Raiders week 14: Ballers & Busters

Facing a team like the Packers has a way of shining a bright light on every weakness a team has. The Raider failings were glaring last Sunday. The Raiders knew it would take their best effort to even remain competitive in this game. If their best effort was what they brought, that is the worst news of all.

A game like this will leave you dumbfounded. How do you break down an overall ass whooping? I am thankful I am not on the Raiders’ coaching staff, because they may be wishing they could just throw this game tape in the incinerator and try to forget it ever happened.

But for posterity’s sake, it is always important to remember days like this in the hopes that in the remembrance, you can ensure it doesn’t happen again. After all, you can’t get to where you want to go without knowing where you’ve been.

There are a few Ballers this week but keep in mind that most of these guys would barely make the list most weeks.

Ballers

Michael Bush

This was by no means one of his better games this season. But as the Raiders continued to hand him the ball, he continued to churn out yards even in a lost cause. Much of his yards were gained after the game was lost. But I give him credit for being the Raiders’ workhorse once again. He has been one of the few dependable players on this team. Staying healthy despite his heavy workload is an accomplishment all in itself, and one that this Raiders team has come to appreciate. Bush has carried the ball 83 times in the last three games. In this game he had 23 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown. He also had 3 catches for 19 yards to take him over 100 yards from scrimmage on the day. On an offense that couldn’t get out of its own way all day, that was a fine effort.

Desmond Bryant

He too saw most of his production after the game was out of hand. But there is something to be said for not quitting. In the third quarter, with the Raiders down 34-7, Bryant came alive. He started the drive by shooting into the backfield to tackle the runner for a loss of four yards. The next play he sacked Aaron Rodgers for a five yard loss. The Packers were held to a field goal on the drive, which in this game was a small victory. Two plays into the Raiders’ next series, Marcel Reece would fumble and the Packers would return it for a touchdown. Then on the extra point try, Bryant got up to block it. Yeah, it was just one point but there was no let up in Desmond. Earlier in the game, he pressured Rodgers into throwing the ball away on third down and the Packers would settle for a field goal. Bryant finished second on the team in tackles (4-0) to go along with his sack.

Kevin Boss

Boss had five catches on the day for 43 yards and a touchdown. When the Raiders started to move on offense, he was a big part of it. Late in the second quarter, with the Raiders down 31-0, they mounted a drive to try and score before half time. The second play of the drive, Boss caught a seven yard pass. Two plays later, he had a nice pass block on a blitzing Charles Woodson and Palmer was able to scramble for 11 yards. Next play, Boss caught another pass, this time for six yards. A few plays later, he caught an 11 yard pass to put the Raiders in scoring position at the 14 yard line. The drive would end on the next play when Palmer tried to force it to Boss in the end zone and it was intercepted. Boss would get his touchdown catch, though. It came late in the fourth quarter to give the Raiders 16 points on the day.

Louis Murphy

After being injured the first part of the year, Murphy is finally making his way back into the Raiders’ offense. It makes perfect sense. Just two seasons ago, he looked like a star in the making. He has great hands and runs great routes. He should be getting the ball more. He would see the ball five times in this game and catch four of them for 70 yards. He also took an end around for 10 yards. His second pass of the day was a high ball over the middle by Palmer that got Murphy nailed by the defender while he was in the air. He was slow to get up, but when the Raiders got the ball back, he had his best series of the day. Murphy started with a 13 yard catch to put the Raiders in Packer territory at the 40 yard line. A few plays later, the Raiders were forced to go for it on fourth and 12, and Murphy hauled in a 17 yard catch. Then after a penalty backed the Raiders up to the 30 yard line, he caught his longest catch of the day. It went for 24 yards to put the Raiders in first and goal at the six yard line. They would score a touchdown two plays later.

Betweener

Rolando McClain

McClain was hard to put in either category in this game. But his involvement in the game could not go unmentioned. His play was night and day from first half to second half. The Raiders gave up 31 points in the first half so we’ll start there.

At the end of the Packers’ second drive, he was out of position and late to correct on a swing pass that put the Packers at the Raiders’ 4 yard line. Then he and Jerome Boyd were supposed to be covering the two tight ends. Boyd was caught in space between the long man and the short while McClain chose neither and the result was a touchdown. On the next Packer drive, he was late on a 12 yard run and late again on a 7 yard run on the next play. Two plays later he gave up a 7 yard catch.

It was a different story for McClain in the second half. He ended the Packers’ first drive of the second half with a sack on third and two to force a field goal. He would then end the Packers last three drives. The first with a tackle for loss resulting in their final score on a field goal. The second was a sack for a safety. Then he finished their final drive when he tackled the runner short of the first down on third and 12.

Busters

Chuck Bresnahan

Yet again, after this loss, we hear players saying that their teammates need to “do their jobs.” But that doesn’t cut it in a loss like this. There were two things that became clear pretty quickly in this game: 1) The Raiders’ big plan was to put Mike Mitchell in the game and play nickel against Rodgers, and 2) Aaron Rodgers was watching for it and calling for a run whenever he saw it. For the Packers it worked like a charm. The Packers’ first possession started near midfield after a Palmer interception. On the second play, Rodgers saw the matchup he wanted and called for a run. His offensive line opened a crease and the only defender there to try and plug the hole was Mitchell. He was easily blocked and Ryan Grant ran 47 yards for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown run over 20 yards the Packers had since late in the 2009 season, when the Super Bowl wasn’t even a twinkle in the Packers’ eye.

