Reporting Grant Paulsen
It took a dominant defensive effort against an undermanned Raiders offense and a turnover-free game from quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the Redskins finally racked up their first win of the season.
Here are the five players who most directly influenced Washington’s victory:
The fifth-year veteran finally delivered the type of high-impact, difference-making game the Redskins have needed from him. Orakpo registered two sacks, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and two batted passes in his second standout showing in two career games in Oakland. While Orakpo did most of his damage as a pass-rusher (he tallied his first multi-sack game since Week 17 of the 2011 season), he also proved valuable in helping to stuff the run, including on one key third-down stop before a missed Sebastian Janikowski field goal attempt.
Helu compiled season-highs in rushing attempts (13) and yards (41), while serving as a competent replacement for Alfred Morris, who was knocked out of the game with a rib contusion. A California native, Helu was playing in front of 50 family members and friends in Oakland as he amassed 84 all-purpose yards. Helu thrived in the final quarter of Washington’s inaugural win of the season, picking up tough yards against the Raiders’ physical front, even though Oakland knew the Redskins would be running the ball. A two-play, fourth-quarter sequence (a 28-yard catch-and-run followed by a powerful 14-yard touchdown carry) was the highlight of Helu’s stellar performance.
The nose tackle posted the first two-sack game of his seven-year career. Cofield actually narrowly missed two other sacks in a game that saw him live in Oakland’s backfield. Give the former Northwestern star credit for helping to anchor Washington’s defensive front against the run as well. The Redskins allowed just 25 rushing yards in the second half, making the Raiders one-dimensional and allowing Jim Haslett to dial up blitzes that could get home against Matt Flynn. Cofield has had fewer than two sacks in three of his seven years in the NFL and he tallied that many on Sunday. When healthy, Cofield is a force. Having been able to use his healing hand more on Sunday that at any other point this season, Cofield proved to be a handful in the trenches.
While Garcon’s numbers were pedestrian on Sunday — he caught six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown — the No. 1 wide receiver continued to set a tone for Washington’s offense. He played with a tenacity and a physicality that many of the league’s pass-catchers don’t possess. Garcon did a nice job winning inside on the slant route that resulted in Griffin’s only touchdown pass of the day. The former Indianapolis Colt also made a terrific catch on a dig-route to move the chains on third down in the first half, when Washington was trying to establish some momentum late in the second quarter. When the final horn sounded on the Redskins win in Oakland, Garcon was leading the NFC with 29 receptions (he made just 44 catches in 2012).
Kerrigan’s getting more consistent all the time. Having posted 7.5 sacks as a rookie in 2011 and 8.5 sacks as a sophomore last season, the third-year veteran has compiled five sacks through four games. Kerrigan’s two-sack effort against Oakland included a strip of quarterback Matt Flynn on a play where he didn’t have a good enough angle to hit the quarterback, so Kerrigan used his natural play-making ability to get his hands on the football, generating one of the Redskins’ two takeaways. Kerrigan made four tackles, one in the backfield for a loss, and defended a pass in Washington’s 24-14 win. He’s become a reliable presence for Haslett coming off the edge, and he proved to be way too much for right tackle Tony Pashos to handle on Sunday.