ASHBURN, Va. -- When the Oakland Raiders drove 81 yards in 10 plays to take a 14-0 lead over the Washington Redskins on Sunday, it looked like more of the same for the visiting, winless Redskins. Their defense, which had surrendered an NFL-record 1,464 yards during the opening three losses to Philadelphia, Green Bay and Detroit, had surrendered 97 yards in less than 12 minutes to an offense led by Raiders backup quarterback Matt Flynn.
The offense had managed 21 yards on three series and the special teams had a punt blocked for a touchdown, so those units didn't seem equipped to prevent the Redskins from falling into an 0-4 hole from which no team since San Diego in 1992 had recovered to make the playoffs.
"We came out of the gates a little slow and we needed our defense to step up for us and they did that," said quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Indeed it did. After the offense used a no-huddle look to produce a field goal, rookie cornerback David Amerson, who had been burned by Denarius Moore on the big play of Oakland's long march, intercepted Flynn's pass intended for Moore and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
The Raiders, who had gained 120 yards over 19 minutes, managed just 178 the rest of the way and never scored again. The Redskins, who had already had a sack from outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, took Flynn down six more times. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who had two of the sacks, stripped Flynn on one. Nose tackle Barry Cofield, who also had two sacks, recovered. Orakpo added a second sack and backup outside linebacker Darryl Tapp joined the party.
And for good measure, inside linebacker London Fletcher, who led all tacklers with 10, helped make the critical stop on Flynn's fourth-and-inches sneak that ended Oakland's last hope in a 24-14 Washington victory that stopped the bleeding heading into this week's bye.
"It wasn't perfect, but we just found a way to win," said defensive end Stephen Bowen. "We gutted it out. That's what we did last year; we just found ways to win games and that's what we've got to keep doing, just build off of this."
Skeptics can rightfully point out that beating the Raiders, who haven't made the playoffs since 2002 and were minus five starters by halftime, including the entire starting offensive backfield, wasn't much of a building block. But it sure beat losing. And the Redskins know they were 7-0 after their bye during their 2012 NFC East title-winning season.
"We had to come out of here 1-3," Griffin said. "Now guys will be able to enjoy the bye week a little bit more and then we come back and we'll have to get on a winning streak to get back to where we want to be."
That would be back atop the division, something that would seem a far-off dream for most 1-3 teams, but not in the NFC East. Dallas, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and Washington are a collective 2-10 outside the division with the Redskins' triumph at Oakland joining the Cowboys' win over scuffling St. Louis. If Dallas loses, as expected, to high-flying Denver this week and the sputtering Eagles lose at the winless Giants to drop each to 1-4, Washington would be in a first place tie with a Week 6 victory at Dallas.
"Nobody wants to be 1-3 ... but we have to make the best of our situation," said Griffin, whose offense has been outscored by its defense 21-13 during the first 41:44 of games. "It's a good situation for us right now, seeing the way our division has played out. If we come back after the bye and get a win we're right back in first place. All you have to do is win the division to get into the playoffs."
-- A chill went through Redskins Nation when Alfred Morris, who set the franchise rushing record as a rookie in 2012, exited during the third quarter with bruised ribs Sunday. Morris had carried 16 times for 71 yards, moving his season totals to 296 yards on 56 attempts.
Roy Helu Jr., Washington's leading rusher as a rookie in 2011, took over for Morris. Helu had carried seven times for 13 yards since he first injured his toe in Week 15 of that season. But after a slow start against the Raiders, Helu generated 84 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches. He even hurdled a defender on the 28-yard catch-and-run that immediately preceded his 14-yard scoring burst that sealed the victory.
"Helu really stepped up when Alfred got hurt and then he had that two-play drive ... that closed the coffin, really," said Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon.
Morris said that the X-rays were negative so he should be ready when the Redskins return on Oct. 13 at Dallas.