The Oakland Raiders entered the 2009 season with high hopes. The plan was to ride the three headed monster at running back to set up the young cannon armed quarterback to complete balls down field to the speedy rookie wide receiver. Yeah, about that.
The Raiders opened with a strong showing on Monday Night Football against the eventual division champion San Deigo Chargers. JaMarcus Russell led the offense to a late score and a lead just outside of the two minute warning. It appeared that the Raiders were going to open their season with a win for the first time since they won the AFC Championship in 2002. They were also poised to break their losing streak against their division rivals. It didn’t happen. The Chargers answered with a touchdown of their own to win the game.
There was positivity abounding after that game. The Raiders had punched one of the prohibitive favorites for the AFC title in the face, and nearly had a win. Little did anyone know at the time that game would represent the biggest output of the offense under JaMarcus Russell, and the season was about to go downhill fast. They won their game on week two over the lowly Chiefs. That second game would be the first of four consecutive games the offense couldn’t garner 200 total yards, and the first of an eight game streak where they could not score two touchdowns. That win came on the back of one last second drive after an extremely ineffective offensive day.
In weeks 3, 4, and 5 the Raiders were blown out with a combined score of 96-16. The Raiders could offense could not move the ball at all by air or via the run. In those three games they were only able to gain 426 yards total, which works out to a woeful 142 yards per game. This was the low point of the season. The Raiders had fallen to 1-4 and looked completely pathetic en route.
The Raiders would get a brief reprieve when they upset the Philadelphia Eagles. The key play for the offense was an 86 yard touchdown catch and run by tight end Zach Miller. That accounted for Russell’s second touchdown pass of the season, as well as set up the Raiders to score in double digits for the first time since week two.
In a theme that would persist throughout the year, the Raiders would not be able to capitalize on a win. They would, instead suffer their biggest home loss ever against the New York Jets as an encore. Russell was benched for the first time in the season after having a pathetic performance that included two turnovers that set the Jets up with short field touchdowns. This would be the beginning of the end of Russell’s stint as a starter, and another three game losing streak.
The Raiders lost a game in San Diego that was much closer on the scoreboard than it was on the field. The Bolts won 24-26, despite the Raiders only garnering 180 yards of offense. They would end the first half of their season a disappointing 2-6. The offense would be compared unfavorably to the 2006 Tom Walsh led Bed and Breakfast offense, and it wold not be hyperbole. Their offensive stats projected worse than ’06 in passing, rushing, total offense, and scoring. JaMarcus Russell was under fire from the Raider Nation, and deservedly so.
After the bye, the Raiders would host the Chargers looking for a second win over a division opponent, and a hot start coming out of the gates. This game would be yet another loss, but a turning point in the season for the Silver and Black. JaMarcus Russell was pulled for Bruce Gradkowski after turning the ball over yet again. Gradkowski got the team moving with help from the running of Michael Bush. Gradkowksi led the team deep into Kansas City territory late and was poised for a go ahead score. However Gradkowski hit Darrius Heyward-Bey with a nearly perfect pass that ricocheted off off DHB’s hands, chest, and knees before popping up into the air and into the hands of a Chief defender to seal the Raiders third loss in a row.
Bruce Gradkowski got his first start as a Raider and the Raiders upset the playoff bound Cincinnati Bengals. The Raiders pulled this off by scoring an improbable 10 points in 45 seconds. The players began talking about the improved leadership on offense.
The Raiders suffered a big loss on Thanksgiving day to the Dallas Cowboys. This was a game where the Raiders’ defense was the weakest link. It would be the third time that they would follow up a win with a loss. Something that would continue for the remainder of the season.
Week 13 saw the Raiders put on an offensive display that would harken back to their glory days. In a fourth quarter battle, Bruce Gradkowksi out-dueled Ben Rothelisberger in the fourth quarter to get the Raiders their fourth win of the season en route to the first 300 yard passing game by a Raider quarterback since 2007. The following week, they once again could not get things going and lost to the Redskins. The Redskins game would be the end of Gradkowski’s season as he left at halftime with injuries to both of his knees. Russell entered the game in relief to a chorus of boos and could not get anything going as the Raiders would fall.
Charlie Frye would get the start in week 15 as the Raiders traveled to Denver to face the Broncos. Frye would not be able to finish the game, as he received a concussion in the third quarter. JaMarcus Russell once again entered the game in relief. Russell was misfired on a couple of drives, but was able to ultimately drive the Raiders down for what would be their final win of the year.
The Raiders would not be able beat either the Browns or the Ravens. The Browns game would be the Raiders final shot to get a two game winning streak. It would not happen. Charlie Frye would put up a season high 330 yards, but would be unable to put the ball into the end zone. Sebastian Janikowski hit a 61 yard field goal to set the Raider franchise record and entered the top five made field goals of all time.
To conclude the season, the Raiders lost to the Ravens. Charlie Frye could only play the first half, which gave Russell one final half to take over the offense. He could not get the team over the hump as the Raiders would end the season with a loss, thus keeping them with another season of 11 or more losses.