Another thing we have figured out this season is just how well Rodgers performs when the corner or safety blitzes. So of course, on the next Packer drive, Bresnahan calls for a safety blitz. Rodgers instantly threw to the uncovered receiver for a 12 yard gain. Two plays later, they had their second touchdown.

The Packers’ next touchdown came on a 37 yard bomb. The Packers rushed to the line and knew they had caught the Raider defenders trying to sub out and would have a free shot at the end zone. The Raiders were called for 12 men on the field, but it didn’t matter because the Packers scored a TD.

The Packers would get another interception and were quickly back in business at the six yard line. Then in second and goal from the six yard line, Rodgers sees Mitchell playing in the box and calls an audible for a run and touchdown.

In the second half, the “game plan” for the defense was to play zone. The result was a 27 yard catch to start the third quarter resulting in a field goal and then another 27 yard catch in which the receiver was so wide open it was impossible to tell who was supposed to be covering him. It too resulted in a field goal. The Packers took Rodgers out before the end of the third quarter. They probably started to feel sorry for the Raiders.

Hue Jackson

I let Hue off the hook last week in a loss to the Dolphins, though perhaps I shouldn’t have. Last week I credited the Dolphins’ solid defense for the Raiders’ play last week. But it has become clear that the Raiders just haven’t been ready. Hue likes to say that after every loss as a way of being vague about the issues that face this team. He also does it so that when his team is actually truthfully not prepared properly, it won’t seem out of the ordinary that he says so. But this team was so clearly not ready to play on Sunday. They weren’t prepared the week before either. They just don’t look like they are putting together a game plan that focuses on taking advantage of the opponent’s weaknesses. The Packers have weaknesses. You may not have known it from watching this game, but the Packers don’t have a great defense. They can be had. The Giants put up 35 points on them last week and it was only by a miraculous Rodgers drive in the waning seconds that the Packers were able to pull out the win. The Giants are a playoff level team. The Raiders are showing that they are not. And it starts with Hue Jackson.

Carson Palmer

Palmer threw four interceptions in this game. Three of them were his own fault or at least partially his own fault. The other interception, he was hit on the arm. But that was the final offensive play of the game for the Raiders and long after the real damage had been done.

Palmer got the Raiders’ day started off terribly. After he had led the team to the Packers’ 42 yard line—just out of Janikowski field goal range—he blew it. He got a little pressure off the edge and escaped it but instead of setting his feet and making a good throw or simply throwing the ball away, he lobbed it right into the arms of a Packer linebacker. The Packers took the short field and scored a touchdown.

The next drive, he had the Raiders moving again. But after a few penalties had the Raiders in third and 25, he didn’t lead Darrius Heyward-Bey on his throw and it fell incomplete. If he had hit DHB in stride it may have been a big gainer.

Two series later, with the Raiders in third and six, he threw a two yard pass to DHB and thus ended another possession. Next series, he threw a pass to DHB before he had even made his break. Woodson cut off his route and intercepted it. Next possession he threw a risky pass to Schilens that was nearly intercepted. On the Raiders’ final drive of the first half, Palmer led them all the way to the 14 yard line before throwing a pass in traffic in the endzone where it was intercepted again.

In the second half, the Raiders would score twice but Palmer really wasn’t much better. He could have saved a touchdown when Marcel Reece fumbled, but he couldn’t manage to simply fall on the ball and wrap it up. The result was another Packer touchdown. The next series ended with a three and out when Palmer threw wide for Louis Murphy. He threw too high in traffic for Murphy to end the next drive and nearly got Murphy seriously injured. His final three plays were a low incompletion, a high incompletion and getting hit as he threw for interception.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

DHB was the Top Baller last week. This week he started out the game looking like he might make the rare Top Baller to Top Buster leap. He dropped two passes on the Raiders’ second drive. The second one was the final play of the drive. If he had caught it, the Raiders could have been in field goal range or perhaps close enough to try for more. The next drive ended with another drop by DHB. To start the second quarter, he was sent on a go route but didn’t make any attempt to disguise it, and as a result was blanketed by his defender and it was nearly intercepted. The series ended two plays later when he caught a two yard pass on third and six. The next Raider possession ended in two plays when DHB was completely schooled by Charles Woodson right off the line as Woodson cut off his route and intercepted the pass. The Packers would use the short field to score their fourth TD of the day. Funny thing is, DHB actually led the Raiders in receiving with 5 catches for 78 yards. But after that first half, who cares?

Mike Mitchell

If you read the Chuck Bresnahan breakdown above, you have a pretty good idea of Mitchell’s day. He is a liability on this team. Since choosing him in round two of the ’09 draft, the team has never really found a good place for him. In this game, for the Packers, the number 34 looked like a target symbol. As I said, for the broader picture on that, read the Bresnahan description. Here are the lowlights.

He was blocked like a mosquito on the 47 yard touchdown run for the first Packer touchdown. Next drive, he was sent on a blitz and whiffed on the sack. Then on the next play he gave up the catch for a first down. The Packers scored their second TD a few plays later. Next Packer touchdown drive came in the second quarter on a drive in which he was late on a seven yard first down run. He did have a nice interception in the end zone just before half time. It was part luck and part skill. He was lucky because he wasn’t playing the ball and just reached up into the face of the receiver. The skill was pulling the ball in and getting possession inbounds for a touchback. It was a great play on an otherwise terrible day for this third year safety.

Khalif Barnes

While the turnovers weren’t killing the Raiders, the offensive line play was. The Raiders’ second drive ended with four bad plays by the offensive line—two by Barnes. With the Raiders in first and 20, he had one of his patented false starts. Then on the next play he was beaten by his man to give up a run stuff tackle for no gain. He later gave up the hit on Carson Palmer as he threw for the game ending interception.

