Raiders week 1: Ballers & Busters


Finally the NFL regular season is here. For the past eight seasons, the Raiders have been welcomed into the season with a loss — all that anticipation and high hopes shot down the moment the season began. But not this time. These Raiders were determined to stop that ugly streak at eight and get the season started off with a win over their bitter division rival Broncos.

This win would not come easy. But win they did. It was ugly and messy at times and it certainly couldn’t hold a candle to the drubbing of 59 points the Raiders hung on the Broncos last season in Denver. But the formula was the same –- run the ball.

The Raiders ran the ball 39 times to 22 passes. The plan stayed true against the Broncos who hadn’t made any significant moves to shore up their 31st ranked run defense. Running set up the passing attack just enough to keep the chains moving, while the Raider defense held the Broncos to just 38 yards on the ground.

But it was mistakes that kept this game close and in the end the better team won. Here is a look at a few of the outstanding performances -– both good and bad.

Ballers

Darren McFadden

After just one game of the season, McFadden leads the league in rushing. He had 150 yards in this game which included a 47 yard run and a few runs of 20 yards or more. One of those 20 yard runs came on the Raiders’ first touchdown drive, near the end of the first quarter. The ensuing touchdown put the Raiders in the lead 7-3. His second run of 20 yards came near the end of the first half. He had a total of 37 yards rushing on that drive and it resulted in a chipshot field goal to extend the lead to 13-3. In the third quarter McFadden alertly recovered a fumble by Jason Campbell and two plays later, he went over 100 yards rushing. The next time he touched the ball he took it 47 yards to the Denver one yard line and the Raiders would score their second touchdown of the game on the next play. That gave the Raiders 23 points and it would prove to be all they needed to pull out the win.

Sebastian Janikowski

Every one of his kickoffs sailed out the back of the endzone. Before they moved up the kickoff line, he was a league leader in touchbacks. Now he is just showing off. With a record for returns in this opening weekend, it proves that the new kickoff line helps the return game more than the coverage team. One kick return went 108 yards for a score. So just to be safe, best to kick it where they can’t get it. Aside from showing his leg strength on kickoffs, Janikowski showed it in the field goal game as well. With five seconds left in the first half, and the Raiders at the Broncos’ 45 yard line, Janikowski was sent out to attempt a 63 yard field goal. It would tie him for the longest field goal in NFL history –- and he nailed it. It started left and then straightened out and cleared the crossbar. It gave the Raiders the lead 16-3 heading into half time.  He would make two more field goals from short distances. That long field goal proved to be the difference, with the Raiders winning by three points.

Jason Campbell

He had just 105 yards on 13 of 22 passing, but he ran the offense with precision and poise. He had two touchdowns (one rushing) and no interceptions. The low passing numbers were more to do with the gameplan against the Broncos which was to run the ball early and often. Campbell has proven to be a master of the play action. With the way the Raiders were churning out the rushing yards, it was working especially well. The first touchdown was a pass to Marcel Reece in the flat that was set up by play action fake. It was a perfectly executed play and pass for an easy score. Just before halftime he did it again, drawing the defense in on a play action and then dropping a pass off to Reece on a screen. The play set up Janikowski for his record 63 yard field goal. In the third quarter, after a fumble by Kyle Orton gave the Raiders the ball near midfield, Campbell started the drive with a nice 16 yard completion to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Then, with the defense spread out, he handed the ball off to McFadden who scampered to the one yard line. Campbell then took the ball into the endzone on a quarterback sneak. The Raiders ran the ball most the rest of the way, but Campbell had another completion to DHB to give the Raiders a key first down to allow them to kneel down the rest of the way.

Richard Seymour

The Broncos were going nowhere in this game. As I mentioned, they had just 38 yards on the ground. When Seymour wasn’t clogging the middle, he was chasing down the quarterback. He had three solo tackles in this game, two of them sacks and the other a tackle for a short gain. The second of the two sacks came on third and goal from the six yard line. If the Broncos had scored a touchdown, they would have taken the lead 17-16. But the sack forced them to settle for a field goal.

Matt Giordano

Originally cut and re-signed last week, Giordano was an afterthought coming into the season. He isn’t an afterthought any more. His first fine play was when he shot in on a safety blitz to force a quick throw by Orton. The ball was then tipped at the line by Rolando McClain and fell incomplete. The drive ended on the next play. The next time the Broncos got the ball was in the waning minutes of the first half. They were driving and looking to score before halftime until Giordano leapt in front of the receiver to make a gorgeous interception. It stopped the Broncos from scoring and gave the Raiders the ball with 24 seconds in the half. That proved to be all they would need. A penalty and a completion later and Janikowski was lined up to hit his 63 yard field goal. Then in the second half he had solid coverage and the one catch he surrendered, he forced a fumble which the Broncos were able to recover.

Samson Satele

The man that every Raider fan loves to hate was at his best again in this game. He had two key blocks on McFadden runs on the Raiders’ first touchdown scoring drive. On the next Raider scoring drive, Satele cleared out the middle of the line for Jason Campbell to sneak for a first down. Early in the third quarter he blocked for McFadden to run ten yards for a first down. He finished things off as the blocker on both key Michael Bush first down runs on the final drive to end the game. Equally as important is he didn’t have a single penalty or give up any sacks or tackles for loss.

Marcel Reece

Reece was his usual mismatch in this game but he flashed some fine blocking skills as well. He had several key blocks to help Darren McFadden reach his 150 yard total. He also had a couple of nice plays of his own. He scored the Raiders’ first touchdown on a catch in the flat early in the second quarter. He also had a key first down run on that same drive. His next time touching the ball was a 15 yard screen to set up Janikowski to hit his 63 yard field goal before halftime.

Quentin Groves

He tied for the team lead with five solo tackles, and none bigger than when he forced a fumble early in the second quarter to give the Raiders the ball back one play into the possession. The short field gave Janikowski a chipshot field goal to put the Raiders up by a touchdown 10-3. On the ensuing Broncos possession, Groves helped with containment on a cutback run that resulted in a tackle for loss. Then on the first play of the next Bronco drive he had a tackle for loss of his own. I said earlier this week that the Raiders’ linebackers were the key to the run defense on this team. That revolved around Groves improving from last season. It is no accident that he had five solo tackles and the Broncos were held to 38 total rushing yards.

