hands. Welcome to the show Louis Murphy, as he pulled the Raiders to within two yards of the first down marker at the two-minute warning; however, on the next play, a catch of his was correctly called back on the booth review. The Raiders were forced to punt from midfield. A stupid penalty on the punt called against Hiram Eugene -- not stupid on Eugene's part but rather the referee's -- as Eugene was called for interference when he didn't even interfere. The bench was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty and so the Redskins had it at their own 40. Santana Moss made a 14-yard catch and the Redskins were threatening before the half. Next, a big play to Devin Thomas had Washington really in business. Two plays later, Fred Davis scored his second touchdown of the game to give Washington a 17-10 lead. (Damn, he's on my bench in a fantasy football league.) A holding penalty on the kickoff return set the Raiders up in bad position, and there was just seconds to go before halftime. A couple of runs by Gradkowski picked up some yards, but Oakland needed more with just 16 seconds to go without any timeouts remaining. Almost getting sack, Gradkowski flipped it out to Fargas in the flat and he ran out of bounds with less than 10 seconds to go. An incomplete pass on the next play basically made it impossible for a field goal try; however, Tom Cable decided to go for a field goal without running another play. A 66-yard field goal fell short, and Redskins safety Reed Doughty grabbed it and took off from his own end zone. Mario Henderson grabbed him and slammed Doughty to the ground to end the half. The Redskins had a 17-10 lead. For those of you keeping track, a total of 16 penalty flags were thrown. Yes, this was an ugly game.
After filling in for Bruce Gradkowski, JaMarcus Russell spent a ton of time on the ground. [via cdn1.sbnation.com]
Third Quarter: The Redskins started out with the ball at their own 30, and more importantly the lead. A pass interference committed by Tyvon Branch gave the Redskins a fresh set of downs. Michael Huff, who suffered a stinger in the first half, is still out with that injury and being replaced by Hiram Eugene. A couple of incomplete passes had Washington in a third and long situation. A rare blitz by the defense had Campbell sacked back at his own 26 by rookie safety Mike Mitchell. A punt followed that big play. The return by Higgins set the Raiders up in good field position, at their own 44. After going down with a knee injury just before the first half concluded, Gradkowski was out and unable to return. Yes, that means JaMarcus Russell was in -- and playing quarterback, too. Raiders fans everywhere are holding their respective breaths. Needing three years on third down, Russell called a timeout as Oakland was nearing field goal range. Still, they needed a first down if they even wanted to think about a pretty good try being at Washington's 38. A big play conversion to Higgins was followed up by a 10-yard loss on the sack. Ugh, Russell didn't get rid of the ball. Rookie Brian Orakpo brought him down. More stupid play-calling from Tom Cable, the reverse went nowhere. You've already called that play once, Tom. You can't fool the defense like that. An incomplete pass to Darren McFadden set up a 53-yard field goal try for Janikowski. Missing earlier from 66 yards out, this one was much more manageable and Sebastian knocked it through for his second of the day. The Washington lead was trimmed to 17-13 with just under nine minutes to play in the third quarter. The Raiders brought the heat some more on Campbell on the Redskins' next drive, as Stanford Routt nearly got to Campbell. By the way, Routt replaced by the injured Nnamdi Asomugha. Then, on second down, Matt Shaughnessy brought down Campbell for Oakland's third sack of the game. With the third down play coming up short, a good return by Higgins set up Russell and company in good field position just shy of midfield. A second down play resulting in a first down to Zach Miller had the Raiders in Washington territory; however, on the next play, McFadden slips on a run. He still managed to pick up six yards. A pitch that went backwards forced the Raiders to make a play on third down in order to keep the drive alive. Russell found Murphy and the Raiders moved the chains. It's a step forward and then a step backwards for Russell, apparently, as Andre Carter brings him down for a loss. A false start, which didn't occur under Gradkowski, moved the Raiders back five more yards. Another penalty and then another sack totally demolished the drive for the Raiders, and it became third down with 35 yards to go. Is anyone ready for Charlie Frye yet? The punt by Lechler hopped into the end zone, and Washington began their drive at their own 20 with the third quarter almost over with. Almost off of the field, Rock Cartwright made a play on third down for the Redskins and Washington's drive continued. A couple of runs by Quinton Ganther ended the third quarter. The Redskins had a 17-13 lead over three quarters.
