Matt Flynn was handed an opportunity to prove himself on Sunday against the Washington Redskins but was unable to capitalize as the offense failed to produce in a Raiders 24-14 loss.
Flynn was awarded the opportunity after starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor was a late scratch after still showing signs from last week’s concussion when he met with Dennis Allen and team doctors Saturday night.
“It was last night,” Allen said on when he decided to go with Flynn as the starter. “We actually were at a point where we were ready to go with Terrelle. We visited with him one more time with the doctors and we just didn’t feel good about letting him play. I think, obviously, with all the emphasis on head injuries or brain injuries, we wanted to exercise extreme caution in that situation and that’s what we did. I think we did the right thing by Terrelle Pryor in not playing him in this game.”
With Flynn at the helm, the offense struggled to maintain consistency and failed to move the ball downfield while Flynn finished 21/32 for 227 yards, one touchdown but three turnovers (two fumbles and one interception).
According to Allen, much of Flynn’s struggles arose from poor vision down field and unaware pocket presence that lead to seven sacks.
“Obviously, I don’t think he saw the field very good today. I think he was obviously part of some of the sacks that we gave up in the game. It was a tough situation for him to go in to and obviously, with the loss of (Darren) McFadden and (Marcel) Reece, that didn’t help him out any. Offesnively, we didn’t get it done and that’s really the bottom line.”
To make things tougher for Flynn and the offense, the team lost both starting backs in McFadden (hamstring) and Reece (knee) in the first half.
Though Flynn felt as if he was seeing the field fairly well, he agrees that losing his both of the starting backs was difficult.
“I don’t know, I felt like I was seeing things fairly well,” Flynn said. “There were a couple of times on some play-actions where there was a big jump on the line of scrimmage and I had a hard time making sure there were guys open, so I didn’t want to force it by making any bad throws. I didn’t think I wasn’t seeing the field; I just didn’t make the plays.”
“Those two guys are the heart and soul of the offense, that’s two great players. I still feel like we ran the ball well after that but that was definitely a big blow for us,” Flynn said of the injuries to his two starting backs.
The Raiders got off to an early start and quickly took the lead by scoring their first special teams touchdown of the season. After forcing a three and out on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and the offense’s first two drives, backup running back Rashad Jennings broke through the line and blocked Sav Rocca’s punt. Jeremy Stewart recovered the ball in the end zone to give the Raiders the early 7-0 lead.
Flynn would get the Raiders lone offensive touchdown in the first quarter with a 10 play, 81-yard scoring drive. Flynn was able to find wide receive Denarius Moore, who made a great catch deep down the right sideline for a gain of 34 down to the Redskins’ 21 yard line. Flynn then almost threw an interception after not seeing linebacker Brian Orakpo who dropped back, but luckily the ball fell to the ground harmlessly. Flynn took advantage of the dropped interception by finding his rookie tight end Mychal Rivera in the end zone for a 18-yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders the 14-0 first quarter lead. The touchdown reception was Rivera’s first-career touchdown reception.
But that would be it in terms of scoring for the Raiders, even with the Raiders defense playing solid and limiting the Redskins offense. The Redskins would score 24 straight points en route to the final 24-14 victory.
After struggling to get his own offense going, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan turned to a no-huddle offense on the following drive that quickly showed production.
Griffin III proceeded to drive his offense down to a goal-line situation but failed to get into the end zone as the defense held and forced a 25-yard field goal, bringing the score to 14-3.
Having already gotten away with a dropped interception on the previous drive, Flynn would have no such luck on his next possession.
On 3rd and 5, Flynn looked for Moore inside but stared him down and had Redskins rookie cornerback David Amerson undercut the route and intercept the ball, returning it all the way into the end zone to cut the lead to 14-10 and giving the Redskins a little momentum.
“There’s no question, that’s what I was saying earlier – we had the momentum in the game and they were able to snatch it away from us a little bit, so yeah, that was a huge play in the game,” Allen said of the interception.
After that, the Raiders defense would step up and force the Redskins to punt on the next four possessions but with little avail to the offense as their drives would lead to punts as well.
The Raiders offense had their best opportunity to get some points on the board in the third quarter when middle linebacker Nick Roach stripped tight end Logan Paulsen and Kevin Burnett recovered to give Flynn and company the ball on the Redskins’ 42-yard line.
Gaining nine yards on three plays set up a 52-yard field goal try off the infield dirt for Sebastian Janikowski, which he missed wide left. The miss was his third of the young season, the amount he missed in a full season last year (31/34).
“Listen, we have to get more comfortable still with that duo. And again, it’s a 52-yarder off the dirt, but yeah, any time he misses it’s concern. So we have to continue to look at that and see what we can do to fix that.”
The Raiders offense would struggle to put themselves in a position to score the rest of the game until they reached the Redskins 17-yard line with 3:32 remaining and down 24-10. Down 10, Allen elected to go for it on 4th and inches instead of taking the field goal but Flynn attempted a sneak and fumbled the ball over to the Redskins for the second time of the day.
“It was fourth-and-inches. It was fourth-and-inches and we have to be able to make inches,” Allen said of his decision to go for it. “We hadn’t been moving the ball up and down the field and to get a chance to be down there when you’re in scoring position, you can possibly get a touchdown, we have to make inches.”
From there, the Redskins would be able to pretty much run the clock out and ice the victory putting the Raiders at 1-3 for the season.
Raider Nation voiced their displeasure about the offense’s ineptness and Flynn acknowledged it’s not easy to not hear.
“Yea, I mean it’s hard not to hear it,” Flynn said of the fans expressing their disapproval. “You just try to focus on your job and do what you can, but it’s definitely hard not to hear.”
The Raiders take on the San Diego Chargers at home next week, with a time that is still not set due to the Oakland Athletics playing postseason games at O.Co Coliseum on Friday and Saturday nights.
Even with injuries and being just 1-3 after being one-quarter of the way done, Allen expects his team to fight through the difficulties.
“Listen, we’ve faced adversity and we’re going to continue to battle. We’re going to continue to fight because that’s what we do. That’s what you do in the NFL and that’s what a pro football team is supposed to do and we have to be able to overcome adversity. We have to be able to deal with injuries and we need guys that get an opportunity to come in and step up.”