Richard Seymour

He didn’t record an actual statistic in this game. He was only seen a couple of times. The first was getting blocked to open the huge hole that Ryan Grant sprinted through for his 47 yard touchdown run. The second one was the primary reason he is a Buster this week. When the Packers rushed to the line to catch the Raiders in a 12 men on the field penalty, it was Seymour who was leisurely walking off the field. The free play was a 37 yard touchdown bomb. Last week he was too emotional and punching opposing players, and this week he just didn’t seem to care. Can we find a happy medium, Richard?

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 14: Ballers & Busters

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 12: Darren McFadden  of the Oakland Raiders breaks the tackle of Sean Considine  of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on December 12, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Coming into this game, the Raiders feeling was that there is no room for error. One loss the rest of the way could mean the end of their playoff hopes. They played with that level of urgency in last week’s win over the Chargers and they came out in this game looking like they would continue that trend.

At halftime, it looked like the Raiders were in firm control of the game. The offense was clicking and the defense had held the Jaguars’ star running back Maurice Jones-Drew to 23 yards rushing. The second half was a different story, however. The suddenly stout Raider defense seemed worn out from the first Jaguar drive of the 3rd quarter and they gave up a six play touchdown drive. The scoring drive would bring the Jaguars within 3 points at 17-14.

And though the Raiders would score two more touchowns in the game, the Raider defense couldn’t seem to stop the Jaguars and by the time it was all said and done, both Jaguar running backs had over 100 yards rushing and they had scored 38 points.

I was a valiant effort on the part of the Raiders but in the end there is no moral victory to be had, if there is ever such a thing. In an uphill climb to the playoff race, every play counts and the Jaguars had a few more go their way than the Raiders did in this one.

Ballers


Darren McFadden

His performance in this game was probably his best of the season. And that is saying a lot after his 3 TD performance in the lopsided Raider victory over the Broncos in week 7. In that game, the Raiders used him perfectly and the Broncos were just lost trying to contain him. In this game, he just ran right through them or right past them.

His first big play came on the Raiders second possession. What started as a simple dumpoff, turned into a 67 yard catch and run for a touchdown. He simply ran past the defense and wasn’t hardly touched until he was crossing the goal line.

A few possession changes later, after a Jaguar touchdown to tie it up, he had a 16 yard catch. Two plays later he caught a dump pass and scored again from 10 yards out but Zach Miller was called for holding and it had to come back. The Raiders would get a field goal out of the drive and go up 10-7.

On the Raiders first possession of the second half, after the Jaguars scored their 2nd TD of the day to get within three of the Raiders, McFadden answered back in a big way. On the third play of the drive, he took the ball right up the middle, 51 yards for a touchdown. And, again, he got level with the defense and simply outran them to the endzone.

After that, things began to shift the Jaguars’ way. The Raiders were up 24-14 after that score and before they knew it, they were down 31-24. Then in the final minutes of the game, the Raiders sustained a drive into Jaguar territory and immediately following the two minute warning, Campbell handed the ball to McFadden who he had his most impressive run of the day. Right up the middle again, he spun off the initial tackler at the line, followed a block and broke a tackle at 5 yards, then ten yards downfield he stiff armed a defender and ran 36 yards for the touchdown to tie up the game. He did everything he could to help the Raiders win this game. He finished with 209 total yards of offense, 123 on the ground with 2 rushing TD’s and a receiving TD.

Jason Campbell

Last week he came out and made the necessary plays, played smart football and guided the Raiders to a win. This week, he did much more. And like McFadden, it was his best game as a Raider. He finshed the game 21 of 30 for 324 yards passing and two TDs. His passer rating was 127.6.

He moved quite well in the pocket in this game and made a lot of plays that may not have been made in weeks passed. This pocket awareness has also translated to his touch on the ball. He isn’t rushing throws but rather reacting quicker to plays, which was one of his biggest criticisms throughout the season.

He threw the ball at just the right time, with perfect placement on the dumpoff to McFadden that he took for a 67 yard touchdown. On the Raiders next scoring drive, he escaped the pocket on third down, pump faked to freeze the linebackers, and completed a 16 yarder to McFadden. Then on the next play he saw Jacoby Ford break wide open and hit him for 27 yards.

Just before halftime he had his best drive of the game. He threw the ball on a rope to Zach Miller on the first play. On the next play, he escaped the pocket and connected with Marcel Reece for an 11 yard first down. A couple plays later, he set up the play action and connected with Reece again for a 13 yard catch and run. Then he finished things off when he found Louis Murphy in the back of the end zone for a touchdown to go up 17-7 heading into the half.

After halftime, he was back at it; escaping the pocket yet again, and hitting Miller on a 29 yard pass. It set up McFadden’s 51 yard touchdown scamper on the next play. Funny what a little arial assault can do for your ground attack.

Louis Murphy

Thus far there is a decided offense theme to this week’s Ballers. And that is expected when a team scores 31 points and gives up 38. Murphy was by far Campbell’s favorite target on the day. He was thrown to 11 times and led the team with 6 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. It is nice to see a wide receiver as the favorite target on this offense for once. Usually most the balls go to the runningbacks and tight ends. But while he was catching six passes, his biggest play was not a pass at all but a block. He showed last season that he is a great blocker, namely blocking to get Zach Miller his 86 yard touchdown. This play looked very similar to that one. But while that was a short slant, this was a simple dump pass. This one he cleared his defender to spring McFadden for 67 yards to the endzone. After that, it was all about his receiving.

