Raiders week 15: Ballers & Busters

Games like this have fans and analysts alike scrambling to find someone to blame. The first three and a half quarters had us celebrating the heroes, while the final seven minutes had us searching for where it all went wrong — and how the Raiders went from being up 27-14 over the Lions to losing 28-27.

But before I get to holding the guilty parties accountable for this collapse, I am left with the uneasy task of pointing out those who played well enough to win, despite those who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ballers

Darrius Heyward-Bey

This was a difficult decision. His fumble late in the third quarter was what left me in a quandary. But in the scheme of the game, the fumble turned out not to be a deciding factor. Sure, he would have put the Raiders in scoring position had he held onto the ball, but the Lions got the ball at their own eight yard line and the Raider defense stopped them at the 20 yard line after just one first down. Then the Raiders immediately put together a drive and kicked a field goal anyway. On the Lions’ next possession the Raiders forced a fumble for a touchdown.

Outside of the fumble, DHB had a fantastic game. He finished with 8 catches for 155 yards including a masterful 43 yard touchdown. He showed a bit of everything on the touchdown catch. He leapt in the air and caught the ball cleanly, took a hit and held on, broke a tackle, and sprinted to the end zone. It was arguably the best catch he has made as a pro due to all the variables involved. He also laid the key block that sprung Marcel Reece on a 26 yard run in the first quarter that set up the Raiders’ first touchdown. He did have a drop in this game but it came with a few ticks left on the clock and the Raiders without a timeout. If he had caught it, he would have been tackled in the middle of the field and the Raiders would not have had time to get to the line to spike it in time to attempt a field goal.

Shane Lechler

He punted five times and three of them were stopped inside the 20 yard line. One of them was a perfect 46 yard sky shot that landed at the five yard line and bounced to the one and a half yard line where the Raider coverage team downed it. It was the perfect punt at the time the Raiders needed it most. Lechler did his part. Unfortunately the Raider defense did not, and the Lions drove 98 (and a half) yards down the field to win the game.

Michael Bush

The Raider workhorse was pulling that plow again in this game. He touched the ball 25 times for 139 yards from scrimmage. That was 18 rushes for 77 yards and 7 catches for 62 yards. The Raiders got the ball with 1:14 left in the first half and were looking to break a 14-14 tie and they gave it to Bush. On the drive he had a 12 yard screen, a 10 yard screen, and finished it off with a 7 yard run to set up a Janikowski field goal and a 17-14 Raider lead heading into halftime.

Tommy Kelly

He had two of the biggest plays in this game. The first came late in the third quarter with the Lions lining up to go for it on fourth down and one. They had tried to pick up the first down on third and one and Kelly was in amongst a mob of Raider defenders to stop the Lions for no gain. Then they tried again and Kelly and company stuffed them again. In total, the Lions were held to just 57 yards on the ground.

The play of the day for the Raiders was when Kelly came around the edge on third and 10 from the Detroit 14 yard line to strip sack Matt Stafford. He just reached out and grabbed Stafford’s wrist so he was unable to move his arm forward and then yanked the ball out of his hand. Aaron Curry then picked up the ball and ran it in for the touchdown. It would give the Raiders a 27-14 lead with 7:47 left in the game. It should have been a 28-14 lead but we’ll get into that later.

Honorable Mention

Rolando McClain

He led the team in tackles (7-2) including a tackle for loss and a sack. He added a hit on Stafford as well. The big Calvin Johnson catch that set up the game winner came with him in coverage but that never should have been the case. Expecting a middle linebacker to cover the best receiver in the game is asking too much. It wasn’t the first time in this game he was asked to cover Megatron. He did reasonably well in those situations, all things considered.

Betweener

Carson Palmer

Palmer was another difficult decision for the Baller list. His numbers were great. He completed 32 0f 40 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown. That is 80% completion with a 113.2 QB rating. On the other hand, he had three key incompletions in this game. He overthrew Denarius Moore and DHB in the end zone and overthrew Chaz Schilens on a third and three play that would have ended the game. He also held the ball too long and took a sack on the Raiders’ final drive when they were trying to get into scoring position. It resulted in a two yard loss and the :08 off the clock left the Raiders with just :13 at midfield.
  

Busters

Chuck Bresnahan

If the first three quarters of this game in which Calvin Johnson put up season best numbers was the concerto, the final 2:14 of this game may just have been Bresnahan’s swan song. The Lions were able to move the ball downfield thanks to some of the most ridiculous defensive scheming I can ever remember seeing. The Raiders were seen running a cover 2 style defense at times. That scheme in itself has been very successful. But first off, the Raiders don’t have the right personnel for it. And second off, when a middle linebacker and a third string safety/special teamer are covering the best receiver in the NFL, you will have problems. Matt Stafford saw this matchup and threw an ugly rainbow to his All Pro receiver, knowing that he had a tremendous mismatch in his favor. The completion went 48 yards and set the Lions up at the Raider 13 yard line. They would score a touchdown a few plays later to win the game. And of course, on the touchdown catch the Raider defense again looked confused and Calvin Johnson was in single coverage.

That was the story all day, though other teams who have played the Lions discovered long ago that you double team Calvin Johnson, PERIOD. None of this single coverage, zone, or cover 2 crap. In the previous five games, Johnson was held to under 100 yards receiving with just one touchdown. The Lions went 2-3 in that time and one of those was a squeaker against the Vikings. The recipe is an easy one. But apparently being in the UFL the last few years, Bresnahan wasn’t familiar with ole Megatron. This season his best game was 125 yards receiving. He blew that out of the water with 214 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including the game winner. The Raiders have been the NFL cure-for-what-ails-you for the better part of this decade. The first year of that opposing offense slump buster defense came with Bresnahan at the helm. And likely the last.

Hue Jackson

Here we go again. Last week’s Buster list was headed up the same way. The two main criticisms of this game were the aforementioned 48 yard catch on the Lions’ game winning drive and the Raiders not going for two on their final touchdown. It was past midway through the fourth quarter and the Raiders had scored a defensive touchdown to go up by 12 points. Hue Jackson opted to kick the extra point and go up 13 points. If you go for two, you go up by 14 points and when/if the Lions score two touchdowns, it is tied and we go to overtime.

Hue defended his decision after the game saying that he didn’t think it was time to go for two. That statement makes zero sense. That was the ideal time to go for two points. He simply made the wrong call. He also said he didn’t expect them to be able to go 98 yards to score. But you plan ahead for these possibilities by going for two, especially with a defensive coordinator who has given away games several times already this season and was bailed out a couple of other times. If they miss the two point conversion, they would have been in the exact same situation. No risk, high reward.

Then there was the call for Palmer to throw long on third and three on what could have been the Raiders’ final drive. Sure, if he had completed the pass, we wouldn’t be talking about it. But he didn’t. Hence the reason why such a decision is a risky one. He gambled and lost. If the Raiders had picked up the first down, they could have run out the clock as the Lions had no timeouts left. Hue likes to say he “lives on the edge.” Well, he has fallen over that edge the last few games and the Raiders have followed him over.

Stanford Routt

I realize Routt had a difficult task on Sunday. He was guarding the best receiver in the NFL much of the time. But if he were to have held him, I would be giving him all the credit in the world so I have to be fair. Routt did have three passes defended in this game. However, he also helped allow Calvin Johnson to have his 214 yard, two touchdown day. Routt was called for holding on the Lions’ first touchdown drive before Megatron finished it off by getting behind the entire Raider defense for a 51 yard score. He later gave up a first down catch the play just prior to the Lions getting their second touchdown on a 39 yard catch and run. He was called for pass interference to start the Lions’ third touchdown drive. Then on the Lions’ big game winning drive he gave up an eight yard catch, was called for pass interference to give the Lions an automatic first and goal at the six yard line, and then was beaten by Johnson for the touchdown.

Jerome Boyd

Too many times it has occurred that the opposing team gets a big catch with Boyd in the vicinity but making no play on the ball. When Calvin Johnson pulled down the 48 yard bomb, Boyd was charged with covering him deep. The pass hung up and was well short. If Boyd had just turned to play the ball, he could have knocked it down or likely intercepted it. Instead he just watched it land in the receiver’s arms where he touched him down. That is not what safeties do. Yeah, it’s a big job keeping Calvin Johnson in front of you. But when given a reprieve with an ugly ball that hangs in the air, that’s why safeties exist.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 15: Ballers & Busters

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 19: Tim Tebow  of the Denver Broncos gets past Tyvon Branch  of the Oakland Raiders to score a touchdown at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 19, 2010 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It was a damp day in Oakland for the Raiders matchup with the division rival Denver Broncos. And for the Raiders, the first half was as messy as the field.

They got things started off with a bang when, after stopping the Broncos with a three and out, it took the Raiders one play to score a touchdown. But thanks to two turnovers in the first quarter on an interception and a fumble, the Broncos scored two touchdowns in just over two minutes.

The Raiders were able to score again and went into halftime with the score tied at 17 all. The score remained close with neither team able to score a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Raiders were able to score two touchdowns to put the game away.

The Raiders looked like two different teams in the first and second half. It is no coincidence that the rain was falling off and on throughout the first half and stopped prior to the second half. The renewed energy of the team was also thanks to a riot act handed down by Tom Cable at halftime.

In the end most Raider players were able to make up for any laxed play in the first half and some players were on from the first snap of the ball.

Ballers

Tyvon Branch

He led the team with 3 tackles for loss and 5 solo tackles. His first tackle for loss came on the Broncos’ third possession just after the Raiders’ first turnover. On the first play, he shot in from his safety spot to stuff Denver runningback Knowshon Moreno behind the line. To make matters worse for the Broncos, Moreno got angry as he couldn’t free himself from Branch’s grasp and pulled down on his facemask to tack another 15 yards onto the 2 yards he had already lost.

Tyvon’s next tackle was also a tackle for loss. Moreno was caught in the backfield again and tried to cut back the opposite direction. But Branch was there to meet him for a loss of one yard. He ended the Broncos next drive when he teamed up to stuff Tim Tebow on a wildcat quarterback keeper for one yard. That was all before halftime.

His next play came on special teams when he laid a vicious block on a punt return to allow Nick Miller to take it back 22 yards and into Denver territory. Tack on a facemask penalty and the Raiders set up at the Denver 24 yard line.

A bit later, a penalty and a big pass play had the Broncos set up at the Raiders’ 22 yard line and looking to score. Then on the next play, Branch was in the backfield again for another tackle for loss of three yards. He then ended the threat when he stopped Tebow short of the first down on a third down scramble. At that time, the score was tied at 20. The Raiders would pull away after that.

Darren McFadden

Another 100 yard rushing game (119). This time his numbers put him over 1100 on the season (1112). Before this game began, he needed 7 yards to reach 1000 and I predicted, with that poor Denver defense, he would get that on his first carry. He got 8 yards on his very first carry of the game to give him 1001 yards. He also had 39 yards receiving to give him close to 500 yards receiving on the season. He miraculously didn’t score any touchdowns in this game but he set the Raiders up for many of their scores on the day.

He gaffed early on when he fumbled on a lateral attempt. But on the next Raider drive, he sought to attone for that mistake when he had a 19 yard run and a 36 yard run to the 2 yard line. The Raiders would score a touchdown two plays later to tie it up at 14 apiece.

Late in the 4th quarter, he made a great adjustment on a Campbell throw in the flat that he took 21 yards to the one yard line. The Raiders would punch it in on the next play to go up 39-23. His final play was taking a pitch for 8 yards and a first down to end the game. He averaged 6 yards a carry for the day.

Jacoby Ford

How many superlatives are there left to be used to describe this guy? What a tremendous player he is. He got the Raiders on the board in true Jacoby Ford fashion. On the Raiders very first play on offense, he took a reverse end around 71 yards to the house. It is truly amazing watching him just fly by the defense. We all knew he had speed when he was drafted, but this guy has football speed. He is near impossible to catch, hard to get a hand on, and harder to tackle. And oh yeah, he blocks well too.

He laid a key block to help Darren McFadden break off a 36 yard run to the Broncos two yard line. He might have had a couple more catches in the first half but Campbell was off target on the throws.

The third quarter brought some better play by the offense and Ford got some catches. His best catch went for 25 yards and led to a field goal to put the Raiders up 23-20. Later he had a 15 yard catch that eventually led to the Raiders’ final touchdown. He has quickly become the surest hands on the team. The speed is just a bonus. Or is he the fastest, and the hands are a bonus? Whichever.

Matt Shaughnessy

He led the Raiders in combined tackles (8) and added 1.5 sacks as well. He almost had another sack early in the game when he brushed off his man to come after Tebow in the backfield. Tebow slipped his initial grasp but Shaughnessy kept coming and tackled him right at the line for no gain. He was giving Tebow fits all game long. Later, in the 2nd quarter, he tackled Tebow after a scramble short of the first down on third down to force a punt. Then in the third quarter, he tracked him down again on a scramble that was stopped short of the first down on third down. His solo sack was on the Broncos’ final offensive play of the game. He also had several run stuffs for little or no gain. Aside from his tackles and sacks, he also led the Raiders in quarterback hits (2). When Tebow kneeled to pray after the game he probably said “Lord, please let me get traded so I don’t have to face Matt Shaughnessy twice a year. Oh, and so I can get the heck out of Denver.”

Rolando McClain

This defense is clearly a lot better with him in it. With him out injured last week, they looked out of sorts and Ricky Brown was not the answer at middle linebacker. McClain was 2nd on the team in tackles with 7 combined. But most importantly, he was a Bronco drive killer in this game. He tried to set the tone early when he almost single handedly stopped the Broncos on their first possession. He burst into the backfield on a wildcat direct snap to Knowshon Moreno and stopped him for a loss of one. Then on the very next play, he tipped the Tebow pass at the line for an incompletion and a punt. Later in the half, he tackled Tebow for one yard on a wildcat keeper to end a drive. Two drives later, he killed another one when he teamed up to stop Tebow on another keeper short of the first down.

On the Broncos first possession of the third quarter, he would yet again, almost single handedly end the drive. The Broncos had the ball on the 1 yard line after a nice punt, a penalty and a tackle for loss. On 2nd down, with the ball at the one yard line, he tackled the runner at 4 yards and on third down he stuffed the runner at the line for no gain to force a punt from their own endzone. The great field position resulted in a feild goal to take the lead back 20-17. He would have one more run stuff tackle for no gain to start a three and out by the Broncos in the 4th quarter.

Quentin Groves

It can’t be understated how important that play was when Groves shot into the Broncos backfield to tackle the runner for a safety. At the time, the Raiders were ahead by one score at 30-23. The safety tore the heart out of the Broncos. Or as Tom Cable would say: “step on their necks”. The Raiders would get a big return on the ensuing kick with a late hit penalty on top of it. Then they would take the short field and score a touchdown to end it. That wasn’t Groves’ only play of the game though. He had another tackle for loss with the Broncos lined up at their own three yard line earlier in the game. With the Broncos’ backs against the endzone, they just couldn’t keep Groves out of the backfield. He had another tackle on a short catch for one yard. In all, Groves had three tackles for a total of -4 yards and a safety.