Tyvon Branch

Branch led the team in tackles (5-1), first of all. His first tackle was on a five yard run with the Broncos needing 15 for the first. The drive ended on the next play. On most of his other tackles, he swooped in to save the day and keep the run or catch from turning into a big play. He also didn’t give up a single catch on the day and had tight coverage to directly force at least two incompletions. He also had a key fumble recovery early in the second quarter that led to a field goal.

Kamerion Wimbley

He almost single handedly ended the Broncos’ first drive with a three and out. He had a run stuffing tackle on the second play and then a tackle for a loss of six yards on third down to force a punt. On a drive early in the second quarter he had a run stuff and then helped to end the drive when he pressured the quarterback on third down and was held. Orton was pressured into an incompletion and the penalty was declined to force a punt. Then in the fourth quarter, he got the edge on his man and was held again.

Jared Veldheer

Even with Elvis Dumerville back fresh for the Broncos after missing last season and star rookie Von Miller hungry for his first NFL sack, Veldheer held them both off, along with anyone else looking to get to Jason Campbell. He didn’t give up a single sack, hit, or pressure from the left tackle spot.

Honorable Mention

Darrius Heyward-Bey

I am still having difficulty with making him a Baller when he has yet to make a good hands catch. But he did lead the Raiders in catches and receiving in this game with 4 for 44 yards. The first one was the longest catch of the day for any Raider. That isn’t saying a lot considering it went for just 16 yards, but it set the Raiders up on the Broncos’ 48 yard line and the next play, McFadden ran it 47 yards to the Broncos one yard line. Heyward-Bey’s most important catch came on the Raiders’ final drive. It went for nine yards and was one of three first downs to help clinch the win.

Busters

Stephon Heyer, Khalif Barnes

After one game, the Raiders have a commanding “lead” in the penalty department in the NFL. They had 15 penalties in this game for 131 yards. Heyer and Barnes were both major contributors to that ugly total. Heyer actually got the start which was surprising after Barnes had been the starter through all of camp and preseason and was announced as the starter by Hue Jackson.

On the Raiders’ first drive he had two false starts in a row. The Raiders were in third and short (3) and suddenly they were in third and long (13). A few plays later, Barnes gave up a run stuff tackle for no gain. Luckily the Raiders were able to overcome it and score their first touchdown.

Later, in the second quarter with the Raiders at the 8 yard line and looking to score, Barnes had his patented false start. It put the Raiders in a hole they could dig out of and they had to settle for a field goal. Barnes then got the third quarter started off by giving up a run stuff. The next drive, Heyer was back, and on the first play of the series he gave up a sack and a fumble on Jason Campbell. Luckily the Raiders recovered but the drive still ended with a three and out. That was it but that was certainly enough. What is it with the Raiders’ right tackle position?

Stanford Routt

Routt played well at times and made a few plays. But in the most pivotal moments of this game is when he made his biggest mistakes. He was also one of the biggest contributors to the penalty total. His first was when he was called for holding midway through the second quarter. Later, he and Jerome Boyd wer both shaken out of their shoes on a catch out of the backfield that resulted in a 24 yard catch and run. It was the largest gain on the drive that resulted in a Bronco field goal. A few drives later he was called for a 21 yard pass interference penalty. Then on the next drive, on a key third down and ten, he gave up a 15 yard catch. It was the longest play on a drive that resulted in a touchdown to bring the Broncos to within three points. Luckily the offense was able to keep the ball to hold on to the three point lead and the win.

Jacoby Ford

The Raiders were desperately trying to get the ball into the hands of their playmaker from last season. The first time he saw the ball was on the first play of the game. He caught a 12 yard pass and fumbled it away. So despite the Broncos totaling 1 yard of offense, they were up 3-0 to start the game. Two plays later, the Raiders pulled a little trickery and on an option run, McFadden pitched to Ford. But Ford bobbled the pitch and once he gained control, he was unable to get out of the backfield for a loss of three. He had three catches for 22 yards and one carry for negative three. That means his best catch was a fumble and his one carry was a loss for a grand total of seven yards of offense and spotting the Broncos three points to begin the game.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 1: Ballers & Busters

Sep 12, 2010; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden (20) is tackled by Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown (97) at LP Field. The Titans defeated the Raiders 38-13. Photo via Newscom

The Raider Nation was buzzing with excitement to see this new and improved Raider team for the first time in a 2010 regular season game. And just like every other season opening game the past eight years, the Raiders lost. Also just like many of those years, they looked completely incompetent.

As many times as the woeful 2006 season has been referenced throughout the years whenever the Raiders have a bad game, I can honestly say, this game was truly worthy of the comparison. The glaring similarity being that the Raiders couldn’t even seem to get the ball from the center to the quarterback much of the time. And when they did accomplish such a feat, the quarterback could not find time to throw the ball.

The defense showed flashes of the improvement we all had expected to see. But there were still several lapses that caused them to give up the big plays of which we have grown sickeningly accustomed. The lingering questions remain, as they have for the better part of the last decade. Those questions always seem to surround pass protection and run defense. To say there is room for improvement is to put it nicely. But whether they have the personel to make those improvements is another story altogether.

Here are some guys this team may be able to build upon and those of whom the only direction they could go from here is up.

Ballers

Darren McFadden

He almost literally WAS the Raider offense in this game. Anything else that happened from an offensive perspective was window dressing. This is definitely the best I have ever seen him play. Even better than his big game early in his career. In this game McFadden did some things most people didn’t even know he was capable of. He took the ball down the middle consistently while breaking tackles, stiff arming, spinning and pushing through tacklers for extra yards. On top of that, he found some good holes and showed great instincts as well.