His first catch of the game was a touchdown. He broke free in the back of the endzone where Campbell found him for the score. Every one of his other catches came on the Raiders last two drives. He had two catches for 22 yards en route to the Raiders tying up the game. Then after the Jaguars came right back on a big kick return to go up 38-31, he had three more catches on the final drive for 28 yards. His last catch was a 1st down and he got out of bounds to stop the clock. In the end it wasn’t enough but he came through in the clutch as he has in previous games.

Richard Seymour

We finally see our first defensive Baller. He, like many Raider defenders, put up a pretty nice first half. But unlike a lot of defenders, he didn’t make mistakes in the 2nd half that outweighed those efforts.

He ended the Jaguars first possession when he pressured David Garrard to force him to throw the ball away. He had a run stuff at the line bit later. And he ended the Jaguars final drive of the first half on another QB pressure to force an incompletion. He spent a good deal of time in the Jaguars backfield in the second half. The result was a tackle for loss, tackle for no gain on a QB scramble and a run stuff for a short gain to force a field goal after the Jaguars were set up at the Raiders 2 yard line.

Lamarr Houston

Houston did get a bit worn out as the second half went on but overall he had a pretty nice game. His best stat of the game was the 3 hits he got on David Garrard. He never sacked him but he pressured him a few times and got to send a few messages while he was there.

He started out with a run stuff on the first Jaguar possession. He had one of his three QB pressures and hits on the next drive. The following drive, he got after Garrard and hit him again. This time Garrard threw the ball away and was called for an intentional grounding which in some ways is better than a sack.  All three of those drives ended on the very next play. He would have one more run stuff for no gain before halftime.

In the fourth quarter, he got a bit of a second wind as he stuffed a run for one yard to save a touchdown. Then after an interception gave the Jaguars the ball back, he had a tackle for loss to help force a three and out and allow the Raiders to come back and tie up the game. That would be his last chance to affect the outcome.

Honorable Mention

Marcel Reece

He had four catches in this game for 48 yards. All four of those catches were on scoring drives and all four of them went for first downs. Two came on the final touchdown drive before halftime and two came in the final Raider touchdown drive of the game.

Samsom Satele

Played mistake free football while laying a couple of key blocks on run plays up the middle. His most important block helped open the hole Darren McFadden used to go 36 yards for the late game tying touchdown.

Jared Veldheer

He also played mistake free football. All the while giving up no sacks from his side of the line.

Busters

Michael Huff

Huff was abused so badly in this game, it didn’t even seem fair. The Raiders were lining Huff up as the nickel corner in this game and it seemed every time the Jaguars saw this matchup, they took full advantage. He was directly or indirectly responsible for every single one of the five Jaguar touchdowns as well as their field goal in this game.

The first touchdown came early in the 2nd quarter. The Jaguars were at the 17 yard line and Huff was late getting over which allowed the runner to get 16 yards on the play before Huff downed him at the 1 yard line. The Jags would score on the next play.

The next Jaguar touchdown came early in the 3rd quarter when Huff was burnt for a 48 yard touchdown catch. Two drives later, the Jags would score again. This time on a 74 yard run. The main blown tackle was on Stanford Routt but Huff looked to be in position to make the tackle only to be blocked as the runner went right by him all the way to the endzone.

Then after a fumble by Jacoby Ford gave the Jaguars the ball back with a short field, Huff was picked on again for a 10 yard touchdown pass. It gave the Jaguars their first lead of the game at 28-24. Next Jaguar drive, he was late getting over on an option play that David Garrard took for 24 yards. It would set up a field goal to widen the Jaguars lead. Then after the Raiders were able to tie the game again, they promptly gave up a huge kick return that set up the game winning touchdown. The return would have been stopped before midfield but Huff completely whiffed on his tackle attempt and the returner took the ball to the Raiders 30 yard line.

Robert Gallery

After sharing the top Baller spot last week, Gallery finds himself a Buster. The Jaguar defensive line seemed to have the book on him in this game because he looked confused much of the time. He started things off early when he gave up a tackle for loss on Darren McFadden on the Raiders’ second possession. Later in the game he gave up a sack. Then to begin the fourth, Jason Campbell was sandwiched between two defenders to knock him out of the game for a series. One of those defenders was Gallery’s assignment. Kyle Boller would enter the game and on his very first pass, he would be hit as he threw by a defender who ran right by Gallery. The ball sailed like a wounded duck and was somehow caught by Zach Miller. But the loss of Campbell proved costly, even for the short time he was out, as Boller would throw an interception a few plays later. Gallery’s final act was giving up the sack on the next to last play of the game. Sure, Campbell held onto the ball a bit too long but you would hope the Raiders line could give him that kind of time when he needs it. Cleary, they cannot.

Kyle Boller

Come on Kyle, you come in for one series and you throw an interception?

Boller was in for all of 5 plays. The first was the wounded duck I eluded to before that luckily fell into the hands of Zach Miller and wasn’t intercepted. That I don’t blame on Boller. Next play was a run for one yard, then a pass that was too high for Louis Murphy that fell incomplete, and finally a pass he threw behind Murphy that was easily picked off. Funny, just last week there were still people who were comfortable with the idea of putting in Boller if Campbell struggled. I don’t think anyone is feeling comfortable about that possibility any more.

