The Oakland Raiders faced off against the San Diego Chargers. I have to say that I was expectnig the Raiders to lay an egg similar to their misadventures against the New Orelans Saints during the preseason. Instead, the Raiders went toe to toe with the team that most have as a Super Bowl contender.
The Raiders dominated the first half, with only the Raiders mistakes keeping them from pulling away. However, during the second half the Raiders fell back to Earth going through a period where their offense was completely ineffective. However, their defense kept the Chargers from mounting any offense during that same period.
The Raiders took the lead with just over two minutes to go, but their defense reverted to a prevent defense. As the cliche goes, “a prevent defense prefents winning,” and the Chargers marched 89 yards down the field for a touchdown to win.
Richard Seymour found a way to step right in and raise the level of the players around him. He was the “puzzle piece” the Raiders defense needed. For the first 57:30 of the game, the Raiders defense played tougher and more physical football than they have in years. They did not allow the Bots to get any kind of a rhythm offensively. They even bailed out the offense by forcing LaDainian Tomlinson to lose his first fumble since 2006 to stall a drive set up by a Darren McFadden fumble.
The key to the play of the defense was intensity and teamwork. Coach Tom Cable pointed out today that players were making the guys next to them better. One example was a play where Phillip Rivers changed the play at the line, and Gerarfd Warren had Seymour shift his position right where the Bolts tried to run LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson got nothing on the play.
In fact, Tomlinson was a complete non-factor through the entire game. The one time Raider-killer carried the ball 13 times for 55 yards, although he did score a touchdown. He also caught one pass for one yard. The Raiders held strong at the point of attack and kept redirecting his runs right into other defenders. It was being reported by the NFL Network this afternoon that he injured his ankle on the player where Greg Ellis forced the fumble. That will be used and an excuse, but he was bottled up completely before that happened.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders moved the ball well in the first half. They were breaking runs off in chunks and mixing in long passes to Zach Miller to move the ball. However, a poorly thrown pass was picked off by the Bolts to end the first drive. Their second drive ended the way the Raiders need to end drives as Michael Bush ran the ball in from five yards out to score the Raiders first touchdown of the season.
For much of the second half, the Raiders could not move the ball. The Raiders first three drives of the second half resulted in a total of 8 yards. (-1, 5, 4) During those drives, Russell was extremely inaccurate. The misfires were coming fast and furious. His struggles were highlighted when he went down to injury and Bruce Gradkowski went 2-2 for 17 yards and moved the team easily. The palce errupted in boos when Russell returned.
Despite Russell’s troubles, he was able to nearly be the hero when he hit Louis Murphy for a 57 yard touchdown pass with 2.30 left in the game. Murphy had the safety beat deep and Russell hung a nearly perfect pass to him for an easy touchdown.
I have to say that the Raiders showed that they they aren’t quite “there” yet, but they are not going to be the pushovers they have been for the past six years. Seymour was the perfect addition to that defense, and he is making everyone around him better. I said the Raiders defense would have to show me something, and they really did. They just need to learn how to close games.