He didn’t pull off any spectacular runs in this game. What he did was break off chunks of yardage of around 7 yard plus on nearly every carry. He finished averaging 5.3 yards per carry which exactly matched the Titans’ Chris Johnson. It is all the more impressive considering Johnson had his big 76 yard run to raise his average that high. McFadden just earned his methodically. He finished with 95 yards rushing on 18 carries. He also had 55 yards on a team leading 6 catches. His most impressive catch was a 7 yard dump off in which he was met by a defender at the 3 yard line and plowed through him and dove to get the pylon for the Raiders only touchdown of the day. It was a tremendous effort that would have been nice to see from some of his teammates.

He was the one true bright spot in this game. And it has been a long time coming. Now, let’s see if he can stay healthy and keep it going.

Quentin Groves

He was given the starting job at weakside linebacker after the final Raider preseason game. Many people wondered exactly what he had done to earn the start or what Trevor Scott had done to lose it. Well, as it turns out, Scott was just seen as being more valuable to this team as defensive end and in the interest of putting the best 11 guys on the field, Cable went with both Scott and Groves. Both played well but Groves really showed his run stopping prowess in this game to earn Baller status. He was second on the team in tackles with 5 solo and 6 total. Most of those tackles came at or near the line of scrimmage, with one being a tackle for loss. That decision to start Groves looks like the right one so far.

Richard Seymour

Another run stuffing force in this game. Seymour was a beast for sure. It was reminiscent of his first game last year versus the Chargers. His first big play came in the first quarter when he recovered a fumble by Vince Young and ran it back 13 yards. It would give the Raiders the ball at the Titans 34 yard line and set up the first score of the game by either team. The rest of the game, he just created havok along the line.

Every one of his 4 tackles was either for no gain or a loss. I would be remissed if I didn’t mention the big 76 yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson because he shot through the line just near Seymour. But Seymour was being vicously held on the play and it wasn’t called. I mean, this was a textbook holding too. Seymour was trying to get to the hole to make the tackle but the offensive lineman had his arm wrapped around Seymour’s neck and shoulders. Seymour put his arms up to try and alert the officials that it was occurring but they either weren’t paying any attention or just didn’t care. If he had not been held, he would likely have been able to stop the big run from happening and added to his tally of run stuffs.

Shane Lechler

He averaged a hair under 50 yards per punt on four punts. Mostly due to them being moon shots that gave the coverage team all day to get to the return man. His longest went for 68 yards and it was a beauty. The Raiders were on their own 20 yard line which had Lechler standing from around the 10. As soon as he kicked it, you could tell it was going to be a big one just by the thump sound it made coming off his foot. The ball hung in the air so long it had a layover in Cleveland before it came back down… on the Tennessee 12 yard line! That is nearly 80 yards in the air. The returner brought it back 12 yards to the Titans 24 yard line. On his other three punts, the hang time and placement helped hold the returns to 7, 2, and zero yards.

Zach Miller

He was the Raiders second leading receiver behind McFadden. He finished the day with 4 catches for 43 yards and had the largest play of the day for the Raiders when he caught a pass for a 27 yard gain. He would have had a lot more if Jason Campbell had had time to throw.

Busters

Jared Veldheer

Yeah, I know he is a rookie and it was his first time playing center in an NFL game, blah, blah, blah. This list isn’t about factoring in details like that. This is about game performance and that’s it. And by that standard, he was absolutely terrible. He had no business playing starting center on an NFL field on Sunday. With that in mind, let’s go through his day, shall we?

First drive he gave up a run stuff, and a tackle for loss, and finished it off with a high snap that had Jason Campbell running to chase it down. Luckily for the Raiders, Campbell was able to pick it up and run back to around the line of scrimmage to keep the ball in field goal range.

Then for a few drives, it seemed as if he was putting it together. But just before halftime, with the Raiders on the move, he fell apart again, big time. The Raiders were knocking on the door in 1st and 10 at the Titans 21 yard line. But then Campbell lines up in a shot gun and Veldheer doesn’t snap the ball, causing a delay of game penalty. The Raiders line up again, this time in 1st and 15 at the 26 yard line. Veldheer snaps it this time but it is low and wide of Campbell and he has to scoop it off the turf and try to make something of it. But wait, it doesn’t matter because Veldheer is called for holding on the play. Now the Raiders are lining up again, this time in 1st and 25 at the 36 yard line. A couple of dump off catches to the running backs manage to get the Raider back into a more makable field goal range, but they are unable to make up all the yards and settle for another Janikowski field goal. Not exactly what the Raiders needed when the Titans having already scored 24 points in the game.

Veldheer wasn’t done though. On the Raiders first drive of the second half I saw something I don’t think I have ever seen before. Veldheer snapped the ball early and with the rest of the Raider line not moving because they knew the snap count, the Titans defender were racing into the backfield untouched and Campbell simply took a knee to avoid ending up in the emergency room. An odd moment in an overall embarrassing day.

Langston Walker, Mario Henderson, Cooper Carlisle

As happens all too often on this Raider team, several offensive lineman share a spot on the Buster list. Let me not be mistaken here though, this doesn’t mean they each get a third of a spot. No, they all are full on Busters. I just don’t see any point in listing them one by one. Better to line them up together like a firing line and just fire at will. So let’s go through these turds in order of their numerous ‘offenses.’

First drive: Langston gives up a run stuff and the drive ends on the next play.

Second drive: Cooper give up a sack in which he is bailed out by a Titan personal foul call. Langston has a false start penalty.

Third drive: Ends when Mario is left standing dumbfounded as his man rushes around him to clobber Campbell on a sack and force a fumble that the Titans would recover, already in scoring position. The ball was fumbled right at Mario’s feet but he was still staring into space, wondering what had happened and didn’t even know the ball was there.

Fourth drive: Surprisingly free of mistakes

Fifth drive: Cooper gave up a run stuff on first down and it ended with a three and out.

Sixth drive: Cooper gave up a quarterback pressure that ended in an incompletion. Next play Mario had a false start penalty. Same play, after the penalty, Langston did his best matador impression to give up a hard sack and another forced fumble. This time luckily Marcel Reece recovered it but it was an 8 yard loss. After the penalties and poor play, the Raiders were unable to convert on 3rd and 23.

Seventh drive: This was Veldheer’s masterpiece. No mistakes by the three stooges here. Last drive of first half.