Jacoby Ford

If you look at his overall game, it seemed pretty good. He had two catches for 43 yards and a couple of key blocks on McFadden TD runs. But it was that one HUGE gaff that wipes away anything else he did in this game. He fumbled a kick return. Immediately following the Jaguars scoring their third touchdown of the game to pull within 3 at 24-21, Ford fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Raiders 22 yard line. The Jaguars would start the drive already in field goal range where they could tie it up at very least. But they punched it into the endzone for a touchdown instead to go up 28-24. Just. Like. That. That fumble was arguably the most critically detrimental moment of this game.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 14: Ballers & Busters

Oakland Raiders v Houston Texans

The Redskins came to town as one of the tougher teams in recent weeks despite the fact that they had just 3 wins on the season. They came within a chipshot missed field goal of beating the undefeated Saints and have given every other team they have played all they could handle. Sunday was no different in that regard.

The difference ended up being penalties and the Raiders porous offensive line that kept them from matching the Redskins blow for blow as other teams had done. The Raiders gave up 8 sacks to the Redskins– 4 of those sacks were at the hands of rookie Brian Orakpo. The Raiders also racked up 14 penalties for 118 yards not to mention the positive yards that were wiped out when a penalty negated it.

The Raiders punted to the Redskins with the score tied at ten and two minutes remaining in the first half and that it when the wheels came off. Actually that is an understatement. The best way I can describe it would be for you to picture those video footage of a building being demolished. How they blow the foundation with explosives and the entire building collapses on itself in a cloud of smoke and within a few seconds there is just a pile of rubble where the building once stood.

 

So let’s go over that footage to see who attempted to build a sound structure and who set the charges to cause the implosion.

Ballers

Trevor Scott

He was a Baller last week after he seemed to thrive in his new hybrid LB/DE role. Well, this week he seemed to be playing his more traditional defensive end pass rush specialist and he looked even better. In fact, he looked better than he has looked all season. He was third on the team in tackles which is always good for a defensive end. What was better was where he was getting those tackles and the pressure he consistently putting on the quarterback. He had one sack on the day and he got in on the Redskins second play of the game. The drive would end with a three and out. Two possessions later, he got pressure again on the first play of the drive. The next drive he had two run stuffs– one for a loss. Next drive he had tight coverage on the tight end on a designed roll out dump off, forcing Jason Campbell to throw the ball away. The drive ended in a three and out again. He had another quarterback pressure on the following drive. He had two other run stuffs and an assist in the game that all resulted in little or no gain. Even though he is lining up as a defensive end and pressuring the quarterback like one too, he is also playing the run and dropping into coverage like a linebacker. He is really becoming quite a gem.

Darren McFadden

Finally, we see the versatility and game breaking ability everyone had been expecting from him. He lined up at receiver several times and looked the best he has ever looked as an NFL player in that role. He led the Raiders in receiving with 3 catches for 84 yards. His biggest play was a catch that went for 48 yards. It was a quick slant that Gradkowski put in his chest in stride and he was off to the races. After about 30 yards, he was met by the safety trying to make the tackle. But he stiff-armed him and took the ball for about 20 more yards. The catch, speed and refusal to go down easily were all very impressive and long overdue. And if that play wasn’t impressive enough, he had another great catch that was just as eye-popping for reasons all it’s own. It was a simple timing route in which McFadden was to run 25 yards down field and turn back for the ball. But he turned to find that Gradkowski had thrown the ball to his outside shoulder (away from the defender). He made a complete adjustment falling backward and he caught the ball for a 26 yard gain. It was the largest gain on the drive that ended in the Raiders only touchdown of the game. Through the second half, he commanded such attention that he cleared out defenders to allow other receivers to get open. Receiver like this next guy…

Zach Miller

Caught a team high 7 passes in this game. Unfortunately he was only able to get 46 yards on those catches but all he can do is catch what is thrown his way, even if they are litte dinks and dunks. With that said, he did miss a perfect ball right in his hands that would have resulted in about a 30 yard completion. But when a guy catches 7 passes in the game, I think he is allowed a little mishap. He isn’t perfect you know. Just darn close to it.

Bruce Gradkowski

As per usual, he kept the Raiders competitive and had them aligned to have a chance to win the game. Even with constant pressure, he still managed to escape and move the ball down the field. And he has his teammates inspired around him too. He was on pace for another 300 yard outing when the pressure finally became too much. He hurt BOTH of his knees in this game from pass rushers barreling down on him. Normally getting sacked twice would be a bad thing. In this case, it was more like he ONLY got sacked twice. He escaped and made positive yardage several times in the face of a potential sack. The second knee was injured when he had a defender hanging on his leg and he made a Brett Favresque flip to Justin Fargas that resulted in a first down with a chance to scrore in the waning seconds of the first half. He would not return for the second half and finished the game 10-18 for 153 yards and no interceptions. With him out of the game, the Raiders would only score a field goal the remainder of the game while giving up 6 more sacks and turning the ball over once inside their own territory.

Nnamdi Asomugha

He had just two tackles on the day and both were open field tackles for loss on the running back. He also saw one ball thrown to his receiver on the day at which time he earned a pass defended as he batted it down incomplete. He went out injured for a short time in the game but late in the game, he cam back in despite the game being out of hand. Some All-Pro players might just not see it necessary to come back into the game. But he came back and promptly registered his second run stuffing tackle for loss.