Sebastian Janikowski

He kicked three field goals in this game from 33, 49, and 35. But he also was forced into punting duties when Shane Lechler went out with a hamstring strain in his punting leg. Seabass would punt just once, and while it wasn’t a great punt, the mere fact that it was a high, wobbly punt made it hard to field. The returner muffed it and the Raiders recovered to get the ball back. And he did all of this on a muddly field, slipping just once on a kickoff that still went a good distance.

Nnamdi Asomugha

He gave up zero catches and even came up to stop Tebow on a scramble attempt on 3rd down that went for just a yard. Not much more that needs to be said about that.

Marcel Reece

He had 88 yards total offense in this game, and 73 of them came on one play. It was a well designed play that was executed perfectly. And one that fullbacks often make. But Reece is not your average fullback. Campbell dropped back as if he it was a 7 step drop and the receivers all ran routes downfield. Then Reece looked like he was setting up to pass block but instead he squirted out and turned around. Campbell turned and dropped it off to him and there was a good 20 yards of open field in front of him. He quickly got a full head of steam, ran around the first tackler in the open field and raced 71 yards to paydirt. On top of that, he had is regular blocking duties to help McFadden get his 119 yards rushing.

Samson Satele

Another great game for the oft criticized center. He played another mistake free game all while the Raiders coaches utilized his athletic ability to block downfield on long runs. He was the primary blocker on the big 71 yard end around by Jacoby Ford to get the Raiders day started off right. Then on the Raiders second touchdown drive, he laid a key block to help spring Darren McFadden on a 19 yard run on the first play of the possession.

Honorable Mention

Tom Cable

He deserves some credit for the speech he gave at halftime that woke the Raiders up and helped them come out and put the game away in the second half. He would be a Baller outright except he also shoulders some of the blame for the team coming out and playing uninspired football in the first place. After losing to the Jaguars last week, there is no reason why that game should not have been all the motivation this team needed to come out and roll over the Broncos from the beginning. The players said that his speech at halftime was the more firey they have ever seen him. Hopefully his words will resonate and carry into the game next week against the Colts.

Michael Bush

He didn’t have a lot of yards with McFadden getting the bulk of the carries. Bush was asked to carry the ball in short yardage and goal line situations. He finished off two drives with long McFadden runs that stopped at the 2 yard line and 1 yard line. The Broncos knew what was coming and they still couldn’t stop it.

Buster

Stanford Routt

Just the other day, someone said to me that Stanford Routt should be in the Pro Bowl because his receivers have the lowest completion percentage in the NFL. That is the perfect example of a completely misleading statistic. And the very reason Ballers & Busters exists. Some things are just impossible to quantify based on statistics. Nnamdi Asomugha is a perfect example. He has almost no statistics and yet, that is the very reason he is the best. But, this isn’t about Nnamdi, this is about Routt.

Routt’s bad day started after the Broncos got the ball in Raider territory after a fumble. The 2nd play of the possession, Tebow dropped back and threw a ball that looked to be up for grabs. The pass was lofted high enough that Routt was able to catch up to the receiver. Then he leapt in the air only to watch the ball go right between in hands without so much and touching it. Brandon Lloyd dove and pulled it in uncontested. It was initially ruled incomplete but upon further review was ruled a touchdown. While you might be able to argue whether it was really caught  inbounds, there is no way to argue that Routt blew a golden opportunity to at very least knock down the rainbow pass. And he should have intercepted it. From turnover to touchdown.

Later, in the 3rd quarter, he was called for pass interference on first down when he didn’t turn around to look for the ball on a sideline route. The penalty went for 24 yards. Two plays later he gave up a 20 yard catch that put the ball at the Raiders’ 22 yard line. It would lead to a game tying field goal. Overall, he was on the hook for 82 yards and 10 points.

Khalif Barnes

When Barnes trotted onto the field and reported eligible for the first time in this game, I turned to Blitz Chick who was sitting two seats down from me in the press box and said “Ope, Khalif is in; it’s time for the obligatory false start penalty.” At which point, Barnes promptly proved me right. When you can predict a player’s bonehead play that easily, then he has got to be a Buster. Many people have suggested he be named a Buster before for his predictible false start penalties. I guess I was waiting for him to do it so often you could set your watch to it.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 15: Ballers & Busters

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos

As surprising as this win may have been for many NFL fans, beating the Broncos on Sunday fit right in with the Raiders M.O. the past few seasons. Stop me if this sounds familiar. Better yet, don’t stop me because this should all sound very familiar. The lowly Raiders head into Denver and knock off the playoff hopeful Broncos late in the season. They also beat two other playoff calibre teams and finish off the season strong after struggling mightily in the first half. Those few sentences can be used to describe the Raiders last season or this season. Last season it was the Texans and Bucs they beat to go along with the Broncos and this season it is the Bengals and Steelers. The one common denominator is the Broncos– who they have beaten late in the season three years in a row now.

