Playing Against a Stacked Deck

November 23rd, 2011

Numbers don’t lie.

The Raiders lead the league in penalties.

Again.

They’re on pace to shatter the single season record.

The Raiders’ defense now has a total of 17 personal fouls. The most defensive personal fouls since the merger is 19 by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998. There are 6 games left to play.

But why are the Raiders consistently among the league leaders in penalties?

They obviously commit more penalties than other teams right?

The players are undisciplined and the coaches do not stress playing within the rules, right?

OK, let’s examine the whole penalty thing.

The Raiders have been at or near the top in penalties virtually every year, but the players and coaches have changed so frequently that the “undisciplined players and coaching” argument just does not hold water.

This argument makes even less sense when you look at the last (lost) decade of Raider football when players and coaches have been turning over at an alarming rate. Do these penalty-prone players and coaches somehow gravitate to the Raiders? Do the Raiders just continue to acquire players that are more apt to commit penalties? Hire coaches that don’t care or don’t coach discipline?

How can it be the environment when the environment changes so often?

All those reasons just don’t make sense.

Common sense tells us that there’s something wrong here.

I’m a mathematics major, but you don’t have to be one to see that there’s a pattern there. It seems pretty clear that regardless of the players they sign or the coaches they hire, the Raiders are just getting called for penalties more often than other teams.

It may not be an outright anti-Raider conspiracy, but it definitely appears to be a tendency of the officials. If there’s a doubt that it was a penalty, are they more likely to call it against the Raiders? Are borderline calls going against the Raiders? Is it psychological? Do their reputations precede them? Do some officials have the idea in their mind that the Raiders are the villains and if they succeed, they must be cheating?

The answer is probably yes in many of these cases.

Last Sunday’s game against the Vikings was particularly atrocious. Two Vikings’ scores were basically driven by Raider penalties. One drive had three, almost consecutive, highly questionable personal fouls called against the Raiders.

First, a roughing the passer call on DT Tommy Kelly, a hit against a defenseless receiver by LB Aaron Curry, and a face mask on S Tyvon Branch. Kelly was actually being held and took down the QB with one arm which the official called because he thought the arm grazed the QB’s helmet (or something). Curry’s hit was legal and after a completion. There was no defenseless receiver. He caught the ball and got smacked. Lastly, the Branch facemask simply never happened.

On another Viking possession, DE Desmond Bryant was whistled for a late hit, which he could have avoided only if he could have frozen himself in the air as the whistle blew.

Coach Hue Jackson was so frustrated after the Minnesota game that he took the chance of getting a fine from the NFL by commenting on it. Oddly enough, Coach Jackson has had officials in on Raider practices to clean things up and it seems to be worse than ever.

I had a Twitter exchange with sports writer Jerry McDonald where I asked him:

@Jerrymcd still haven’t heard a good explanation for Raiders leading league in penalties every year with different coaching staffs, players.

His sarcastic reply:

@xristos Easy. Because they commit the most penalties.

Really Jerry?

Do they commit the most penalties? Or do they simply get called for the most penalties?

I think the facts and statistics emphatically show us that the latter is true.

Sometimes, I think the only way to prove that there is a bias is if someone that the media loves, like Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells, comes to coach the Raiders to a year of league-leading penalties.

Never mind the common sense.

Raiders Shocked by Tebow and Broncos at Home

November 6th, 2011

Jacoby_Ford_TDYes, a 38-24 loss to the Denver Broncos. The team led by inexperienced Tim Tebow and a one-dimensional offense. I can’t say they didn’t deserve to lose in that they allowed that weak Denver offense to score 38 points on them. Actually 31 points as 7 points were on special teams when they let Eddie Royal go 85 yards untouched on a punt return. Louis Murphy was either held or blocked really well on the return. No excuses though, the Broncos were basically going to run first and after the first half, the Raiders could not stop them.

Second half collapse.

Inexplicable. The same plays that were gaining one and two yards in the first half, were suddenly popping open with gaping holes. They also lost contain on Tebow keepers several times. Tebow ran for 118, McGahee for 160, and they allowed that offense to run up 400+ yards on them. Is it any wonder they lost?

After a terrible performance against the Chiefs at home and an extra week to rest and prepare, they come out and allowed almost 300 yards rushing in the game.  The 4th worst in Raider team history.  Most disturbing, 230 of those came in the second half on only 23 carries after they had a 10 point lead.