Busters

Mario Henderson

This was the kind of game that nightmares are made of. For the past few weeks, “Super Mario” has not been too super. And this has by far the worst game of his short career. His first miscue was when he gave up a quarterback pressure resulting in an incompletion on third down to end the Raiders’ initially promising second drive. A few drives later, he ran up field to block the middle linebacker, allowing the defensive end to shoot into the backfield and stop the running back for a loss. The middle linebacker was the assignment of Satele of the play and so while they double teamed the linebacker five yards up field, Fargas was getting stuffed in the backfield. To end the first half, he was pushed back into Gradkowski and then fell over him to injure him and essentially knock him out of the game. In the second half, with Gradkowski out and Russell in, the news got worse for Mario…much worse. On the Raiders second drive, he gave up two sacks on back to back plays. The Raiders were forced to punt on fourth and 35. After a Redskin touchdown, a one-play drive consisting of a Russell interception and another Redskin touchdown, Mario was at it again. On the first play he gave up ANOTHER sack. This time Russell fumbled and Henderson was lucky to fall on the ball after a 17 yard loss to the Raiders’ 3 yard line. To put a cherry on this crap sundae, the final play of the game was a fourth down incompletion because Henderson was beaten around the edge again and the pressure forced a poor throw. I pondered the question a couple of weeks ago if defensive ends in the league may have found the chink in Henderson’s armor or if he was just in a temporary funk. This performance may have answered that question definitively. I hate to say it but this could officially signal the Raiders’ need to draft a top tier left tackle next year. And I had high hopes for him too.

Cornell Green

While Green started out the game playing well, when the rain started coming down (so to speak), it poured. Like monsoon. The first mistake Green made was his biggest. It was when he was beaten around the outside to allow his made to grab Gradkowski’s leg and twist him down. Then Henderson fell on him and Gradkowski was out which meant the Raiders were out because Russell would get the call after that. But Green was far from done. Oh no, he had much more craptastic tricks up his sleeve. In the same initially successful drive in the third quarter that Henderson combusted, Green contributed to as well. After the Raiders drove 35 yards downfield and into at least field goal range, he gave up a tackle for loss on McFadden. Then three plays later, he was called for being illegally downfield that negated what would have been another Zach Miller reception and put the Raiders in a manageable second down situation. A field goal would have made it a one point game but after the penalty and sacks, that was no longer an option. The Raiders had two final last-gasp drives. The first one ended in a turnover on downs when Green gave up a sack. And the final drive, Green was called for holding that would negate a first down catch by Higgins and the game would end one play later.

JaMarcus Russell

I don’t know what it will take for him to understand what he needs to accomplish for this team to win. He stares down receivers, throws late, has no pocket presence and he dumps the ball for 2 yard gains when the Raiders have to have 15. What about that big arm of his? What difference does it make how far he can throw if he is always dumping the ball off to his check downs? It is not a fluke that he was sacked 6 times while Gradkowski was sacked 2 times. He has no escapability and often times scrambles right into the pass rusher. His interception should have been a nice completion but he has no ability to see a man get open. Schilens found an open spot but Russell saw it too late and when he tried to get the ball to him, the defenders were already closing in. The Redskins would get the ball in Raider territory and score a touchdown to seal the victory. Then to add insult to injury, on the very next Raider possession, he fumbled the ball for a 17 yard loss and a punt of their own end zone. The Raiders cannot and will not be winners with him as the quarterback.

Luke Lawton

Continuing the theme of incompetent blocking, we have Luke Lawton’s sad performance. On the Raiders’ second possession, with the offense clicking and the team looking like they might score, he whiffed on his blocking assignment and gave up a 9 yard sack. And that ended that drive empty handed. On the next drive, after the big 48 yard McFadden catch and run, Lawton was brushed aside easily by an oncoming rusher to cause a rushed pass and incompletion. The drive would end there and the Raiders would settle for a field goal. Next drive, with the Raiders set up at the 4 yard line, looking to score, he ran past Gradkowski as the blocking back and on his way by, he stuck his arm out and popped the ball out of Gradkowski’s hands before he could hand it off to Fargas. The fumble would cause a 7 yard loss and threatened to stunt the best drive of the day for the Raiders. Luckily it didn’t as the Raiders would punch it in two plays later anyway. On the very next drive, after three plays, the Raiders were in third and one at their own 21 yard line. They handed the ball to Fargas off right guard but the linebacker came up and Lawton was chopped down in the running lane and Fargas was stopped at the line of scrimmage forcing the Raiders to punt. A fullback is not supposed to end three drives in a half and almost end a fourth. But not only did he aid in the implosion but I didn’t once see him lay a nice block to spring a Raider runner for even modest yardage, let alone significant yardage. Put fullback on that wish list too.

John Fassel

The special teams continues to be a glaring weak spot on this team. Two of the most significant mistakes of the game happened on special teams. The first was John Fassel’s mistake solely. On a punt return by the Redskins, Hiram Eugene was called for interference on the return catch. It was a horrible call which on replay showed perfect timing on Eugene’s part. But then Fassel in his anger, albeit justified, came storming onto the field getting in the face of the official which prompted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to be called on him. That penalty tacked onto the interference penalty put the the Redskins at the 40 yard line to start their drive. Three plays laters, they scored a touchdown to break what should have been a 10-10 tie at halftime. The special teams had more mistakes to be made though. After a nice drive in the final seconds of the half to put Janikowski in line for a 66 yard field goal, they pondered the decision too long which caused a rushed kick. In the rush, Janikowski would slip on his plant foot and the kick would fall well short of the uprights (but perfectly on line). Granted Tom Cable has the ultimate decision in such matters, but the Raiders’ special teams has been a disorganized mess all season under Fassel, so this is just part and parcel to that.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 14: Ballers & Busters

This weeks breakdown would fall into the “What’s the point” category. After a thrashing like this it seems rather pointless to figure out who was most responsible and how it all went wrong. Afterall, when absolutely everything seems to go wrong, it is pretty much an overall failure of team wide proportions.

