So Matt Flynn made his first start for the Raiders, and just the third of his six-year career. He wouldn't be the only understudy filling in. Oakland lost the rest of its starting backfield, halfback Darren McFadden and fullback Marcel Reece, in the first half. McFadden hurt his hamstring, Reece his knee, and Allen said he didn't know the extent of either injury.
Not that the Raiders had a monopoly on backfield injuries. Washington runner Alfred Morris left the game with bruised ribs, and quarterback Robert Griffin III — so dynamic as a rookie last year — hasn't come close to recapturing the speed taken from him by a serious knee injury last January.
Raiders backup halfback Rashad Jennings and fullback Jamize Olawale were workmanlike in their efforts as replacements. Flynn was something of a disaster. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown to rookie tight end Mychal Rivera that put the Raiders' lead at 14-0 at the 3:06 mark of the first quarter. But Flynn fumbled twice, losing one of them, and lacking Pryor's mobility, was sacked seven times.
Flynn also threw an interception that Washington cornerback David Amerson returned 45 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, igniting a rally that the Raiders were never fully able to tamp down.
"Obviously, I don't think he saw the field very good today," Allen said in an uncharacteristically harsh assessment of Flynn. "I think he was obviously part of some of the sacks that we gave up in the game."
Flynn didn't see it that way. "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," he said. "I didn't think I wasn't seeing the field; I just didn't make the plays."
The sacks weren't entirely Flynn's fault, of course. Oakland's patched-together offensive line struggled all day with Washington outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, and nose tackle Barry Cofield. Each of them registered two sacks, and Orakpo also batted down two passes. But Flynn seemed to hold the ball too long at time, and rarely was able to move away from pressure.
The home fans were anything but sympathetic. Some booed when Flynn was introduced during pregame warm-ups. Others joined in after he threw the pick-six, and the chorus grew louder late in the game as some in the crowd no doubt hungered for third-stringer Matt McGloin to make an appearance.
In the second half, the Raiders punted four times, missed a field goal, turned over the ball on downs once and ran out of time short of the 50-yard line as the final gun sounded. The fourth-down failure was the kill shot. Down by 10 points with 3:32 left, the Raiders called a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 17. Flynn burrowed close to the first-down marker, but dropped the ball and recovered close to the original line of scrimmage. That one unleashed some ire.
"That's not cool at all," left tackle Khalif Barnes said of the booing. " .<TH>.<TH>. He's not the sole reason of what happened."
The visitors, meanwhile, were able to take advantage of good field position to cement their victory. Washington got the ball at its 42 after Sebastian Janikowski's 52-yard miss off the infield dirt in the third quarter, and drove to Griffin's 5-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon for a 17-14 lead — its first of the day.