Few games mean more than those against the hated Broncos and no win offers more satisfaction. All things considered, the Raiders didn’t play all that spectacularly in this game. They did what they needed to do and didn’t dig themselves any large holes. After that It was simply a matter of which team would outlast the other. In this case, the Raiders seemed like they just wanted it more. And in the end, they would pull out the win by one point; 20-19.

 

Nearly every player on the team showed heart, passion, energy and all the intangibles that are necessary for a downtrodden team to rise above. And with that in mind, let’s give props to those who willed this team to win and those to threatened to stifle that effort.

Ballers

Michael Bush

He is an absolute beast. The Raiders have had a total of four 100 yard rushers in the last two seasons and the last three of them were Michael Bush. He relentlessly picked up large chunks of yardage in this game. The first time he put his hands on the ball he ran it 23 yards for a touchdown. That Bush TD gave the Raiders the lead 7-6 and instantly shifted the momentum. Bush was given the ball quite a few more times after that nice run and he continued to shred the Denver defense. Two drives later with the Raiders up 10-6, he had a first down run, a 13 yard run on third down to pick up another first down and a hard fought run in which he juked one tackler and broke another tackle on his was to 12 yards and another first down. The Raiders would finish the drive with another field goal to build the lead to 13-6 heading into halftime. The first Raider posession of the second half, he caught a pass in the flat and rumbled for 11 yards and a first down but the drive ended at midfield when Darren McFadden fumbled the ball away. After the Broncos took the short field and turned it into a touchdown, Bush went back to work. The first play of the next drive he took the handoff for 18 yards. The next play he ran for 40 yards to put the Raiders in scoring position. The drive ended when Cable elected to go for it on fourth down at the three yard line and McFadden couldn’t punch it in. But the Broncos were demoralized by that point. Bush ended the day with 18 carries for 133 yards (7.4 ypc) and a touchdown. Is there any question who should be the starter for the Raiders at this point? There shouldn’t be.

Nnamdi Asoumugha

He was only credited with two tackles on the game which makes me wonder what game these stat collectors were watching. The first tackle of the game for the Raiders was Asomugha coming up and stuffing the Broncos running back at the line. Tyvon Branch was credited for it but I watched the play several times and it was Aso that did it with Branch coming in afterward to help out. Nnamdi’s second big play, he fought through blockers and nailed a tackle eligible Ryan Clady in the backfield for a three yard loss. But Clady was called for illegal touching and so the Broncos actually came out the better for it. After the five yard penalty, they only lost two more yards but got the down over again. The first play of the second half, Asomugha came up and stuffed a run for no gain. And yet again, just like the first defensive play of the game, Tyvon Branch was given the credit for it. Trust me, I know the difference between #33 and #21. That was Aso that made that tackle. Later in that same drive he had tight coverage which caused a high throw incompletion. The drive would end on the next play. Then the first play after the McFadden fumble, Asomugha nailed Knowshon Moreno in the backfield for a 4 yard loss. And THIS time there was no denying that it was Nnamdi that made the tackle. Later in the same drive with the Broncos at the 6 yard line looking to score, he had tight coverage on Marshall to force Kyle Orton to throw the ball away. Unfortunately the Broncos would score on the next play. But on the next Denver possession, the Broncos drove to the Raider 2 yard line and were threatening to score. Nnamdi blanketed Marshall again causing Orton to throw the ball away. But this time they would be held out of the end zone and settled for a field goal. That was the last score the Broncos would get. Holding them out of the end zone proved to be the difference in the game.

Chaz Schilens

He had the Raiders’ first catch of the game and the last catch. The first one was of considerably less import. It was a 6 yard catch on third and 7 forcing a punt. His last catch was the most important catch of the entire game. It was a five yard crossing pattern that he caught and pushed five more yards into the end zone to give the Raiders the game winning touchdown. He also had two other catches on that same game winning drive. The first was a 13 yard come backer to set the Raiders up with first down at the 10 yard line. The second was a short catch in which the Broncos were called for illegal contact to give the Raiders another first down at the 5 yard line. He led the team in catches with 5 and while he had just 37 yards on those catches, the 23 yards he had on the final drive were possibly the most important yards of the game for the Raiders.