Second Half

First drive: Mario had a another false start penalty. Langston gave up a run stuff tackle for loss. Cooper had a holding penalty that was declined because the Raiders were on third down anyway. The result was a missed 53 field goal attempt by Janikowski to remain down 24-6.

Second drive: Langston comes off his defensive end to take on a blitzing safety which causes Cooper to switch to taking on the defensive end only to have a blitzing linebacker go right by him and pressure Jason Campbell into a bad throw that was intercepted and returned to the 3 yard line. The Titans would score a touchdown a few plays later.

Third drive: With the Raiders at the Titans 3 yard line looking to score, Cooper takes off his matador outfit only to reveal a Kwame Harris jersey underneath and has the obligatory false start penalty. It was only after a terrific McFadden run that the Raiders were able to get the TD afterall.

They managed to finish out the final two drives without screwing up but at that point, what difference did it make?

Tyvon Branch

Branch’s mistakes began early in this game and just seemed to get worse as the game wore on. His first mistake was on the Titans 2nd drive in which he was called for a costly pass interference penalty on third down. With the drive still alive, the Titans threw a long bomb for a 54 yard touchdown on the very next play. Routt was the one burned on the play but Branch was the closest safety and offered no help. Instead Branch was busy covering the same man that Huff had already covered. Hard to say when watching it if Branch was where he was supposed to be but Routt looked back at the safeties as if to say “What the F@#k, guys?!”

A few drives later, Branch was fooled on a misdirection play just enough to not get out to cover Chris Johnson on an option play. It resulted in yet another 3rd down converstion. This time it put the ball at the Raiders’ 15 yard line. Also yet again, the Titans would score a touchdown on the very next play.

Then came the coup de gras of Branch’s day. The very next play the Titans ran was the first play of their next possession. That was the play in which Chris Johnson ran through a gaping hole in the line for 76 yards and a touchdown. When he came through the hole, he was met by Branch, at which point Johnson put on a move that juked Branch practically out of his cleats– the proverbial “ankle breaking.” Johnson didn’t hardly have to slow down and was gone just like that.

Branch wasn’t done either. An interception returned by the Titans at the end of the third quarter had their drive starting on the 3 yard line. The Raiders were able to keep them out of the endzone on the first two tries. But on third down, they ran a fade route to the tight end and Branch didn’t cover him in time, resulting in an easy touchdown.

So if you were counting that was two touchdowns given up by Branch and two other touchdowns on the very next play after Branch allowed the Titans to keep a drive alive. Oddly despite Branch leading the team in tackles, this was probably his worst game as a pro.

Jason Campbell

I realize a lot of Campbell’s problems are directly attributed to the lack of pass protection. But Campbell had plenty of poor play outside of the protection breakdown issues. His biggest problem was his decision making. Poor decisions like throwing a little 5 yard dump off on 3rd and 13 on the first drive. The Raiders were in 3rd and long in the first place because he had a delay of game penalty.

Another poor decision came on third down when he scrambled and had the first down marker in sight only to slide (if you could call it that) down 2 yards shy of it. That play came right after he had thrown too high and incomplete to Louis Murphy. The same type of errant throw ended the next drive with a three and out. His next poor decision was attempting a quick screen to Louis Murphy despite the fact that his man was not playing off of him. The result was an easy tackle for loss on the play.

Another poor decision was trying to force a ball to Zach Miller when Campbell was under pressure. Zach was in double coverage and the ball was thrown behind him and right to the defender for an interception. The turnover would result in the Titans final touchdown to seal the victory.

Outside of his poor decisions, he was just inaccurate. He routinely overthrew receivers that had gotten behind their man including one that could have been a touchdown. Other than the 27 yarder to Zach Miller, the next longest went for just 16 yards mostly because he missed the connections. He was clearly rattled by the pressure even when he had time to throw. I found myself thinking time and time again “Gradkowski would have made that throw.” Hopefully he can regroup and show more poise in the future.

Michael Huff

He started out the game with a couple of nice tackles in the first quarter. But as soon as the 2nd quarter started, everything went sour for him. In the quarter he was blocked for a first down run, gave up a 21 yard catch on third down, was blocked again on a another first down run, and missed the tackle on a Javon Ringer run that he easily took 15 yards for a touchdown. That was Huff’s last play in this game. He went out with an undisclosed knee injury and was replaced by Hiram Eugene for the second half.

Tom Cable

I can’t help but wonder what Cable’s thinking was in starting Veldheer for this game. If it was simply a case of Veldheer getting more snaps as the future center for this team, why the heck wasn’t he playing in the final preseason game against the Seahawks? That game didn’t matter. He could have gone out and made all the mistakes he needed to make in that game and learned the job in a real game situation. It seems like Cable sacrificed this game for the Raiders to get more snaps for Veldheer. That just should never happen.

As bad as Samson Satele has been at times, there is no way he would have gone out the way Veldheer did and destroyed any chance this team had of winning. If Veldheer wasn’t ready, how did Cable not realize it ahead of time? He is a former offensive line coach, it is supposed to be his area of expertise. Satele should have started for the Raiders until Veldheer was ready. Just like Darrius Heyward-Bey should not have started last season at receiver. But at least with DHB, we kind of understood why. This one made no sense. There is no room in the NFL for this kind of ‘trial by FIRE.’ It can only backFIRE on Cable and it’s these kinds of decisions that could get a coach… I think you get the idea.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 1: Ballers & Busters

San Diego Chargers v Oakland Raiders[picapp]

Last week, I spoke of the Raiders game when I said the win was “probable“. And as it turns out, I was right on the money (as I pull a muscle patting myself on the back). The Raiders showed up to play on Monday night and gave the Chargers all they could handle. And for three quarters, it was a lot more than they could handle. The Chargers looked flat on offense and defense for most of the game and it was because the Raiders dominated in the trenches.

Phillip Rivers was his usual petulantly childish self and LaDainian Tomlinson was persona non grata. This is one of those games that begs the question of “moral victory”. Unfortunately, when the Raiders go out and blow the lead to bring the Chargers consecutive win streak against them to 12, there is little room for morality.