Did I mention this was a home game?  Against the Broncos? After a bye week?

That defensive performance will not cut it, even with Carson Palmer fully comfortable with this offense.

The stupid penalties also continue. 15 for 130 and a couple were key, drive-sustaining mistakes.

I’ve been hard on Rolando McClain, but if this game is an indication of his value, then maybe he is critical to the D. Blackstock, his replacement, looked good in the first half but looked totally out of position on big McGahee runs in the second half. Aaron Curry looked like a beast in the first half, but he made the same mistakes as Blackstock in the second half, plus one boneheaded unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting Tebow out of bounds.

I loved the blitz pressure that Bresnahan was bringing, but the Raider have to lead the league in blown coverages. Why is that?

Losing to a team you should beat is always bad, but in front of a sold out home crowd, after a bye week (that’s 9 losses in a row after the bye, by the way), after having a 10 point lead with 6 minutes to go in the third quarter, when a win gives you the lead in the division with a trip to San Diego coming after a short week….all those things add up to yet another very disappointing loss.

One thing that I’m happy about though, is Carson Palmer. I like him a lot. He throws a beautiful ball and takes control at the line of scrimmage. He just needs to learn the receivers a little better and the offense will be fine, especially once McFadden returns.

On offense, I wonder why they didn’t run Bush a little more to control the ball and keep the defense off the field. Also, I’m no fan of the DHB pick, but he has been playing better and TJ Housh got more snaps than he did.

The defense is another story. They have tons of talent but just don’t make enough plays and get burned on too many big plays.

Tommy Kelly’s post game comments say it all:

“Big wasted opportunity. We could be 5-3, going to SD – they’re coming off a loss, sore – boom, we go down there and we’re 6-3. (Sighs) But you know, like always, we gotta make it hard for ourselves. Take your beating from coach and get on about our business.”

Let’s hope they mean business in San Diego on Thursday.

Stirring

October 10th, 2011

There’s no other way to describe the Raiders’ win at Houston a day after Al Davis’ death than stirring.  Maybe the most emotional win of any Raider win among many, many emotional wins in the team’s glorious history.  This game, although just the fifth regular season game of a long season, will always be remembered by Raider fans.

The game was poetic in that so many players that Davis hand picked played key roles in the victory – kicker and controversial number one draft pick Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record by kicking 3 50+ yard field goals and adding a fourth, curious #1 pick (and seven overall) Darius Heyward-Bey caught 4 passes for 99 yards including a key TD on a splendid individual effort, DT Richard Seymour had a huge game with two sacks and pass deflections, and another former #1 pick Michael Huff made the dramatic game-ending interception.

One play in particular seemed to be heaven-sent.  When Texan FB Vickers dropped a pass with about three minutes left in the game, where he could have probably walked into the end zone.  With a two-point conversion, it would have tied the ball game.  It was as if Al’s hand came in and knocked that ball down.

This is a game that the Raiders would have lost last year.

They didn’t really play that well, but they played hard and kept playing hard until things turned around.  They even overcame a couple of bad calls, notably a phantom hold on a big McFadden run.

Here’s hoping the effort displayed is just the start of many more, but with better execution.

Back to Al Davis, Jim Plunkett wrote an excellent tribute to him on Yahoo Sports where he described him as the very definition of sand in the oyster.  I was also impressed by what presumed Raider-hater Michael Silver wrote:

Davis and I had a nonexistent relationship – we had one meaningful conversation, when he spoke to me on the phone for nearly an hour for a 2002 Sports Illustrated feature I wrote on Trask. He banned me from the team’s training facility and locker room on numerous occasions, and I wrote plenty of critical articles that he undoubtedly despised. And yet, the man was one of the most influential and fascinating figures the sport has known, and his death was sobering and marked the end of an era. As I watched the Raiders honor his memory in Houston from the Candlestick press box, as coach Hue Jackson had told me they would the day before, the experience was more emotional than I could have expected. There is no cheering in the press box, and I am 100 percent down with that rule – yet on Michael Huff’s game-clinching, end-zone interception with no time remaining, I found myself pumping my fist and letting out a restrained but audible yelp of relief. And all I could think was, What is wrong with me? It wasn’t merely that I was rooting for a good story; it was more than I was captivated by what this statement meant to the men who made it, and how much they wanted it to be validated by a victory. As defensive end Richard Seymour told me afterward, “It was very [emotional], because of how he has touched us all in some way or another.” And Jackson? I loved the way he coached this game, from an early flea-flicker that should have resulted in a touchdown to the gutsy fake punt that extended a fourth-quarter drive to the incomplete deep ball to rookie receiver Denarius Moore when conventional wisdom called for the team to bleed the clock in the final minutes. Later, watching that video footage of Jackson’s postgame speech to the team (in which he said of Huff’s interception, “I tell you this, Al Davis had his hands on that ball, man …”), I had chills. What can I say? I tell readers all the time that I don’t care who wins these games, but this was an exception.

