For the Redskins, Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders was like two games in one. In the first half, Washington built a 13-3 lead and appeared to be in control of the game. In the second half, Oakland dominated almost from the get-go, scoring 13 unanswered points.
It was the second half that mattered most, though, as Oakland won 16-13 over the Redskins.
The loss dropped the Redskins' record to 5-5 on the season. With the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants winning on Sunday, Washington dropped two games behind in the NFC East. It was the Redskins' fifth loss in the last seven games and put the team's playoff aspirations in jeopardy.
Down 16-13 with just under a minute to play, the Redskins had a final chance to go downfield and tie the game. But Mark Brunell was sacked by the Raiders' speed rusher Derrick Burgess on the 4th-and-2 from midfield, ending the game.
Brunell finished the game completing 14-of-32 passes for 155 yards. Clinton Portis rushed for 92 yards on 22 carries, but he had just 22 of those yards in the second half. Chris Cooley led all receivers with five catches for 74 yards.
"We have to put together a complete game," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "You can't win the first quarter, or the first half, and think you're going to win the game. You have to play all four quarters."
Added head coach Joe Gibbs: "We weren't real consistent. It was a back-and-forth game. We just need to find a way to play out of this."
On the injury front, James Thrash suffered a hamstring injury late in the second quarter and did not return to the game. His status will be updated by team officials on Monday.
Also, H-back/tight end Mike Sellers suffered what the team called bruised ribs on a punt return in the second half. Although Sellers returned to action, he was taken to a local hospital after the game for further evaluation. His status will be updated on Monday.
Early on against the Raiders, it was a tight defensive battle on both sides of the ball. And it was defense that gave the Redskins their first score of the game.
With the Raiders' offense working deep in Redskins' territory, Kerry Collins dropped back to pass on a 3rd-and-8 play. Blitzing linebacker Chris Clemons came in from the left and knocked Collins just as he released a pass over the middle of the field. The ball fluttered into the hands of middle linebacker Lemar Marshall.
Marshall returned it 17 yards for a touchdown, the first of his NFL career and the first for the Redskins' defense this season.
Oakland also used a turnover to get on the scoreboard late in the first quarter. Portis fumbled as he fought for extra yardage on a 5-yard run, and the ball was recovered by safety Stuart Schweigert at the Redskins' 15-yard line.
The Raiders nearly scored a touchdown when Collins connected on a 2-yard pass to Randy Moss in the back of the end zone. But Moss appeared to push off cornerback Walt Harris to get open, and he was flagged for pass interference. Oakland had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.
Rookie kick returner Rich Parson was a key on the Redskins' second score of the game. Parson returned a kickoff 35 yards, bursting through a pack of would-be tacklers to set up the long gain. He was knocked out of bounds at midfield by kicker Sebastian Janikowski. It was Parson's first official kick return.
The Redskins went on a 13-play, 44-yard drive, with Brunell converting two third-down passes to Santana Moss. The drive was halted when Brunell's pass to Robert Royal in the corner of the end zone was out of reach.
Kicker John Hall came in and connected on a 24-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead.
Late in the first half, after Janikowski missed a 45-yard field goal, Brunell led the Redskins downfield for another field goal attempt. Brunell's 18-yard pass to Cooley, in which the quarterback eluded pressure and dumped a short pass over the middle of the field, was key in getting the Redskins into field goal range.
Hall converted his second field goal of the game, a 45-yarder through the uprights, for a 13-3 advantage at halftime.
On Oakland's opening possession of the second half, the Raiders tightened the game when Collins threw a deep pass to Jerry Porter for a 49-yard touchdown. Porter ran a post pattern downfield and found himself covered one-on-one by Marshall, the middle linebacker. Porter caught the ball ahead of Marshall for the score.
On the Redskins' subsequent drive, Portis fumbled for the second time in the game, halting a drive. The Raiders drove into Redskins territory again, but Raiders offensive lineman Ron Stone was called for unnecessary roughness forcing a 3rd-and-25 at the Redskins' 39-yard line.
On the next play, Clemons blitzed around right end again and sacked Collins, forcing the Raiders to punt.
On their next possession, the Raiders drove downfield, with Collins completing passes of 25 yards to Porter and 37 yards to Doug Gabriel. On Porter's catch, Taylor leveled a crushing hit. Perhaps that set the tone for a defensive stop later in the drive.
The Raiders had a 3rd-and-1 at the Redskins' 3-yard line when LaVar Arrington burst through the line and tackled LaMont Jordan in the backfield for a 4-yard loss. Oakland settled for a game-tying, 25-yard field goal.
For the second time in the fourth quarter, the Redskins' offense could not muster a first down.
The Raiders got the ball at midfield and drove downfield again, with Collins completing several passes to Jordan. The Raiders had a 1st-and-goal at the Redskins' 1-yard line, but were ultimately stuffed and forced into a field goal.
On first down, Jordan took the handoff and ran into the line. He appeared to fumble, with the ball recovered by Cedric Killings. But officials ruled that Jordan was down by contact. As such, the play was not reviewable.
Said Gibbs: "What I saw was the ball on the ground. I think we got it. I was going to challenge it and [the refs] said you can't challenge it because one of the refs called down by contact. You can't challenge it if that's the call."
With 1:10 remaining the Redskins' offense came on the field for one last drive. On the first play, Brunell completed a 24-yard pass to Cooley to put the ball at midfield. An 8-yard pass to Jacobs forced the Redskins to burn their final time out.
The offense could get no further, as Burgess's sack of Brunell ended the game.
"What you do is look ahead to the next game--the Chargers," Brunell said. "You can't do anything about this game. You try to have a good work week. You try to keep a positive attitude, which is going to be tough. We're not pleased with where we're at. All we can control is the next week. That has to be our attitude to get things going again."