The Raiders sent a message on Monday night though. Despite being ranked at or near the bottom in countless polls, including the ridiculously bias, hate filled poll here on Bloguin, they showed that they were a force to be reckoned with.

Now it is time to give credit to the “force” and blame for the farce. And in the words of Tom Cable: “Bring it!”

Ballers

Richard Seymour

Holy crap, was he ever “as advertised”. I think it is safe to say that he will be (and was on Monday night against the Bills) sorely missed by the Patriots. He was put in the starting lineup after being in Oakland for ONE DAY and he utterly dominated. In his press conference he said he would play on Monday and that the fans would notice him because he “will be the one on top of the quarterback”. Then he went out and backed up those words more than anyone expected. It started on the first play of the game too. The Raiders lined up, then Rivers changed the play at the line and the Raiders Dline shifted to their left. Then Gerard Warren waved Seymour over to cover the next gap over. Then when LT went right where the Raiders expected he would, he changed his gap and ran right into Seymour. The chargers went three and out on the posession. What does Seymour do for an encore? On the third play of the next drive, after a 66 yard kick return by Darren Sproles, he had his first sack as a Raider. Then the next play he teamed up for another run stuff at the line. The next play, Tomlinson fumbled to give the Raiders the ball back. Then just before half time, after yet another big return of 59 yards by Sproles, Seymour had his second sack of the game to stop the drive and hold the Chargers to a field goal. So, Richard Seymour was a Raider for one half of football and he already had two run stuffs and two sacks. Welcome to Oakland, Richard. You will get paid and be around a long time with that kind of play.

Louis Murphy

Remember way back about two weeks ago when all the talk was that Murphy was dropping all the balls and Darrius Heyward-Bey had turned the corner? Well, whatever that was, it didn’t show up for the regular season. Murphy was tremendous in this game. He caught the first pass by any Raider wide receiver and it didn’t happen until the two minute warning at the end of the first half. But he did more than catch passes. His first play was the second play of the game in which he blocked his defender to allow Darren McFadden to pick up 9 yards on first down. He had two other passes thrown to him in that drive but one was way too high and the other was intercepted through no fault of his own (I will get to that later). Now to that first catch. It was a 10 yard catch for a first down which was followed by an 18 yard reception on third down. The drive ended with Murphy catching a 19 yard touchdown. YES he CAUGHT the TOUCHDOWN. There was no disputing that but the refs somehow found a way to call it an incomplete pass and waive off the touchdown. This was the worst call I have seen since the tuck rule. Perhaps worse. Even so, the Raiders were forced to settle for a field goal. He later laid a nice block to spring Jonnie Lee Higgins for a 19 yard run on a reverse to set up another Janikowski field goal. And on the Raiders final drive, he helped block for Michael Bush on a run of 9 yards. Then, of course, there is the moment you have been waiting for me to mention; the mammoth 57 yard bomb he caught on fourth and fifteen for a touchdown that sent the colliseum into a frenzy. All in all, he had one hell of a day and already looks like a huge steal as a fourth round draft pick.

Greg Ellis

Ellis was the first veteran leader to be brought in along the defensive line this offseason. And it looks like he and Seymour are going to make quite a combo. That Tomlinson fumble I mentioned that gave the Raiders the ball back in the first quarter was forced by Ellis. It was one of the biggest plays of the game for the Raiders because the Chargers were in scoring position and were turned away with nothing. Later in the game he had a tackle for a loss of 4 yards on third down for the Chargers– forcing them to punt. A couple drives later, he had a sack as well. But quite possibly Greg’s most impressive play of the game is one that will not show up in any stat line or box score. After the Raiders went three and out, the defense came back on the field, ready to play. A few plays into that drive, Rivers got so frustrated with the pressure, he threw a little tantrum by yelling in Gerard Warren’s face. Ellis immediately stepped in and defended his teammate, followed closely by Richard Seymour. And they did it the right way, without yelling or threatening, while Rivers was rightfully called for taunting. It revealed the Raiders new, revitalized defensive line. But mostly it showed the new attitude that Ellis and Seymour have brought with them. They should know that it didn’t go unnoticed by this observer.

Zach Miller

As per usual he was the best receiver on the field… for either team. Gates was good, but Zach was brilliant. He had six catches for 96 yards. His first play was a fine block that helped spring McFadden for a 9 yard run. Then he had a fantastic finger tip grab to give the Raiders a first down and put them in scoring position. He started the next drive with another nice block that allowed McFadden to go for 8 yards. Then three plays later he had his longest catch of the day in which he broke wide open for a 30 yard gain. It was the longest play in the drive that led to the first Raider touchdown. The next Raider drive, he caught a slant pass on third down and took it 17 yards to put the Raiders in scoring position again. Later, after a Raider three and out, he had a nice block to allow Michael Bush to pick up a tough 4 yards. A few plays later he caught a pass for 11 yards to put the Raiders in scoring position AGAIN (this is getting redundant). After the Raider had three straight three-and-outs to start the second half, Zach kept the fourth one alive with a 25 yard catch on a drive that ended in a chip shot field goal to put the Raiders in the lead to start the fourth quarter. On the final drive of the game for the Raiders, Zach cleared the way for Bush on a 9 yard run. The drive ended with the 57 yard bomb to Murphy for a touchdown. So if you will notice, every scoring chance the Raiders had on the day went through Zach Miller. If he didn’t touch the ball, they went three and out… every… single… time. JaMarcus knows which side his bread is buttered on.

Robert Gallery

The Raiders ran the ball as they said they would. And they had a good deal of success just as we expected they would. The offensive line played excellent in run blocking. And the best of the bunch was Gallery. If you watch his blocking as closely as I do (I am pretty much a total geek about it), he is extremely smart, extraordinarily precise, and incredibly powerfull. That is a great combination for an offensive lineman. This line pulls more stunts than most and he executes them to perfection. Many times he can be seen pushing his man as far as 15 yards down the field to plow a lane for the running back. And that is to say nothing of his pass blocking skills. He may have been drafted as a tackle but I truly believe his run blocking skills make him more valuable as a guard. He paved the way for the 17 yard Michael Bush run on the first play of the game to set the tone. The next Raider drive, he opened a hole for McFadden to pick up a long run and a first down. And when the Raiders were on the goal line and needed three yards they called Bush’s number and told him to run right through the hole the coaches knew would open up. And open up it did as Bush shot right into the end zone without impedence. On the Raiders final drive, he peeled off of the defensive tackle on a screen and sought out a linebacker to clear a path for a 13 yard gain for McFadden. As Aso is a shutdown corner, Gallery is a shutdown offensive lineman. Shades of Gene Upshaw.