Santana Moss and the Redskins ran away in the fourth quarter. [via cdn0.sbnation.com]
Fourth Quarter: Kicking off the fourth quarter was Washington in Oakland territory looking to add onto their four-point lead. Not surprisingly, the quarter begins with two penalties on the Raiders. Routt was called for pass interference -- which was a bad call as Santana Moss had slipped -- and then Howard was flagged for holding. A couple of plays later, the Oakland defense tried to get off the field with Washington tryign to convert a third down needing three yards. Of course, the Redskins picked up the first down with ease on a pass from Campbell to Malcolm Kelly. A touchdown basically kills any chance the Raiders have of winning this game, especially with Gradkowski shelved. An effective screen to Moss set up a touchdown run by Ganther, a Richmond native scoring the first time in his career, and Washington had taken a 24-13 lead with over 11 minutes to play in regulation. It was clearly a great drive by the Redskins. Chewing six minutes up and going 80 yards on 13 plays, you couldn't have asked for more if you were Jim Zorn. The Raiders had the ball back needing two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. In a shocking turn of events, Russell threw a pass that was picked off by LaRon Landry. Why am I still watching the game at this point? I don't know. Campbell to Moss goes for 30 yards, and the Redskins are a touchdown away from blowout city. Some plays later, Ganther's second touchdown of the day put Washington ahead by 31-13 score. Oh, yes, it was all over by then. Russell marched back out there and was sacked. We were all so very surprised. Luckily for us, Carter totally missed the fumble and Henderson pounced on it to keep possession. Blah, blah, blah, the Raiders had to punt without a first down gained; however, Randle El screwed up the punt return and dropped it. Tony Stewart fell on it and Oakland had the ball at midfield. On the very next play, Russell was sacked yet again and this time it was Lorenzo Alexander. That was the seventh sack of the game with five of them coming against Russell compared to only two when Gradkowski was in the game. God, this game couldn't end any sooner. I'll save the dramatics: Russell was sacked on fourth down. Getting Marcus Mason involved some in the fourth quarter, Washington marched down and kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 34-13. Terribly bad went to even worse as Zach Miller went down with an injury. After another useless drive that went nowhere led by the great JaMarcus Russell, the Redskins got the ball back and ran out the clock. Improving to 4-9 are the Redskins and falling to that same record are the Raiders by a 34-13 score.
Little Billy has some explaining to do. [via cdn2.sbnation.com]
The Report Card: I'll give grades to the pass offense, rush offense, pass defense, rush defense and special teams. Of course, you're welcome to give your own grades in the comments.
Pass Offense: D -- Obviously, things were going a lot smoother with Bruce Gradkowski back there instead of the totally inept and awful JaMarcus Russell. Still, we have to grade them both. Gradkowski was a little below average and Russell was awful, so I tried to find the middle ground.
Rush Offense: F -- The rushing offense was absolutely dreadful. On 24 carries, a 2.7 average just isn't going to cut it. Justin Fargas led the way with 21 yards and a touchdown, but that stuff is something that should be achieved in just one quarter and not one whole game.
Pass Defense: D+ -- Jason Campbell had almost a field day going 16-for-28 with 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns. They brought some heat, so that was a good thing but just about the only good thing.
Rush Defense: C -- It was a very average performance by the rush defense with the Redskins averaging around four yards per carry with a couple of rushing touchdowns.
Special Teams: B- -- Janikowski's only miss came from 66 yards. Shane Lechler averaged almost 52 yards per punt. Johnnie Lee Higgins was okay returning punts while Gary Russell was nothing special returning kicks. Overall, it was pretty decent and I guess I couldn't complain about the way special teams played. The coverage wasn't all that bad itself.
My Thoughts and Tidbits: It's quite simple, really. Once JaMarcus Russell came in for the injured Bruce Gradkowski, it all went to hell. Trailing 17-10 at the half, this game was clearly within reach all the way. Charlie Frye should start next week should Gradkowski be unable to go. Next up, we have the Denver Broncos who are 8-5 and leading the Wild Card race in the AFC. This was really rough in the second half. Enjoy your Sunday evening, guys, and try to put this one behind us.