This game was already lost before the 2nd quarter. And before halftime I saw a commercial with a bunch of people in massage chairs and oh how I wished I were in one of those chairs too. It was a funny commercial and I laughed because laughter is very therapeutic. At that point I had two choices; laugh at the pure ridiculousness of it all or simply give up and walk away. And since the latter of the two was not an option, I chose to laugh. Apparently, according to Nnamdi Asomugha, many of his teammates were laughing after the game as well. And he was not happy about it. He claims that there are a few players that always take losses hard. He mentioned Burgess, Gibril, and Tommy Kelly specifically. The great George Allen once said, “Rockne wanted nothing but ‘bad losers’. Good losers get into the habit of losing”. And losing has certainly become a habit for this Raider team. So while losing is something every player must accept, this team has come to EXPECT losing. With that said, here is the list of those that despite the losing ways, still played at the top of their game on Thursday along with those who either didn’t get it done or just rolled over gave this game away.

 


Ballers:

Zach Miller- He had a career high 8 catches (although it seemed more like 12) in the game for a total of 64 yards. He is every bit the great receiving tight end the Raiders had hoped and much more. I would like to remind all Bears fans that they drafted Greg Olsen in the first round and the Raiders got Miller in the second round. I think it is pretty clear who the better of the two is. Not to say Olsen is bad but he couldn’t hold Miller’s jock. Now if we could only get some Offensive Tackles and perhaps a good receiver to go along with Zach.

Justin Miller- (no relation to Zach) He gave the Raiders their third special teams TD in four games. Also note that as soon as he was signed to take the kick return duties away from Higgins, JLH immediately had two straight games with punt return touchdowns. That is no coincidence. Now Miller has joined the touchdown party. I was a bit discouraged when he was easily caught near the end of the run despite that fact that he is supposed to be one of the NFL’s fastest players. But the stiff arm he handed out at the 8 yard line that he used the rest of the way into the end zone was pretty nice. And speaking of kick/punt return TD’s and credit where it is due:

Brian Schneider/ Special Teams- These guys need to start giving the offense lessons in how to block and open up running lanes because whatever they are doing, it is damn good. Special Teams is outscoring the offense. The coverage team even caused a fumble in the fourth quarter when Trevor Scott tackled the returner and then Isaiah Ekejiuba knocked the ball out. At least one part this Raiders team is playing hard and executing. They did something neither the offense nor the defense could do on Thursday: They had a Touchdown AND and caused a turnover.

Shane Lechler- He has put the rest of the NFL so far behind him in punting that it is just silly. The standards that he has set for himself are so high that they can sometimes go unnoticed (cough, cough) because we as Raider fans get so used to his freakish greatness. This game was certainly no exception. His first punt went 46 yards and was saved from bouncing into the endzone by Tony Stewart and downed at the 4 yard line. His second punt stopped untouched at the Chargers 6 yard line. His third punt was a 47 yard net after just a 4 yard return. His fourth punt bounced out of bounds to put the Chargers at the 14 yard line. His fifth punt traveled 58 yards and was left alone by the returner to be downed by Hiram Eugene. His next punt was a 57 yarder that ended up 61 yards after a Charger block in the back penalty that started their drive at the 10 yard line. And his last punt was a measly 42 yards but the Raiders swarmed and caused the returner to fumble. So basically not a single punt he had all day would suggest that he shares the same humanity as other punters in this league. Now for the bad news, he is a free agent at the end of the season. Please don’t leave us Shane! With as much as this team has punted in the past six seasons, we need you more than any other team could possibly need you.

 

Kirk Morrison- He led the team in tackles with 11 solo tackles and one assist. He showed why he was 2nd in the AFC and 4th in the NFL in tackles coming into the game and after this week, he may take the top spot. Five of those tackles were run stuffs for little or no gain including a huge hit he put on LDT to tackle him for a loss on the Chargers first posession of the second half that resulted in a three and out. He didn’t give up any catches but he certainly cleaned up some messes that were made by members of the Raiders secondary. Unfortunately he can’t do it all by himself but he sure tried.

Darren McFadden- Yeah sure he only had one carry for zero yards and two catches for 8 yards. He also had a stupid late hit roughness call on Eric Weddle in the game. He was clearly headhunting on the play for something Weddle had done on a previous play. He is here because he played his ass off on Thursday and fought until the whistle every play and played hard even when the game was lost. It won’t show up in the stat line but he actually had as many tackles as half of the Raiders’ defensive players. On two of the three interceptions it was McFadden who tackled the returner. The first tackle was a solid open field tackle on Stephen Cooper after he intercepted the ball. The next tackle was one in which he could have gotten Antonio Cromartie for a loss after Cooper lateraled the ball to him but he was knocked out of the way by his own man. But he didn’t give up. He got up and ran down the field behind Cromartie and tackled him anyway. Just two plays before that, he had a textbook chip block to give Russell the time he needed in the pocket. I had no idea he was such a good tackler. With Dmac’s tackling ability maybe he should try his hand at safety. He is all about versatility right?

Derrick Burgess- He showed signs that he is finally healthy and on his way back to form. He had several QB pressures that resulted in incompletions. One of which, he actually hit Rivers’ arm as he threw which disrupted the pass. He also had three tackles and 2 assists; all in the run game. Both of the assists were tackles for no gain and one of his solo tackles was a tackle for a loss. I think that next week he will have a couple of sacks and look like his old self again.