Chris Johnson

Whew! After sharing starts with Stanford Routt in the preseason and Johnson not looking all that great, he seems to have waited until the games counted to return to his great corner play. He has the hardest job in football being the guy opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. With Aso closing half the field, Johnson sees a lot of passes. And to play as well as he does is a miracle. The first defensive series, he came up to the line and snuffed out a pass into the flat for minimal gain and the Chargers went three and out. A couple drives later he had a tackle on a run by Tomlinson and a few plays later came up on another pass into the flat and just nailed Darren Sproles at the line for no gain. The first series of the second half, Norv Turner must have told Rivers to test CJ and test him he did. Johnson saw four passes thrown his way on that drive. He batted down the first one. The very next play, he had great coverage on a perfectly thrown ball for a completion. Two plays later he gave up a 15 yard first down catch. And the next play he gave up a catch that was short of the first down. Two plays later, the drive ended with a Michael Huff interception. He bent but didn’t break and all told, he only gave up one good catch. After that, Rivers only threw the ball to his receiver ONE time the rest of the game and CJ knocked it down. Many of the sacks and quarterback pressures on the day were a result of his and the rest of the secondary having great coverage.

Michael Huff

He was part of two turnovers by the Raiders in this game. The first was the Tomlinson fumble that he recovered. The second was the interception he had off of a Tyvon Branch tipped ball. He also had a nice coverage to force an incompletion on third down to give the Raiders the ball back and allow them to score before halftime. Hiram Eugene started and played well but the turnovers earn Huff a spot on this list this week.

Michael Bush

He was second behind McFadden in rushing on the day (55 to 68) but he had a higher YPC (4.5 to 4.0), a longer longest run from scrimmage (17 to 11) and a touchdown. Bush actually got the start because he was given the ball on the first play of the game. Oddly enough, that was when he had is longest run of the day.

Mario Henderson

As usual, he held an All-Pro defensive end without a sack or even significant pressure all game long. Add it to the long list of great players of whom Super Mario squashed like a mushroom. Oh and he was also much improved in the run game as well which was the one area he needed to improve upon.

Honorable Mention

Cooper Carlisle

Looked Gallery-esque on the other side of the line as he opened up holes for many nice runs.

Oren O’Neal

Was seen at least five times clearing out nice lanes for the Raider rushers. He really can smash through a hole. The Raiders really need him so hopefully he can stay healthy.

Busters

JaMarcus Russell

Before anyone says anything about that great 57 yard pass he threw on fourth and 15, let me just say that the Raiders should never have been in that situation to begin with and it was nearly all JaMarcus Russell’s fault. All things considered, that was a terrible play call at that moment. And if it had not worked (which it very well may not have), that play would have stuck out like the 76 yard field goal attempt by Janikowski last season among bonehead decisions. But since it worked, we were all amazed at the brilliance of it. So aside from that, let’s look at the rest of Russell’s day shall we? He was 12 of 30 for 208 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Take the 57 yarder away and he is 11 of 29 for 151 yards no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Zach Miller’s two biggest catches went for 30 yards and 25 yards and Zach was WIDE open on both of them. Take those away and Russell is 9 of 27 for 96 yards no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Since it goes both ways, the TD that was but wasn’t to Louis Murphy was a 19 yarder so with that he would be 10 of 28 for 115, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. That is just 12 decent throws of 28 for a 35% completion rate and an average of 11.5 yards a throw with twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. Terrible numbers by any standards. He was way off target so often that it is surprising he didn’t have more interceptions actually. Even the defense didn’t foresee those balls being that far off their mark. This time you can’t blame it on the drops either. There was only two on target balls dropped in this game. One by Murphy and the other by Darrius Heyward-Bey. When he went down with injury, Gradkowski came in and the boost in efficiency was immediately noticeable. The only chance the Raiders had to win that game was with Russell on the sideline. But three plays after he went out, he was in Cable’s ear begging to be let back in the game. He cost the Raiders another 9 yards on a sack that he couldn’t escape because of his bad wheel. The very next play, he locked onto Jonnie Lee Higgins on a pass which gave Eric Weddle a chance to get a bead on him and hit him so hard he likely received a mild concussion. What he did receive is an AC sprain that will keep him out for a couple of weeks. Getting his receivers killed can be added to the list now as well. The crowd at the coliseum booed when Russell came back in the game after his injury. And for good reason.

John Marshall

My mom used to tell me (and I repeat it often) that “One ‘Oh Sh*t’ ruins a hundred ‘Attaboy’s”. That sums up the job Marshall did on Monday. In this case it was “One quarter of ‘Oh Sh*t’s ruins three quarters of ‘Attaboy’s”. This was the theme last season with Rob Ryan calling the shots for the defense. Where the Raiders defense would play well for three quarters or a half and then give the game away with the stupid a$$ prevent defense. How many times do phrases like “prevent defense prevents you from winning” or “why not stick with what has been working for you the whole time?” have to be uttered until the prevent defense goes the way of the dodo? Why were the linebackers ALL dropping into coverage and the middle of the field left so wide open that the running back could squirt out and catch a dump off for huge yardage? How stupid is that? Seriously, you can’t leave ONE linebacker in there just for safety sake? If there was one linebacker in on any of those plays, the back never would have made it off the line, let alone got out in the open to catch a pass. JaMarcus may have been the reason the Chargers were able to keep up with the Raiders all game but Marshall was the reason they ultimately lost. Or perhaps it is Al Davis. Him calling thr defensive plays seems to be a popular theory, right?

