There were many positive stories to take away from the Redskins 34-13 victory in Oakland, such as the successful return of second-year running back Quinton Ganther to his birthplace, Fred Davis’ continued rise in the league and even new kicker Graham Gano’s powerful leg. The biggest storyline has to be the play of the defensive line, most notably rookie Brian Orakpo, who tied a team record with four sacks and played a large portion of the game with his hands in the dirt at the line of scrimmage despite starting the season as a linebacker.
Orakpo is 3 ½ sacks away from tying Jevon Kearse’s single season rookie sack record and is tied with Carter for 11 on the year, giving them the distinction as the top sack duo in the league. Both are tied for fourth most in the NFL.
“It’s a blessing. In the NFL you normally don’t see it that often. I credit the numbers to God first, then my teammates, of course. [I credit the other] 10 men doing their job and providing the opportunities to create big plays,” said Carter, who had two sacks against the Raiders on Sunday.
When asked if he felt he and Orakpo were having Pro Bowl caliber seasons, Carter declined to comment on the Pro Bowl but simply stated: “We are having a blessed season.”
The Redskins defense certainly had a ‘blessed’ game, piling up eight sacks against Oakland’s offensive line. Once much maligned quarterback JaMarcus Russell filled in for an injured Bruce Gradkowski, it only got better for Washington’s pass rush.
“It was a big momentum shift for us because we knew JaMarcus Russell couldn’t scramble. He constantly stayed in the pocket and as a defensive line, it’s something you wish for,” Carter said.
Keep in mind, the line’s best performance of the season came Sunday without the services of $100 million man Albert Haynesworth, who missed his third game of the season due to injury. The defense was able to pressure Gradkowski and Russell regularly, forcing them into making bad decisions the whole game.
“The feeling is indescribable. We played four quarters our way even though the hopes of being a playoff bound team are long gone for the season. We came out and competed to the best of our ability. It was a great win,” Carter said.
Orakpo undoubtedly played to the best of his abilities and may have instantly propelled himself into Rookie of the Year consideration.
If Carter had to make a case for Orakpo to those who vote on the winner of the award, he would note his progression throughout the season and his ability to create plays.
“I would say he is a playmaker. He has constantly made improvements as a SAM linebacker and defensive end. He runs hard to the ball and can rush when one-on-one matchups come his way.”
Orakpo’s effort and performance against the Raiders, however, did not go without any comedy behind it, but not because of his doing.
On Orakpo’s fourth and final sack came Carter’s most embarrassing play of his career.
On the first play of Oakland’s second drive, the rookie out of Texas blew past his blocker and knocked the ball out of the hands of an unsuspecting Russell. The ball rolled to the three yard line with not a player around it when Carter attempted to scoop it up for the easy score when… he didn’t.
With the easiest touchdown opportunity a defender can ask for right in front of him, Carter was unable to pick up the ball and his momentum carried him towards the goal line but with nothing in his hands. Just seconds later, Raiders offensive lineman Mario Henderson was able to fall on it and prevent the turnover.
Carter says excitement played the biggest role in his gaffe, which will likely end up in a future edition of “NFL Follies.”
“I felt like a little kid scoring my first touchdown. I was thinking about the touchdown first instead of picking up the football. Ha ha ha. But I got another sack after that play so I am happy.”
“I didn’t scoop it up and yes I was excited. I am still laughing at it,” he continued.
Because of the final score, it is easy for Carter to look back on that moment and laugh about it. He knew once the play was over he would hear grief from his teammates for at least a good 24 hours.
“Everyone said, ‘Andre, you will be on ESPN on Monday.’ And what do you know? I was on Monday Night [Countdown’s] ‘C’mon man.’”
One player who didn’t end up on any blooper reels was Ganther, who made a successful return to his birthplace where he showed off his talents for over 200 family members and friends in his first career NFL start. Ganther put on a show, rushing 14 times for 50 yards and two touchdowns while catching three passes for 43 yards. Not bad for a seventh rounder out of Utah. It is end-of-year performances like that which tend to make teammates want to see more the following season, especially for Carter.
“I hope we will see more of him next year. He has done well to help contribute to the offensive scheme. He is a dedicated worker and what man do you know doesn’t get excited to play in his hometown? He was pretty hyped to go back home. Two hundred people came to support (him),” he said.
Another standout from Sunday’s performance was Fred Davis, who caught three passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Davis is quickly proving why he earned the Mackey Award following his final year at USC.
“His role has increased big-time since we lost Cooley. He is one of our go-to guys in our offensive scheme. We are proud of his development,” Carter said.
The Redskins will look upon Davis to help carry on the team’s improved play of late. Now that the team is simply playing for pride, they are in full-on spoiler mode with their final three opponents being the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers.
Washington finishes off the season series against the Giants at FedEx Field on Monday Night Football. With all three home divisional contests being scheduled for primetime, Carter says it doesn’t make a difference to him when they are played.
“It really doesn’t matter to me. What the NFL wants is what the NFL gets. I guess they figure it’s a big rivalry when two NFC East teams go head-to-head.”
With the way the Redskins have played the last five weeks coupled with the continued demise of the Giants, who started the season 5-0 but have lost six of their last eight, the role of spoiler becomes even more of a realistic possibility for the 4-9 Redskins.
Under the Helmet:
THN: If you could go back and change one thing about your high school experience, what would it be and why?
AC: I wish I could spend more time working on catching the football and dropped fumbles. Why? Well, you saw the game.
THN: Ok, I think I’ve held off on this long enough. What is your take on the Tiger Woods situation? Are you surprised by all the news that continues to break? How popular of a topic is that to discuss in the locker room?
AC: I feel that Tiger is a great athlete. I am not the one to judge. We are all responsible for our actions. I feel he is a decent human being. He is in a tight spot right now and as a huge sports figure in the golf world, he will be looked under the microscope for a long period of time. I hope in the end, he can forgive himself and make a comeback. Only time will tell.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell