Lost against the backdrop of the Raiders blowing a game they should have won was the performance of Nnamdi Asomugha in silencing Larry Fitzgerald.
In a change of strategy for the Raiders they used their All Pro cornerback to shadow the Cardinals’ All Pro wide receiver. One criticism of the Raiders have used Asomugha has been that they leave him on one side and allow teams to get big plays by putting their top receivers elsewhere and nullifying Aso’s presence by putting lesser receivers against him.
For all the talk about Darrelle Revis and Revis Island, Asomugha remains under the radar because teams just tend to avoid his side of the field. Asomugha is the exception in a position that is known for having larger than life personalities. He doesn’t get the stats or the name recognition, but around the league opposing quarterbacks know to break the huddle, look for 21, then throw the ball elsewhere.
By putting Asomugha directly on Fitzgerald, they were daring the Cardinals to test Asomugha. Any plays to their playmaking receiver had to go through Aso. One of the few times the Raiders went away from Asomugha straight up on Fitzgerald he caught a short touchdown.
Man to Man, Fitzgerald had one catch for 18 yards just barely outstretching Aso for the ball, and that wasn’t until the third quarter. In the first quarter, Asomougha was flagged for pass interference. Other than those plays, Asomugha kept three time Pro Bowl receiver from having his name called.
Everywhere Fitzgerald went he had Asomugha right there with him stride for stride in position to make the play. The coverage kept Derick Anderson from being able to rely on his favorite target. He threw at Fitzgerald a total of seven times, with only the two completions for 26 yards to show for it.
Going forward, the Raiders would be wise to deploy this tactic more often. They face the Houston Texans and their star receiver Andre Johnson who has led the NFL in receiving yards in each of the last two years. Johnson may get his catches, but having Asomugha on him means he would earn every one.
There are not many positives that the Raiders can take away from the debacle in the desert, but they know that putting Asomugha on the other team’s best receiver is a matchup that will go in their favor.