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Was this just a situation where the Chargers were focusing on stopping him? He only got open one time in this game and Russell’s pass was right in his chest and the ball promptly bounced off of said chest and to the turf. Not what this team expects from their so-called “number one starter”. And certainly not from the seventh pick in the draft. To say he was outplayed by fourth rounder Louis Murphy, is mastering the understatement. DHB was almost non-existent in this game.

Cornell Green

As a tackle, as we have heard so many times, the best you can do is to never hear your name. And of course Green heard his name quite often. While Mario Henderson was keeping Shawne Merriman under wraps all game, Green was having a hell of a time keeping Louis Castillo out of the Raider backfield. He had three run blocks on the first two drives. But on the other hand, he had a false start on third and 2 on the first drive. Then on the last drive of the game he had a false start and two plays later had a holding penalty on a play in which he was beaten badly by Castillo. It is great that Khalif Barnes will be healthy soon but Cable says that Barnes will backup left tackle and left guard at first until he gets more practice time in at right tackle. So the Raiders are stuck with Green for a while it would seem.

John Fassel

What the hell happened out there on special teams? There was almost no yardage on returns and they gave up two huge returns to Darren Sproles of 66 and 59 yards. Sproles had enormous holes to run through each time too. Last season under Brian Schneider (who left to coach at USC), the Raiders had one of, if not THE, best special teams play in the NFL. In this game they looked anything BUT. This game seemed backward from last season in many ways. The defensive line and run support was great while the special teams was terrible. The two kind of canceled each other out which led to the same result as the previous eleven meetings against the Chargers.

Ricky Brown

Here is your first example of stats not telling the whole story. Brown was the Raiders second leading tackler. Unfortunately a few of those tackles were on catches he gave up. The first time we saw him, he was late getting over to cover Vincent Jackson and gave up a Chargers first down catch. The next Chargers drive, he couldn’t get off a block as Tomlinson ran for 9 yards. The next play, he was in the right place to make the play but still gave up a short first down. The drive resulted in the Charges first touchdown to tie the game at seven. Still, he was not Buster bound until the final drive of the game for the Chargers. One in which they marched down the field to take the game. On that drive Brown gave up a 7 yard catch, then a 23 yard catch, a 9 yard catch to put the Chargers in field goal range, and a 14 yard catch to put the Chargers in first and goal. On the five yard Sproles TD, he was God-only-knows-where.

Darren McFadden

That’s right, we go from the second leading tackler to the leading rusher. Where was the game-breaking ability we have been waiting so long to see? All I see is a guy who can run fast through a gaping hole. His longest rush was 11 yards and his longest reception was 13 yards. Hardly game-breaking. He fumbled the ball too and it was with the Raiders in scoring position in a game that the Raiders couldn’t afford to squander scoring opportunities (as if there is every a good game for that). His worst moment came in which he ran left and looked to use his speed to take the corner but the linebacker dove and tapped his ankle causing him to go down easily. He has almost NO balance or ability to break a tackle. I would much rather have that than speed. A speed that he has yet to really showcase entering his second season with the team.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 1: Ballers & Busters

Ballers:

Nnamdi Asomugha

Aso is the only defensive player you are going to see on this list. He shut down his side as he always does and when he came up to make a tackle, he didn’t miss. In fact that tackle of Jay Cutler was something the rest of the team should study. It was an open field tackle and he hit him hard and direct sending his legs flying in the air and stopped him on what looked like a sure first down. The only ball that his man caught all day was on a play in which Rob Ryan called for Aso to stay at the line for an expected run (that wasn’t). In which case Huff was supposed to take Darryl Jackson but whiffed on the tackle resulting in an easy TD. Nnamdi deserves better than this. And when I saw he and Jay Cutler chopping it up at the end of the game it sent chills down my spine that Nnamdi may turn down any amount of money next offseason so he can go to a team that is not so dysfunctional and gives him some chance to win a championship.

Justin Fargas

Although he didn’t start as he was told he would, he came in after McFadden left with a shoulder injury and looked as good as ever. Bursting through the line for large chunks of yardage and making positive yardage where it looked like there was none to be had. He always gives it everything he has and if the Raiders defense would not have blown this one early on, he and McFadden may have been able to carry this team to a win or at least kept it close. The only runs he had that didn’t look good were 4th and short plays in which they should have put Michael Bush in to pound through the line. But Bush mysteriously was no where to be found. Another rant for another day I suppose.

Busters:

Rob Ryan

I am going to get to individual defensive players in a minute but it seems that� when you have a secondary and line backing corp that is full of probowlers and near probowlers that when they all play this bad it is obvious where the problem really lies. Let’s start with his use of DeAngelo Hall and Gibril Wilson first. Everyone knows that DeAngelo Hall is a cover corner and the the whole game Ryan had him playing zone. Everyone knows that Gibril Wilson is a hitter and run stuffing Safety. So why not send Hall out on an island like Aso, bring up Wilson to guard against a run to that side or a QB scramble and have Huff back there as a “safety” valve in case Hall bites on a pump fake or gets burnt? I am no expert but it is easy to see that what his “plan” was on Monday was not the way to go. Ryan has proven yet again that he has no clue what he is doing. He has always been terrible and the Raiders could have a probowl team out there looking lost (which they pretty much already do) with him at the helm.

Al Davis

Every year the cycle plays itself out again and HE is to blame. HE is responsible for this team’s dysfunction, HE is responsible for Ryan still being here, HE is responsible for Kiffin being disconnected with the players on the field because Kiffin was never allowed to decide who to bring in, HE is responsible for putting rat face on the Broncos with a lifelong grudge against him, HE is the reason Gruden was on the opposite side of the field beating the Raiders like a drum in the SuperBowl, HE is the reason this team continues to draft terrible players that are fast (cough JLH) and players we don’t need while neglecting glaring weak spots, HE is the reason the Raiders can’t get any players who just want to win, and HE is the reason HE has to pay way too much to bring players in which means there isn’t enough cap room to sign more players that fill a need. I keep wondering when or if he will ever get it through his head that he is dragging this team down with his meddling and power hungry ways. Al: “If you love something let it go” but unfortunately in this case it may be “Until death do you part”.