I don’t think a true Raider fan could’ve said it better.

Al Davis. The One and Only. 1929-2011

October 9th, 2011

Al Davis

A football great passed yesterday.  The architect of the team I live and die with each Sunday.  As Ice Cube described him, Al Davis was “the Frank Sinatra of the NFL”.  A guy that did it his way and blazed the trail for what the NFL is today.

Sure, he made some missteps. He did some things this last decade that I and other Raider fans didn’t agree with, but those are just blips on his body of work.  He took chances.  He gave players second, third chances.  He did some generous things behind the scenes and without publicity.  He was loyal and got loyalty in return.

Aside from his incredible football acumen, that loyalty, to me, was perhaps his greatest trait.  Maybe that’s why it’s so strong among Raider fans.  If you’re a Raider fan, you don’t have a second favorite team.  You don’t root for other teams, that is unless it in some way helps the Raiders.  You live and die Raiders.  You bleed Silver and Black.  The team is like family and you defend them like family.

I remember almost punching a good friend of mine in the nose when he said disparaging things about Al Davis.  Wrong, I know, but it shows the passion that Al and his team invokes.  You can criticize your own family, but when someone outside the family does, it’s a whole different matter.

I’ve been a Raider fan, living and dying with every game, since the early 70′s.  I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said and written by others in various forums – former and current players, NFL coaches, executives, even from the same media that has vilified him in the recent past.  The outpouring of respect has been phenomenal – even “Lance” Kiffin showed some class with his kind words.

All I can do is roll out at least some of the things that made Al Davis and his Raiders unique among sports franchises and endeared me to them forever.

First, there’s the Raider motto’s and Al Davis quotes that have become part of the fabric of football, one of which has been adopted by many in the corporate sector:

  • “Just Win, Baby”
  • “Commitment to Excellence”
  • “Pride and Poise”
  • “The Vertical Game”
  • “The quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard”
  • “I’d rather we be feared than be respected”
  • “The Silver and Black” – what other team is so synonymous with their colors?
  • “The Black Hole”
  • “Raider Nation” – yes, that whole Nation thing started here.
  • “The Autumn Wind” – what other team has its own, awesome song narrated by John Facenda?

Then, there’s all the great games that the Raiders took part in and became NFL lore. You don’t name a game unless it was special.

  • The Immaculate Reception
  • The Heidi Game
  • The Sea of Hands Catch
  • The Holy Roller
  • The Ghost to the Post
  • The Tuck Rule Game.

There was Al Davis’ Raiders influence on pop culture, from hip hop and rap culture to video games.

I think you’ll find that NFL merchandising really took off  in the 80′s when Raider apparel became popular with NWA and other groups.  They were influenced by the success of the Jim Plunkett/Marcus Allen teams in Los Angeles, but also due to the timeless design of the Raider symbols and colors, neither of which has been changed since 1964.  How many teams (in all sports, not just the NFL imitators) have adopted black as their second or third color?  They say the greatest compliment to you is when everybody wants to be you.

What name is synonymous with football video games – well, the football video game – John Madden, Oakland Raiders.  He was given a chance to coach the Raiders by Al Davis at 32 years old.

There were the miracle finishes of the Raiders in the 70′s, led by an old man that Al signed named George Blanda.  He came off the bench to kick last second field goals and throw TDs when the starting QB went down.  There was the vaunted Raider “vertical game” that made the AFL more than just “3-yards and a cloud of dust” and influenced a merger with the NFL because people were tuning in to watch players like Daryl “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica.  Al Davis later signed a world class sprinter named Cliff Branch to be a WR and implement this dynamic offensive style of play that is a big part of the NFL’s appeal today.

Al Davis was an Iconoclast. Pioneer.  Renegade. Game-changer.

