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This Time, Redskins Finish The Job

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OAKLAND – The Black Hole? Nah. More like an empty pit.

The dumpy old Oakland Coliseum houses the dumpy old Oakland Raiders and a meager outpouring of fans. Periodic rain showers on Sunday held down attendance to ridiculously low and unannounced figures at a game that already had not sold out and wouldn't be televised locally. Seagulls outnumbered paying customers and made far less of a mess.

Once a place of outrageous conduct (on and off the field) and a treacherous venue for outsiders, the Coliseum and its equally rundown tenant proved genial hosts to the Redskins.

The sight of a barren upper deck, huge banks of unfilled seats below and about enough noise for the average high school game provided a distinctly non-NFL (unless you live in Jacksonville) atmosphere on a partly sunny, partly rainy day.

This joint rocked back in the day. The Raiders, the NFL's bad boys, kicked butt and took names. They competed for playoff berths, for titles, for a place in history. Now they're slogging along on the road to their sixth consecutive 11-loss season.

The Redskins came in with their own issues. Such as trying to stave off a 10-loss season. And attempting to end a three-game losing streak. And seeking to validate an improved level of competence that had the team playing at a higher level despite defeats in six of its last seven games. And to win on the road for the first time in more than a year.

Good job, fellas. The Redskins imposed their will on the Raiders in a dominating second half, closed out an affair in which they held the lead and went home with a 34-13 victory. The win snapped a nine-game road losing streak.

When damage to the Redskins (4-9) was done, it was done by the Redskins. This is a team that scores too infrequently and hurts itself when it does.

Consider this sequence of events. The Redskins take a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter on Jason Campbell's 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Fred Davis. Nice play. Davis, however, chooses this opportunity to act as if he is appearing on Dancing With The Stars and the officials throw a penalty flag for excessive celebration, costing the Redskins 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff.

Even given that yardage problem, Graham Gano, the new kicker, drills the kickoff to the Raiders 9-yard line. And the Redskins essentially fail to tackle, with Gano left to wrestle the returner to the ground at the 50.

The 50. Putting the Raiders halfway home without taking a snap. Thanks to the Redskins.

The Raiders (4-9) completed a 26-yard pass to Darren McFadden, continuing their seek-and-destroy approach to safety LaRon Landry. The Redskins then trapped them in a third-and-10 but let them escape when Bruce Gradkowski threw 15 yards to Chaz Schilens. On another third-and-10, Gradkowski sneaks a 9-yard completion into the hands of tight end Zach Miller. And on fourth-and-one, Justin Fargas impersonates a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, angling into the hole and then flying over it for the touchdown.

We have a lack of discipline in Davis' dumb penalty. Poor special teams coverage. Lack of clutch defense. All of that in about four minutes of game time. Fortunately, that was the exception and not the rule.

Now, the Raiders. They too take anything special out of special teams. Hiram Eugene commits a false start on a punt for a 5-yard penalty. Then he interferes with Antwaan Randle El's attempt to field the punt, giving the Redskins a 15-yard bonus. So incensed by this ticky-tack call is the Raiders bench that it (well, not the actual bench, but the personnel near it) speaks in impolite terms to the officials. Flag, and another 15 yards.

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Fred Davis celebrates a TD with
Levi Jones. (AP Photo)

So the Redskins, who should have been starting at their 10, set up shop at the 40. A sharp Jason Campbell pitched 14 yards to Santana Moss, 29 to Devin Thomas and 17 to Davis for his second touchdown, followed by a more restrained self-homage.

That allowed the Redskins to lead 17-10 at halftime.

Landry will not want to look at tape of those first 30 minutes. The Raiders sought him out on the field and picked on him relentlessly. The Redskins tried to ease his lot by playing him closer to the line of scrimmage essentially as the strong safety and had Reed Doughty playing deep. But that miscasts Doughty and the Raiders kept isolating running back Darren McFadden on Landry and making plays.

Gano acquitted himself well in his first NFL game. Signed to replace the banished Shaun Suisham, Gano punched home a 46-yard field goal and put some serious bang into his kickoffs.

The defense, without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (ankle) and cornerback DeAngelo Hall (knee), kept the Raiders' scoring down, though that is not exactly one of the labors of Hercules, since the Raiders went into this week's slate of games as the league's second-lowest scoring team.

The offense assembled a sound, time-eating drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters and culminated in Quinton Ganther's 1-yard touchdown run. That gave the Redskins a 24-13 lead and a little bit of a cushion, with the Raiders offense in the hands of JaMarcus Russell after Gradkowski could not return from a knee injury suffered just before halftime.

The crowd, such as it was, booed Russell every time he trotted on or off the field. When he threw an interception (to the grateful Landry) on the first play after Ganther's touchdown, the outcome suddenly seemed inevitable. The Raiders challenged the call and lost, costing them their second time-out. The Redskins now owned a two-score lead, a short field from the Oakland 41 and some momentum.

Imagine. The Redskins in position to put away the opponent. And they did it. Four plays, 41 yards. Ganther again plowing in from the 1. Gano's extra point gave the Redskins 31, the second week in a row they've scored 30 or more and the first time they've exceeded 30 in 29 games under coach Jim Zorn.

Though the special teams failed again when Antwaan Randle El muffed a punt and Oakland recovered, the defense held. It posted two more sacks and took the ball away on downs. Those two sacks gave the Redskins eight for the game, their most in a game since 1990 when they built the snowman against the Dallas Cowboys.

That defensive stand enabled the Redskins to burn more time and for Gano to add a 41-yard field goal. The 21-point margin chased even more of the patrons onto the highway. The Redskins probably looked like prime pickings to these hungry fans but records can be deceiving.

This is what the Redskins had been building toward. True, this victory did not come against a team in the upper strata of the standings but it came on the road and, well, it came. At long last.

The Redskins scored their high in points, showed a powerful pass rush and continued to put forth extreme effort despite the injuries and missing starters. They overcame their mistakes and they earned what they got.

This is what they are capable of. This is what they can do. The question is if they can do it week after week, against quality opponents. Three of those remain and how the Redskins finish against the New York Giants, Cowboys and San Diego Chargers will tell us much about who belongs here next season.


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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