Greg Ellis, Matt Shaughnessy

I grouped these two together because they tag teamed the Broncos from the right defensive end spot to perfection. They came in an out depending on the situation but no matter what you needed from them, they came through. What a combo they have become. Ellis got it started off when he pressured Orton into an incomplete pass on the Broncos second play from scrimmage. Then on the Broncos next drive it was Shaughnessy who bulled into the Broncos backfield to sack Orton for a five yard loss. After a quiet second quarter for both of them, they came back to life in the third quarter. On the very first play, Shaughnessy held the line to stretch the running back to the sideline and force a tackle for no gain on the play. Then later in the drive he had a run stuff at the line. After the Raiders failed to convert on a fourth down, the Broncos would take over at the 1 yard line. On the first play they ran right at Shaughnessy who shed his blocker to nearly stuff Moreno for a safety. Two plays later, the Broncos would have to punt out of their own end zone. On the Broncos next drive attempt, Shaughnessy had another run stuffing tackle for a loss. Then he tagged Greg Ellis to come in and finish it off. And he did just that. The first play of the Broncos next possession, Ellis held his gap to allow William Joseph to stuff a run for no gain. Then on the next play he broke free to the quarterback and sacked him for a 9 yard loss. The drive would end with a much needed 3 and out as the Raiders’ offense would get the ball with just 3:25 left to play. After the Raiders took 2:50 to march down and score the go-ahead touchdown, the Broncos would have :35 seconds to try and mount a drive into field goal range. But Ellis would have none of it. He shot into the backfield on first down, sacked Orton, and knocked the balled out of his hands for a 7 yard loss. Facing a second and 17 on their own 15 yard line and just :23 seconds left on the clock, was too steep of a hill to climb. Ball game.

Sebastian Janikowski

The Raiders needed two field goals and that’s what he gave them. The Raiders’ weak kick coverage teams needed touchbacks and that’s what he gave them. One of his field goals was from 54 yards out for his longest of the season. And he made it look like a 34 yarder as per usual. He had five kickoffs on the day; four of which were touchbacks and three of those went out of the back of the end zone. Somebody check to see if that football still has the laces on it.

Kirk Morrison

He led the team in solo tackles, which as I have said many times before, doesn’t mean much all by itself. But, I don’t think I have ever seen him so fired up before. He was certainly playing the role of middle linebacker in this game. He was riling up his fellow defenders and getting in the face of Bronco players everytime he made a play. He was chewing Knowshon Moreno’s ear on several occasions and with good reason. Moreno could only gain 42 yards on 19 carries (2.2 ypc) in the game and Morrison was making his life miserable. Afterall, of Morrison’s 8 solo tackles, 6 were on Moreno for a total of 13 rushing yards– Ouch.

Tom Cable

I have often said that the one thing Cable has going for him is his players want to play well for him. The main pieces missing up to now were discipline and the hope that their efforts would not be in vain. These Raiders brought the entire package on Sunday and you can add smart play calling to that package as well. The defense was highly motivated and the offense overcame it’s weaknesses (the Oline) to have a solid game. I think going for it on fourth down at the 3 yard line was a good call. And the ensuing play was the right move as well. With three yards to gain, a pitch to McFadden to get him in the open field is a move that has paid off before. The Broncos just covered it well and with three defenders to meet McFadden at the goal line, he couldn’t get in. But even without the touchdown, the Broncos set up on their own one yard line and after nearly getting stuck in the end zone for a safety, and a three and out, would punt out of their own end zone to give the Raiders good field position. That is smart football. But my favorite play call of the day came just before halftime on third and nine. Cable called a quick draw in which Frye faked a pass to Murphy at the line and quickly handed the ball to Bush and he ran it right up the middle for 13 yards. It was just tricky enough and it fooled the Broncos linebackers just enough while Bush shot for a first down. The drive ended with a field goal and the Raiders went into the lockeroom up 13-6. And yes, I am geeking out about a quick draw run play for 13 yards. And proud of it.

Honorable Mention

JaMarcus Russell

He didn’t play great and he had a fumble in his short amount of time in the game. But when you engineer a game winning drive, you earn at very least a little pat on the back.

Michael Huff

Had a nice game overall which alone is not worth of being called a Baller. He gets honorable mention primarily for nailing Brandon Marshall on the second to last play of the game to knock to ball out of his hands and seal the victory.

Busters

Cornell Green

I have run out of ways to lament Green poor play. Several times in this game, he was just abused by his defender. The running backs dared not try runs to the right tackle slot because there usually wasn’t a slot there to run through. Not to mention the obvious fact that Frye was given no time to throw on nearly every pass play. Green’s problems really started in the second quarter. The Raiders got the ball after a nice defensive stand. Then after a roughing the passer penalty on the Broncos, Cornell couldn’t get push on his man and gave up a run stuff. It was a timely short catch on the next play that would get Seabass in range to hit his 55 yard field goal. Green’s next mistake would be the most costly. With the Raiders in third and goal at the 1 yard line, he was pushed into the Raider backfield causing Michael Bush to run into him while trying to get the corner. The result was a loss of two yards to set up fourth and goal at the 3 yard line. A distance the Raiders couldn’t cover and they would be held scoreless on the drive. He was just brutal on the Raiders final drive and it’s a miracle the Raiders were able to overcome it. On the very first play of the Raiders’ final drive, he was burnt by the pass rusher who hit Russell, causing him to fumble the ball. The Raiders luckily recovered but only after a 13 yard loss. What was first and ten with 62 yards ahead of them was now second and 23 with 75 yards to cover. It was thanks to a pass interference penalty on the next play that the Raiders were able to dig out of that hole. But Cornell had more in store. The Raiders were forced to go for it on fourth and ten and he gave up pressure on Russell who had to throw his pass while falling backward and somehow completed it for a first down. Three completions later, the Raiders were set up with first and goal at the 5 yard line. Cue Cornell Green and his subsequent obligatory false start penalty to back them up 5 yards. But when it happens enough, I suppose you just expect it. Hence the 10 yard touchdown pass two plays later.