He did it all.  First man ever to be a scout, assistant coach, head coach, league commissioner, and owner.

More Al Davis firsts:

  • First to ever hire a black head coach.
  • First to ever draft a black QB.
  • First to ever hire a Hispanic head coach.
  • First to ever hire a woman CEO.
  • First to ever draft a punter number one in the draft – the great Ray Guy.

He was respected enough to have introduced nine men at the Pro Football Hall of Fame – the most ever.

Oh yeah, and there were those three Super Bowls in three different decades….which could have easily been more if not for the ball bouncing differently or a couple of referees calls going differently (sorry, a proper Al Davis tribute has to allude to the conspiracy).

Al Davis was Football.  Football is what it is today because of Al Davis and that is echoed by noted Raider-hater Tom Jackson.

More than that….he was The Raiders. The Raiders will always be Al Davis.

Love him or hate him. Respect him.  Everything he did was for the love of the game and his love of the Raiders.

Al Davis was 82.

RIP

Cuts Like a Knife

September 18th, 2011

Nice, but ugly win at Denver to open the season.

Then….like a dagger to a fan’s heart…..

Losing at Buffalo 38-35 after having a commanding 21-3 halftime lead.

This one hurts for a lot of reasons.

  • Defense pretty much collapsed in the second half’.  Actually set a record for worst second half collapse by a defense.
  • Wasted a superb offensive performance.  With the top three WRs and starting TE out, the offense looked excellent with Jason Campbell in charge (yes, I typed that) and Denarius Moore and Derek Hagan looking awesome at the WR slots.
  • Defense, in the form of Chris Johnson and Tyvon Branch, had a chance to ice the game with interceptions that they couldn’t hold on to.  Branch’s actually went through his hands and turned into a TD.
  • You’d think Rolando McClain had a good game if you looked at his numbers, but you’d be wrong….he missed numerous tackles and I saw him in the wrong run gap several times.  He’s a big reason Buffalo averaged over 8 yards a carry.  Generally, run defense is still a major concern.
  • Add the pass rush to the list of concerns.  After a good push in Denver, they appeared to get handled in Buffalo.  While they were getting some penetration, it seemed to be just a little bit late.
  • The loss of Nnamdi really showed in this game as Chris Johnson was being targeted continuously, with great success.
  • I’ll say it again….Nick Miller returning kicks?  Really?
  • The lone turnover committed, a fumble by the otherwise superb  Darren McFadden, really cost the Raiders by allowing Buffalo to get back in the game.  It both stopped a possible drive for the offense and led to a Buffalo TD.
  • Huge, missed opportunity to win on the road after a short practice week.  Cross country trip to boot.  The Raiders never do that well and they were well on their way before the collapse.  Instead, Buffalo at 2-0 is being talked about as the surprise team of the year.  Could’ve been the Raiders.
  • Overall, this is the kind of loss that’s hard to bounce back from, much less with New York and New England next up.

I can’t even enjoy the a-star-is-born performance of Denarius Moore.  And that last hail mary was oh so close to another catch by Moore.  He actually appeared to have co-possession of the ball but lost it when he hit the ground.

So close.  What a fairy tale ending that would’ve been.

Fate is still not on the Raiders’ side, it appears.

2011 Kick Off

September 12th, 2011

First blog post of the year just a couple of hours before the season opener at Denver.  I’ll probably be posting weekly rants as the season goes on.

Still don’t know what to think of this team.  I’m upset that the Raiders let their most productive pass receiver, Zach Miller, get away on the heels of losing their best defender in shutdown corner Asomugha.  The Gallery loss doesn’t bother me so much because of the ridiculous money he was asking for after being a high first round bust at tackle.  To make those losses worse, there’s was no real replacement to Asomugha (and still isn’t) and Miller’s replacement, Kevin Boss, is injured for the opener.

The Boss acquisition was a decent one and it could make me miss Miller less but really worried about the right corner spot.  None of the young guys they tried there in the preseason have looked good.  Pass defense in general looked poor and the lack of a real good pass rushing end is a concern as well.  Jarvis Moss showed me nothing and I was actually surprised he made the team.  The right OLB position is weak too as Quentin Groves still just doesn’t look right out there.  I wish they had looked more at free agency to fill the CB and LB weaknesses. We’ll see if Denver takes advantage of that tonight.