Busters:

Kwame Harris- After escaping the buster list last week, he returned to take his rightful place atop this list yet again. He was partly at fault for Russell’s fumble because his man collapsed the pocket and Russell had to step up and right into the defensive man that Fargas was trying to hold off (and was doing a better job of it than Harris) Then in the 2nd quarter, after a couple of nice plays that put the Raiders at the Chargers 41 yard line on first down, he had a completely retarded false start while Russell was calling out an audible. Two plays later on second and long, Russell threw an interception. Then on the Raiders’ next posession after Justin Miller had a nice return to give them good field position, the Raiders had their best drive of the day to put them on the Chargers 23 yard line and in scoring position. Then Kwame did what he always does, he had a big face mask penalty that took the Raiders out of field goal range and they were forced to punt. Then on the Raiders first drive of the second half, he was called for holding AND gave up the sack for a loss of 10 yards on third down. The holding was declined of course and the Raiders were forced to punt. At this point I just feel bad for the guy. I see how disappointed he is in himself and how much he beats himself up. He was a first round draft pick and he wants so badly to live up to that as well as the faith the Raiders put in him by signing him. Perhaps that is part of his problem. It is clear that much of his penalties come in the most high pressure situations so it stands to reason that his failure is in his head. Whatever it is, he shouldn’t be starting and hopefully next season he won’t be.

Cornell Green- Green was abused by Shawn Phillips all game. But one particular play stood out among the rest. Like a huge pile of dog crap in the middle of a white table cloth. Phillips rushed in and literally threw Green aside like a wrag doll and came after Russell, hitting him as he released the ball. The ball was intended for Zach Miller but was intercepted. Then Russell was taken down hard by Phillips and Miller was hit twice on the interception, the second hit he was blindsided and knocked him off of his feet. Both Miller and Russell were down and hurt. Miller ended up being ok (surprisingly) but Russell sprained an ankle and did not return. Eventually Mario Henderson replaced Green and appeared to play better the rest of the way. Right tackle is where Henderson will most likely end up starting. Could be this year just to try him out and get his feet wet in preparation for next season. Removing Green certainly couldn’t hurt because having him in there is hurting quite a bit. Just ask JaMarcus and Zach.

JaMarcus Russell- And he continues to regress from that masterfull game he had against the Broncos. That game he had seems like a fluke or an anomaly of some kind at this point. It certainly seems like a distant memory. The first drive of the day for the Raiders ended with him fumbling. Getting sacked can be blamed on someone else but fumbling is on him. This was devastating considering it was on the Raiders 12 yard line which put the Chargers in scoring position immediately. At which point LDT easily ran it in for a touchdown. Two drives later ended with an easy interception that made one wonder what Russell was thinking when he threw it. His man was double covered and Cooper wasn’t even one of those guys. He just was simply right in the path of the pass so it went right to him as if he was the receiver all along. Russell’s second interception was more the fault of Green getting tossed like yesterday’s trash and phillips hitting him as he threw. But even so, the pass was heading for double coverage again. Miller is a great receiver but Russell needs to find an actual OPEN receiver or just tuck the ball. If he got sacked that certainly would be better than turning the ball over. That turnover resulted in a Charger field goal just before halftime and Russell would not return after he was injured on the play. In his half of football he was 9 of 13 for 68 yards, and 3 turnovers. Waw waw waw.

Chris Johnson- It seemed like it had to happen eventually. He has had a few really stellar games this season taking over for DeAngelo Hall but in this game he was exposed. Hopefully it is not a sign of things to come but rather just a glitch. We will have to take a wait and see approach on this one. His first slip up was a 17 yard catch by Vincent Jackson on the Chargers second TD drive of the day. Then the next Chargers posession lasted all of three plays because the third one CJ was burned badly on a 59 yard touchdown strike to Jackson to put the Chargers up 24-0 just five minutes into the 2nd quarter. Then on the Chargers second posession of the second half he gave up a 16 yard catch to Jackson. The next Chargers posession saw him give up a 10 yard first down to Jackson. That means all but one of Jackson’s catches on the day went through CJ for 101 yards. Keep in mind that last week vs. the Falcons, Vincent Jackson had zero catches on the day against a secondary that is supposed to be far inferior to the Raiders. This week Jackson had 148 yards and a TD which made him look like a probowler. Does this sound familiar? It should. The Raiders gave up 146 yards and a TD to rookie Eddie Royal in week one. Most of those yards came against the guy that CJ replaced.

Tommy Kelly- He had a whopping two tackles on the day and was never in the backfield even sniffing something that resembled pressure. Then he would consistently overpersue on screen plays that went for big yards. During the highlights Warren Sapp said “It amazes me that despite not getting a sack all day, this Dline can’t tell when it is a screen.” He is absolutely right. If the Oline is suddenly letting you push them as they haven’t all day, then something is up. Both of Darren Sproles’ touchdowns on the day were off of screen passes and in both cases there was no one staying at home to defend it. All of that doesn’t fall solely on Kelly’s shoulders but he had an overall lackluster performance so I am calling him out specifically. And that brings me to the main reason Kelly is on this list. The Chargers were on their third drive of the day and were already up 10-0. Shane Lechler had just kicked a beautiful punt which Tony Stewart alertly saved from bouncing into the end zone to pin the Chargers at the 4 yard line. Then the Chargers had two straight false starts to put them on the 1 yard line. LDT ran for three yards and was stuffed by Kirk Morrison at which point it looked like the Chargers may be forced to punt out of their own end zone and give the Raiders great field position or better. Then Kelly lost his cool and pushed Kris Dielman off of the pile and was called for a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty. The drive was kept alive and the Chargers marched down the field and scored a touchdown to go up 17-0. That penalty was a defining moment in this game and is typical of bad teams. Oh by the way, he is the 2nd highest paid Dlineman in the league. Although I am sure no one can forget that.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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