The Raiders started this game with a great opening drive touchdown for the second straight week and looked to be right on track. Butfor nearly two quarters aftr that, thingsstalled. They had four straight three and outs and didn’t have a single first down until the end of the 2nd quarter. The final three and out was punctuated by a hard sack on Jason Campbell that knocked him out of the game.
But the Raiders broke that streak in style. Gradkowski came in and with :40 seconds left in the half andhe hit Louis Murphy in stride after he broke wide open down the middle of the field for a 74 yard touchdown strike. It was reminiscent of the big touchdown throw that Gradkowski threw to Murphy to win the game in Pittsburgh last season. The touchdown brought the Raiders to within three points and gave the Gradkowski/Campbell combination 269 yards passing in the first half.
The Raiders kept their first team offense on the field for the first two drives of the second half just as Cable said they would– Gradkowski being the exception.The 49ers left in their first team defensive line and linebackers but replaced their first team corners just as the Raiders had in the first half. And Gradkowski drove the Raiders right down the field again for a touchdown. It gave the Raiders the lead for the first time since the opening drive-21-17.
Then, after the 49ers had a drive of their own to add a field goal, the Raiders drove into Niner territory thanks in large part to a 25 yard catch and run by Rock Cartwright. Then the Raiders wheeled out their Polish cannon and Janikowski split the uprights with a 57 yard field goal to bring it to 24-20 Raiders. The Niners scored late in the game and added a 2 point conversion for the final score of 28-24.
The story of the game for the Raiderswas at the quarterback position. Jason Campbell looked great on his first drive but the remainder of the first half was marred by penalties that stalled drives. Then midway through the second quarter, Travis LaBoy got the edge on Mario Henderson and took Campbell down with a hard sack. He landed on his right shoulder and after a tense few minutes of him laying on the field being checked out and being taken off in a cart, the good news came down that it was just a stinger on hisnon-throwing arm. Campbell was understandably pretty nervous initially about the whole ordeal though.
“In the heat of the battle, it felt a lot worse at the time that it happened, but thank God … they don’t think it’s going to be really, really serious. But at the same time it’s something we’ve got to take care of before the season starts… I had one before. Usually I recover pretty fast. Right now there’s no timetable… but at the same time, I haven’t really missed any time before.”
The Raiders got just what they could have hoped from Campbell’s backup. On Gradkowski’s first drive of the game, he had three straight completions. The third of which was theLouis Murphy 74 yard touchdown strike. Just as he had done last season, the offense seemed to rally around him. In this case, it says nothing negative about the starting QB unlike last season. But it is clear that he knows what makes this offense tick and his teammates follow his lead. Gradkowski felt great about his performance as well.
“It was unfortunate what happened with Jason,” Gradkowski said.”I’m sure he’ll be fine. It was good work for me. I haven’t been out there so it was good to get the feel of the first team… It felt like just where I left off. It was exciting. It feels so great to be out there and playing and competing”
Neither Kyle Boller nor Colt Brennan saw the field in this game as Gradkowski was given some make up duty after having missed the rest of the preseason as well as much of camp before this. In his extended duty, Gradkowski threw for over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns to put to bed any talk of a quarterback controversy between he and Boller as to who will back up Jason Campbell.
The big loss in this game was not felt on the scoreboard but in Michael Bush’s thumb which as it turns out is broken. It remains to be seen exactly how it will affect his play or how much time he could miss but it is certainly not good. It also could mean the team holds onto both Rock Cartwright and Michael Bennett until he is back from the injury.
Darren McFadden will be expected to step up and carry the bulk of the load at running back– a duty he has rarely performed in histwo year career. Cartwright will be the primary backup as he has been throughout preseason despite the fine play by Bennett. The reason the team favors Cartwright to Bush is likely a combination of Cartwright’s return abilities and hisexperience playingfullback.
Desmond Bryant started at defensive tackle for Richard Seymour who is out with a minor tricep injury. He came out of the game in the 3rd quarter after he injured his elbow. The extent of the injury is not known yet. We should know more in the next couple days. The Raiders cannot afford to lose Bryant as he is the first guy off the bench to spell both Seymour and Tommy Kelly.
The expected faceoff between 2009 first round pick receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree didn’t quite materialize as Michael Crabtree didn’t play with a stiff neck. Well, If DHB was hoping he would be a pain in Crabtree’s neck, he did his best to accomplish that. DHB had three catches in the game which, if it were the regular season, would have been a career high for him. He didn’t have a game during his 11 games as a rookie in which he had more than2 catchesand ended the season with just 9 total.
Although, it must be noted that his first catch in this game was his patented jump-up-and-catch-it-in-the-gut catch. The same style of catch that we saw bounce off of him several times last season including the one in the KC game that bounced off his gut, knee and foot popping it up and right in the arms of a defender. But in the interest of ‘credit where credit is due’ the other two catches he had were hands catches that didn’t reach his body.
The run defense and special teams were both extremely disappointing in this game. The run defense was at least looking good coming in, but the other shoe dropped in this game. Cable said he “thought there was a let up” toward the end of the first quarter and into the second.
The special teams looked as terrible as we have come to expect of late. Of course there was the big 83 yard kick return touchdown, but the Raiders return game was non-existent. They averaged a sad 4.3 yards per punt return and the kick returns averaged just 18 yards. Tom Cable didn’t mince words when he said the special teams play was “very disturbing.” It has been disturbing going back through last season.
Even the Raiders new-found pass rush didn’t show up in the game. Those defensive ends and linebackers that were flying to the quarterback with such regularity in the Cowboys and Bears game didn’t hardly set foot in the backfield in this game. Part of it was the Raiders weren’t attacking as much. Presumably in an attempt to stay home and not allow the big play– a plan thatdidn’t work. But even in the few instances the Raiders did try to blitz it didn’t really play much of a role.
Cable said afterward, “We learned a lot about ourselves” in this game. But it seems to me they simply learned that some things never change. Poor run defense and special teams, a toothless pass rush, the offensive line is still getting the quarterbacks killed, Gradkowski can stillmove the offense when called upon, Darrius Heyward-Bey still likes to catch with his belly, and Louis Murphy is the one true big play threat receiver on this team.
Then again maybe they were just playing possum so not to reveal any of their secrets before they play them in week six when it counts.