Don’t want to be all negative so here are the bright spots – Denarius Moore looks like a steal in the fifth round and could see him supplanting DHB.  Veteran Derek Hagan has looked super strong and hope he gets the playing time he deserves.  Taiwan Jones is the fastest guy I’ve seen since Bo Jackson.  Jason Campbell, maybe the most important piece, appears more comfortable and in charge at QB.

All in all, the poor performances in the pre-season does worry me some but hopeful that won’t carry over.  I like the new HC Hue Jackson’s enthusiasm but some things he did in pre-season didn’t instill confidence in me (e.g. winning toss and electing to kick?!?).

Key tonight is definitely being able to run and stopping the run.  Also keeping those end rushers off of Campbell.

Lots of young talent, so should be interesting and exciting and, hopefully, lead to wins and the playoffs.

(Just saw they listed Hagan as inactive tonight…..not happy about that. DHB better step up.)

Cornerstones?

October 9th, 2010

Already a quarter of the way through the season and it’s been very disappointing so far.

Should be 2-2, but maybe more disconcerting is the way the lines on both sides of the ball were dominated last Sunday by Houston.  Remember that they were missing their best LB in Brian Cushing as well.

Now is a good time to look at some of the young players that fans are hoping are cornerstones for the future.

Rolando McClain:  Very disappointing.  All the draft experts raved about this number one draft choice and it sounded like he was the real deal from comments throughout training camp.  His production and performance on the field so far though, is suspect.  He has no sacks, no forced fumbles, no recovered fumbles, no picks, not even a pass defensed through four weeks.  Maybe worse is the fact that he seems to get sealed off an awful lot on running plays and has been a liability on pass coverage.  Maybe Kirk Morrison wasn’t the problem in the middle after all.

I sometimes wonder if he’s thinking too much due to the fact that he’s the defensive captain and signal caller.  Was it a good idea to give that responsibility to a rookie?  I hate to think he’s going to be yet another under-performing first round pick.  It’s still early…or at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.

It still irks me that he constantly downplayed the level of play in the NFL v college and the SEC.  Well then, show me how you can dominate like you did at Alabama!  I’ve seen nothing yet.  And what’s the deal with not talking to the media,big shot?

Lamarr Houston:  Looked promising in pre-season and showed flashes early.  Also has a firey temperament.  But his pass rush has been non existent when it has been needed and no one on that defensive line is stopping the run, so he’s still a big question mark.  It may very well be that he’s more suited to the tackle position than the end.  Interesting report out of the Houston locker room after the game that their players were joking about having gotten him agitated.  i don’t recall hearing his name called all game.  He had one tackle.  So did Bruce Gradkowski.

Jared Veldheer:  When you draft a guy high out of a very small school, you better make sure he can play. Veldheer has the size but so far he hasn’t shown he can handle strong, fast pass rushers and has had problems at center with the snap.  Could develop and, after the blown Robert Gallery pick, the Raiders really need the offensive linemen to develop more than any other position, which leads me to….

Bruce Campbell: Another big size-speed-strength guy but doesn’t play up to his numbers.  I liked the pick in the fourth round.  Sooner would have been a mistake.  It’s a chance worth taking because he could turn out to be a steal with some good coaching.  He looks to be a project though, because with the poor play and injuries at both guard positions, his name hasn’t even been mentioned as possibly getting some playing time.

Mike Mitchell: I know he’s a second year guy but safety has been a huge weakness and the source of a lot of wasted draft picks for the last decade or so.  Hate to say it, but he may be one of those wasted picks, if the rumors are true that he should have been cut, but Al Davis came to his rescue and kept him.  Sure, he has a nice YouTube highlight video of his hits in college, but evidently he doesn’t wrap and can’t cover worth a lick.  Seriously unproven and that’s not want you want for a high #2 pick.

Oh and speaking of cornerstones, what about that blockbuster Richard Seymour trade last year?  Not looking too good at the moment and in hindsight didn’t really improve the defense last year either.  Every game the Raiders lose this year makes the Patsies pick that much better.

Now, let’s end this 13-game losing streak tomorrow.

Defenseless

October 3rd, 2010

Raiders lose 31-24 to Houston.

What an appropriately depressing ending:  the two young Raider receivers that they’ll be counting on for the future, both dropped balls that would have extended a potential game-tying drive.