Stanford Routt

He had some good plays in this game which is what makes is so difficult to call him a Buster. But in the end, he belongs here because, while there were only a few big plays by the Broncos in this game, Routt was the one victimized on the two biggest. His miscues also far outweighed his highlights. His problems started after halftime so I am guessing that the Broncos saw something he was or wasn’t doing and wanted to take advantage of it. The second play of the third quarter, the Broncos split tight end Tony Scheffler out wide and Routt was defending him. But despite the fact that he was defending a tight end, Routt gave him ten yard cushion. Orton saw this and quickly passed the ball to Scheffler and he ran for an easy 9 yard gain. The Broncos would QB sneak to pick up the first down on the next play. A few plays later on third and 2, Routt gave up a 4 yard firt down catch to keep the drive alive. The drive would end in the Broncos third field goal. The Broncos started their next drive at the 50 yard line, and two straight defensive stops would have set the Broncos up in third and long but Routt was called for illegal contact to give the Broncos an automatic first down. Later in the drive with the Broncos in third and goal at the 6 yard line, Routt gave up the Broncos only touchdown to Brandon Marshall right at the goal line. The next Bronco possession Routt made his biggest mistake when Brandon Stokley caught a slant pass right in front of him and took it for 62 yards. Routt eventually caught Stokley but he had to horse collar tackle him to stop him from scoring. After the gain and the penalty, the Broncos would set up at the 2 yard line. Thanks to some nice defensive plays after that, the Broncos would settle for a field goal to keep the Raiders within one score. But for those who were counting, Routt gave up drive sustaining plays that resulted in 13 of the Broncos’ 19 points on the day. And it should have been even worse.

Langston Walker

I commend him for a tremendous block to help open the hole that Michael Bush ran through to score his touchdown. But with that out of the way, there is not much else to be happy about with his play. The Raiders’ second possession of the first quarter ended with a Charlie Frye interception on a high arching wounded duck. The reason for the ill advised pass was because Frye was about to be obliterated by an oncoming rusher that Walker allowed to run right by him. The ensuing short field helped greatly in the Broncos getting their second straight field goal. To start the second quarter, he was blown up on two straight plays. The first one, he gave up a run stuff on McFadden and the second he didn’t stay in his gap on a safety blitz that resulted in a tackle for loss. On the Raiders’ first drive of the third quarter he was manhandled by his defender and gave up a tackle for no gain on Bush. On the Raiders’ final drive of the game, JP Losman came into the game for one play when JaMarcus Russell was shaken up. The Raiders set up in a four wide receiver set and Losman dropped back to pass but no sooner did he get his feet set but he had Walker’s man in his face forcing him to throw into the turf to keep from getting sacked. I suppose we should just be happy it isn’t Chris Morris playing left guard though right? We  miss  you  Robert Gallery .

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 15: Ballers & Busters

Each week I think it can’t get any worse and then, it does. Every week I say “what’s the point” and yet each week the endeavor gets more and more pointless. The only thing that helps me keep my sanity when watching these games is the analytical perspective.

I find it interesting that just last week after I put out my Ballers and Busters, Rob said something to the effect “When a defense plays this bad, no one should be given credit.” Last week I disagreed with that statement. This week was the definition of a complete collapse. I feel sorry for many of these guys. Because of a few glaring weak spots, this team is a complete failure offensively and defensively. The level of frustration must be at an all time high. If I were on this team I would be so damn angry I would either kill someone or have a brain aneurysm. The terrible schemes and overpaid worthless players on this team have taken any sense of pride or passion they might have had away from them. So let’s just get this over with.

Darren McFadden- He was the only part of the offense that really looked like it was working. He had three catches for a 68 yards to go along with 46 yards rushing and a touchdown. One of the problems that has been with the offense is there are very few designed screens. Normally what happens is when there is no one open, Russell drops the ball off to the running back as a last option. Aside from simply running the ball, screen passes and play action should be the core of this offense. All of McFadden’s three catches went for considerable gains but his best was on the Raiders first posession of the 2nd half where he ran to the right side and laid a textbook chip block on the defensive end to give Russell more time and then took the screen pass for 27 yards.

Trevor Scott- I know the entire defense played horrible but before we get into that, I would like to leave Trevor Scott out of it. This guy is a gem. He works his tail off on special teams and on the few times he is put in the game, he makes his presence felt. I only saw him out there a few times but he still had 4 tackles, 2 were sacks and 1 was a tackle for a loss. In fact he was the only Raider with any sacks at all on the day. I think the NFL stat gurus need to do like the NBA does. They have a “per minute” stat and in the stats they always show how many minutes a player had. Whether it be points, rebounds, assists, etc. The NFL can call it an “Play Impact Ratio”. Find out who has the most impact per play. Trevor Scott would have an extremely high PIR. And next year I would think we will see a lot more of him.