The Entire Raider Dline

I lost count of how many times I saw the Broncos Oline completely stand up the Raiders Dline. In fact not a single Raider lineman even got into the backfield, let alone pressured Cutler, all day. Derrick Burgess was no where to be found. He wasn’t even a blip on the radar screen and it is not like the Broncos have this spectacular Oline either. The Broncos have mostly rookies, and first and second year starters. They are supposed to be a rebuilding Oline whose glory years are long over. But the Raiders incompetence made them look better than ever. There was several times in which Cutler just stood in the pocket while there wasn’t even any movement from the Raiders Dline. It was as if someone had paused the Tivo for about 10 seconds. I don’t know how many times I shouted “What the hell are you doing!?” at the TV. The only aspect that looked improved was stopping the run. But without pressure on the QB the Broncos still marched down the field with ease and eventually the line wore out and (as I said in my article “key matchups”) midway through the 3rd quarter they ran the ball down the Raiders throats as the thin Dline was sucking air.

DeAngelo Hall

While I just said that Rob Ryan was the main problem because he was having Hall play zone, that is still no excuse for his astoundingly bad play. He was ALWAYS so far off of his man that there was no chance for him to come up and make a play. Eddie Royal is a rookie and he made DeAngelo Hall look like Michael Waddell. In fact, even Waddell never looked as bad as Hall did in that game. The play that was the worst was when Royal started out on the left side then went in motion to the right. Hall didn’t pick him up until it was too late and even then he played 10 yards off the line and as soon as Royal started running, Hall BACKED UP. Royal caught the ball wide open and Hall ran over, pushed him out of bounds and then flung him like rag doll which drew a flag for a late hit out of bounds. The result was an easy 30 yard gain. Then on the next play he gave up another catch to Royal and hit him while he was down (not really and it was a typical discriminatory call against the Raiders) which made for another 25 yard gain. So in two plays, the Broncos were in scoring position. I thought that if the Raiders were going to be beat, it would be first of all running the ball, and second of all short passes in the slot. Hall getting schooled by a rookie was not something I thought would have ever happened.

Gibril Wilson

He gave up the first touchdown of the game to a wide open Eddie Royal (I am already sick of saying that name) because he didn’t pick him up when he went deep. Then he almost gave up another TD to Brandon Stokley on a pass that sailed just out of Stokley’s reach at the goal line. Then he gave up another big catch to Royal later in the game.
Kirk Morrison- Completely BLEW his coverage on Tony Sheffler who had wide open space to run for a 72 yard TD. Then he would have given up another TD catch to Sheffler if it had not been for Sheffler just dropping the ball.

Michael Huff

Was pretty much absent on these long catches and TD catches. Seriously, why was it every time a Bronco receiver beat his man, he had a wide open field to run into the end zone? Where was Huff on all of these big plays? The one time I can recall seeing him, was when he was supposed to pick up Jackson on that TD catch and the ensuing whiff on the tackle.

JaMarcus Russell

His first pass attempt was when the Raiders were inside the 5 yard line and looked like they might score. McFadden slipped into the flat and Russell went to throw it and the ball simply slipped out of his hand for a fumble which was recovered by the Broncos. Next time he dropped back, he held the ball forever and despite being out of the pocket he didn’t get rid of it and was sacked of a 10 yard loss. Next play he took too long to get the play called and was flagged for delay of game. So the Raiders ran the ball to try and get back a few yards and punted. Next pass attempt he had, Curry had his man beat on what looked like a sure TD� and he overthrew him. And the last play before half time he caused the entire offensive line to false start (I don’t know how but if they ALL jump then…). Then to start the 2nd half he fumbled the ball (the Raiders recovered). He played pretty well for a while after that but the damage had already been done and the Broncos were sitting back letting him have the little stuff by that point. Sure he is essentially a rookie and he will have rough times but then what was he doing half of last year and this entire training camp and preseason this year?

Jonnie Lee Higgins

Anyone who gives Higgins credit for his first kick-off return wasn’t watching this game. He ran a straight line down the field and wasn’t even touched until he was in Broncos territory. That return was all thanks to blocking (can’t believe there wasn’t a flag thrown). In fact a competent returner would have taken that one to the house. On nearly all of his other run backs, he was tackled by the first man down the field and in some cases he simply ran straight into them. Then there was that end around that he bobbled, dropped, picked back up, went the other direction and ran out of bounds for a sizable loss of yards. What an idiot. He is supposed to be a receiver and he can’t catch a pass that is thrown from two feet away? Then he can’t throw the ball away and save the Raiders from losing yards? Ashley Lelie, and Chaz Shilens looked decent out there so I think we can safely say this team doesn’t need Higgins as a receiver and they could put just about anyone back there on kicks and have more success. I am really sick of criticizing this guy’s terrible play every week and having him still on the team the next week.

Kwame Harris, Cornell Green, Cooper Carlisle

While they technically only gave up a couple of outright sacks (Carlisle was responsible for one of those), Russell was pressured all day and flushed from the pocket on nearly every pass play. Kwame Harris gave up a huge hit on Russell’s back just as he released the pass that was reminiscent of the hit the Mario Henderson gave up on Andrew Walter in the preseason that gave Walter a bloody nose.

Lane Kiffin

Overall, his coaching was not terrible. It wasn’t too good but not especially bad. I do have a few questions for him though. Where was Michael Bush on those short yardage plays?. Why did you elect to punt on the Broncos 38 yard line instead of go for it or try a field goal? Why were your goal line and short yardage plays so predictable? I will take you answers in the comment box (No, not you Coach Elkins. I don’t care what you have to say about Kiffin).

I really don’t know where else to go with this game. It was a complete and utter humiliation. The Raiders lost badly against our most hated rival in prime time on the first game of the season. As fans, we deserve better than this. This defense looked as horrible as the Raiders offense did in 2006. On top of that, the offense didn’t look very good either. This makes 6 straight season opening losses for the Raiders. After waiting 7 months to see our team play again, should we have to endure the same embarassing scenario in game one every year? Each game is just like the season in microcosm. In both cases the Raiders are forced to try and dig themselves out of a hole that is near impossible to accomplish. Desperation simply leads to worse results. Although some would certainly like to burn the tape of this game, I hope there is something that can be learned from this.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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