Heyward-Bey dropped one that “he wasn’t ready for”, whatever that means.  To me, that means he’s not good enough to know to be ready.

The better pure receiver, Louis Murphy dropped one that Gradkowski laid right in his chest on 4th down that essentially ended the game.

Gradkowski showed guts, but overall this team has a terrible offensive line and he just cannot depend on the WRs making plays.  And that’s just the offense.  The defense shoulders most of the blame for allowing 31 points.  At home.

This tidbit from Raider Take says it all: By the end of the third quarter, our receiving corps had one catch total for two yards against the NFL’s 32nd ranked passing defense.

Perhaps worse in this game was the absolutely porous play of the run defense and lack of any sustained pass rush (zero sacks). They looked like Rob Ryan’s defense out there and Houston was without their star WR and lost their next best during the game.  There were at least two plays where they looked confused and out of position at the snap.

250 yards rushing allowed says it all.  And you know that they were working on stopping the run all week with Foster coming in.  Oh yeah, Foster didn’t even come in until the second quarter.

One of the things that this defense lacks is the seeming inability to force turnovers.  Aside from some bumbling around on punt returns by last week’s opponents, they have not been doing much in the air (interceptions) or ground (fumbles).  That’s fine if they were tackling well, but they’re not even doing that.

I wonder if Rolando McClain still thinks the NFL is as easy as the SEC.  He is just nowhere around the ball, unless you call chasing Arian Foster while he scores a TD on a pass out of the backfield being around the ball.  He also looked to be the culprit when Houston ran an identical pass play to the tight end to open the game – TE was wide open both times.

To add injury to insult, it appears that Darren McFadden re-injured that hamstring that has bothered him his entire pro career.  Great!  Just when he was starting to show that he was worth the investment.  He’s been looking fantastic all year.  Raider curse anyone?

Hey, but look on the bright side – only 2 penalties!  That may be an all-time Raider record.  Zach Miller catches 11 for 122.  Fourth game in a row with 20+ first downs – first time since 2002.

Who cares.

Postscript:  Raiders attendance of 32,218 paid was lowest in non-strike game since Dec. 24, 1967.  And that’s the paid figure.  It looked on TV that there were significantly less fans actually there.  Can you blame them?

Seabust

September 26th, 2010

he missed itHe missed it!

Raiders lose 24-23 at Arizona to a thoroughly undeserving Cardinal team that only had 227 total yards.

Painful loss.  Unexpected loss.  The kind which are always the most painful.  The kind of game this young team needs desperately to win to grow confidence. The Raiders had a chance to be 2-1 for the first time since 2004 and all they needed was for the highest paid kicker in the sport to kick one through from 32, or the opponents 14 yard line.  He’s made 19 in a row from that range.  19.

I was hoping it wouldn’t come down to him -  the sideline shots of Janikowski after the two misses didn’t make me feel confident?   He didn’t look right but heck, I thought, this is a gimme for any kicker, much less him, right?

I feel for Janikowski.  I’m sure however bad I feel, he feels worse.  I doubt he’s blowing it off like rookie Jacoby Ford seems to be doing if his Tweets are any judge.  Pretty sad when a fan takes a loss harder than a player.  Having too many players with that attitude is why the Raiders have been in this 7 year funk.  But back to Janikowski, three missed field goals, including a chippy game winner, should never happen with a first round pick.  I’ll say it again, the Raiders wasted a first round pick on him.  If the Raiders kept someone like Joe Nedney when they had him, they would have been better served.  Jano has been consistent in recent years, but he has lost more games than he has won in his career.

Today, I wish they hadn’t placed it in his hands so quickly.  Raiders had a first down at the 13 with 55 seconds and a time out left.  They ran the ball up the middle twice and then tried the field goal on third down.  I hate it when teams don’t try to punch it in with real football players before they leave it to a kicker.

It was a mistake-filled game by both sides, but Raiders outplayed and outgained Arizona in their opener at home.

Mistakes.  A motion penalty on Mario Henderson on a 3rd and two with about four minutes left really hurt.  First, it made converting the third down much harder (they didn’t) and it pushed Janikowski’s attempt from a 53 yarder to a 58 yarder.  He missed it as it just slid right.  It appeared the extra five yards was the difference.  I noticed that Mario slammed his helmet to the ground later when Jano missed the game winner.  Mirror, anyone?