Mario Henderson- What do you know. He started over Kwame Harris and he didn’t give up a single sack, have a single holding call, or a single false start. What does this guy have to do to get a start? He made my baller list a couple times when Harris was hurt earlier in the season and yet Harris got his job back when he got was healthy again. Let’s hope that Henderson has the job the rest of the way so we can get a more accurate barometer of his skill set. This team can’t draft two Tackles and they are too expensive in free agency so we need to know if Henderson can be the guy at either left or right tackle. He is certainly a better option than Harris.

Jonnie Lee Higgins- He had 3 catches for 66 yards but he earns his spot on this list for just one of those catches. He took a short slant pass 56 yards to the house. And 50 of those yards were YAC thanks in part to a great Zach Miller block and in part to pure speed. Those kind of big plays are what this offense is starving for.

Busters:

The ENTIRE Defense (But let’s break it down)-

There was not a single member of the defense that wasn’t victimized on Sunday. Every single one of them either gave up a TD, multiple big plays, or had big penalties to keep drives going. The Pats are good but they are not as good as the Raiders defense made them look on Sunday. Complete disgrace.

First Pats drive- Chris Johnson gave up TWO first down catches to Wes Welker and BOTH were on third down to keep the drive going. Then Kirk Morrison gave up a catch to Kevin Faulk and Stanford Routt was easily blocked as Faulk took it in for a touchdown.

Second Pats Drive- After a Lechler muffed punt to give the Pats the ball on the Raiders 35 yard line, it took them THREE plays to score. Sammy Morris ran right through where Tommy Kelly wasn’t, and right past where the linebackers weren’t and gained 15 yards. Then two plays later, Rashad Baker gave up a 20 yard touchdown to Randy Moss.

Third Pats Drive- Morris ran up the middle where Gerard Warren wasn’t, for another 14 yard gain. Then on third down, Nnamdi Asomugha gave up an 8 yard, first down catch to Faulk and on the very next play he is called for holding. Two plays later Aso gives up an 11 yard catch to Moss in which he was called for holding AGAIN but it was declined in favor of the Moss reception. Then Sammy Morris ran the ball up the middle, right past Tommy Kelly to go 29 yards for a touchdown with Morrison out of position and Routt and Johnson both missing tackles along the way.

Fourth Pats Drive- Gerard Warren missed a tackle that would have been for a loss on a Faulk catch that went for 6 yards. Derrick Burgess was called offsides on third and 2 which resulted in a first down. Baker and Johnson were lost on a Welker 31 yard catch and run. Then Thomas Howard and Jon Alston were bystanders for a 13 yard Welker touchdown.

Fifth Pats Drive- Ellis Hobbs 95 yard kickoff return touchdown. This came right after a 91 yard kickoff return TD by Justin Miller for the Raiders. So much for that.

So if you were keeping track you may have noticed that the Pats scored TOUCHDOWNS on their first FIVE STRAIGHT POSESSIONS. That should NEVER happen with any team EVER! And by half way through the second quarter, this game is already over.

Let’s review the busters on this list so far:

Nnamdi Asomugha

Chris Johnson

Kirk Morrison

Stanford Routt

Tommy Kelly

Rashad Baker

Derrick Burgess

Thomas Howard

Jon Alston

Gerard Warren

Jay Richardson- was blocked on a 23 yard Faulk run and also whiffed on Lamont Jordan 49 yard run to give up the final touchdown of the day.

Gibril Wilson- Had an interception off of a deflection in the first half but no one cares about that when you give up an easy touchdown to Randy Moss in the back of the end zone on third down.

Kalimba Edwards- Had only 2 tackles on the day and was routinely handled on the block on runs and screens to his side of the field.

 

JaMarcus Russell- He overthrew Curry to end the first drive with a three and out. Next posession he overthrew Schilens on one play and then the next play he fumbled the ball. Next posession he threw behind Schilens for another three and out. Two drives later he overthrew Schilens and then throws a terrible pass that Curry drops. Next drive after the Raiders get into scoring position, he under throws Schilens again resulting in an interception on the 1 yard line. The Raiders have two good pass plays in the first half. One was all thanks to Higgins YAC and the other is to a wide open Zach Miller. Then on the Raiders first posession of the second half, he has one of his patented phantom fumbles in which he goes back to pass and the ball falls out of his hand. Luckily it was recovered by the Raiders but it still ended the drive. He then has the one really good pass on the day which was a fade to Ronald Curry for a touchdown. But by then it was too late. After that he had a near interception and on a Wildcat pass from Michael Bush he had a Bad-News-Bears-esque bobbling dropped pass that just made me want another drink. His stat line looked good with 242 yards and 2 Tds but most of that was on screen passes to McFadden and that 50 yard run after the catch by Higgins. You take those away and he had 124 yards and one garbage time touchdown. Only the defense looked worse on the day.

Ballers:

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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