Mistakes. Gradkowski did own up to it, but he really should have called a time out on 2nd and goal from inside the one.  He tried to beat the clock and it cost the team a probable TD.  I was just screaming at the TV as the play clock rolled down.  Then, he follows that by going twice to that famous TD machine Heyward-Bey from the six.

Mistakes.  I’m starting to see why it is that people were saying coaches wanted to cut S Mike Mitchell – he missed a tackle on the opening kickoff return that went for a TD and really does little else to distinguish himself on defense.  He was practically a first round pick, if you remember.

And what about Jason Campbell?  Trust me, if he were behind center, he would have been sacked at least five times and fumbled thrice.  Gradkowski, even with what happened today, gives them the leadership and best chance to win.  What the Raiders should have done, is make a play for Michael Vick when they had a chance.  Look at him now.  A QB that can run is what this horrendous offensive line needs.

Enough.  I need therapy now.  Please bounce back guys.

Bruuuuce!

September 19th, 2010

Raiders 16, Rams 14.

One of those wins that doesn’t necessarily make you feel too good about it.

Thank God for Bruce Gradkowski.  He’s a gritty, little guy that plays with so much spirit and brings a spark to the whole team.  I seriously doubt Campbell could have pulled out this win.  Campbell is a QB that needs his protection to be good, while Gradkowski can make things happen even if it breaks down.  He’s better at getting the ball out and the tempo up.  You won’t see Gradkowski sliding short of a first down like Campbell did last week or, like Campbell did today, throw the ball into the ground when a screen play gets read by the defense and there’s no one within ten yards…..look around and find someone else, dammit.

I do like the guy (Campbell) and obviously hope he does well, but he never impressed me at Washington and still hasn’t shown me a whole lot in Oakland.  I just think Gradkowski is a better QB for this offense due to its limitations (offensive line).

Sure, one can say a W is a W and that’s all that counts, but consider these facts:

  • The slim, 2 point win was the 2010 home opener against a team in transition, with a rookie quarterback, traveling two time zones, and without a couple of key players due to injury.  A team that has lost 26 of their last 27 games.  Not exactly a playoff caliber team.
  • Although they cranked it up in the second half, the run defense looked horrible in the first half.  I still am not impressed by the rookie MLB McClain, body slam aside.  He just makes a lot of mistakes both against the run (missed tackles and not filling holes) and the pass (see the first Ram TD).
  • LT, probably the most important position on the OL, is the weakest position on the entire team!  The Raiders were actually alternating guys in there – Mario Henderson and rookie Veldheer – neither of which reminded people of Art Shell.  Funny, but evidently Mario just now figured out how important his position is to the success of the offense and keeping his QB healthy.  He played the position for four years in college and four more in the NFL and he just realizes this?  No, actually not funny…. pathetic.  I like the guy, but from comments like these and reading his Tweets, he’s not the brightest.

What did I like about today?

  • Darren McFadden just looks like a different guy this year….and I like it.  He’s just making the first guy miss a lot more and is punishing the tackler.  He actually knocked the Ram safety out of the game in the second half.  Ran for 145 today and looked like a beast.
  • Gradkowski.  He just seems to raise everyone’s level of play.
  • Heyward-Bey dropped a long pass, but he easily had his best game ever as a pro.  That isn’t hard to do, honestly, but this is a good, hard-working kid and I hope he continues to improve.  He still has a long way to go to justify the #7 overall pick though – today he looked like a decent middle round pick.
  • Blitzing!  Maybe no one woke Al from his nap in time for the game, because the defense was sending guys quite a bit today.  It was refreshing.
  • Johnnie Lee Higgins finally looked good again returning punts.
  • Coach Cable showed guts in making the QB change at half.  If they lose to the Rams, he might have been fired by Tuesday.
  • Over 400 yards of offense, even though got just a paltry 16 points, is the best since 2005.  76 games ago.  Sad but true.
  • Defense only allowed 210 yards, most of that in the first half.
  • Gutsy performance overall, without their best O lineman (Gallery) and best D lineman (Seymour).

Overall, not a win that makes me confident about the prospects for this season.  Consider the opponent in this one.  I really hope they look for a veteran LT and a veteran WR.  Why they didn’t go after someone like Mark Clayton, I don’t know.

A much more talented Arizona team is next (on the road), so we’ll see if they can build on this one.  this is for sure – Gradkowski must stay the starter.  No way Campbell would have pulled this one out.  No way.