Raiders week 2: Ballers & Busters


What a difference a week makes. The Raiders go from a dominating defensive win over the Broncos in week one to a complete defensive collapse against the Bills just six days later. It wasn’t a game that was without defense by the Raiders, it was a game that started out well and collapsed after the first half.

I keep hearing people say how great that game was. “It was the game of the day” so many NFL analysts keep saying. But that just goes to show you how people don’t want to watch games with any defense. What I saw was a football game that more closely resembled an NBA All Star game—all scoring and no defense. And when is the last time anyone said that an NBA All Star game was a great game? Never that I can recall.

Here are you All Star game MVP’s and those who were posterized by coast to coast, uncontested Tomahawk dunks.

Ballers

Denarius Moore

Hard to say exactly that his performance in this game was a coming out party for Raider fans or those of us who were lucky enough to watch him in practice. He was making the kind of plays that had Hue saying “Mama, deh dat man again” ad nauseum. This game was Denarius’ coming out party to the rest of the football world. Now they all know what we had already become aware of—this boy’s good.

He was getting start due to the absence of Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford and he showed up big time. He led all receivers with 5 catches for 146 yards. He even had a run for 25 yards. He got the Raiders’ offense started with the first play of the second quarter. He had a jump ball that he wrestled away from the defender ala Jacoby Ford that went for 20 yards on third down. It was the longest play on a drive that resulted in the Raiders’ first touchdown.

Later in the second quarter Jason Campbell hit him along the sideline for a 42 yard gain. Two plays later the Raiders scored their third TD of the day to go into halftime up 21-3.

To start the Raiders’ first drive of the fourth quarter, he reached behind him with one hand to pull in a 10 yard pass on a slant that was behind him. Later in that same drive, the Raiders ran an end around double reverse that he took for 25 yards into the redzone. They scored a touchdown a few plays later.

And just when you thought he had shown us enough, he goes deep down the middle in double coverage to pull down an amazing 50 yard touchdown catch. It was probably the greatest catch by a Raider since Ronald Curry’s one handed catch in the snow in Denver so many years ago. It was the type of touchdown grab we had seen him pull down several times in training camp. And doing in this game put an exclamation point on his big day. Maybe DHB can take a bit more time to recover from his injury. No need to rush. Take your time.

Jason Campbell

He continues to show us just what he is capable of accomplishing with a little time in a system. This week his stats more closely depicted the kind of day he had. 23 of 33, 323 yard passing, 3 touchdowns (one rushing). His lone interception came on his hail mary attempt at the end of the game. He executed screen passes and play action to perfection. Those are the areas in which he has been known to excel. In this game he aired it out more and had great success in it. And while the same can’t be said for this entire Raider team, Campbell played a complete game.

Jared Veldheer, Stefen Wisniewski, Samson Satele

There have been several instances from the start of preseason to now that I have lauded the performances of these three. The left side of this Raiders line has been playing great football for a while. Gallery has departed and Wiz kid has replaced him and this trio has not missed a beat. While Veldheer has been keeping Campbell’s blindside protected, Wiz and Satele have been plowing away road blocks for Raider runners to shoot through. Veldheer also added some nice run blocks to his repertoire in this game.

On the first Raider scoring drive, Veldheer blocked for McFadden on two nice runs, the first block was with the Raiders in 4th and one. Wiz had a block on that drive as well. Then he and Satele both came off the line to block for McFadden on a 16 yard screen play two drives later. Satele would also block for Michael Bush to pick up 22 yards on a run that put the Raiders in first and goal at the one yard line. Campbell then snuck in behind them for a touchdown on the next play to go up 21-3. The rest of the day continued this way and none of them gave up so much as pressure on Campbell.

Stanford Routt

While the defense was crumbling around him, Routt was a bright spot. He didn’t give up a catch in the first quarter. He had one ball thrown at his receiver and he had tight coverage for an incompletion. He started off the second quarter with a nice interception to put the Raiders at the Bills’ 34 yard line where they would drive in for their second touchdown of the day. He would give up 3 catches in this game for a total of 31 yards and he made the tackle on all three of those catches.

Derek Hagan

Everyone seemed to be in an uproar over him being inactive for last week’s game. I saw the logic behind it from the Raider’s perspective at the time. They had six healthy receivers and Hagan is low man on the totem pole because Nick Miller returns kicks (well, sort of). But he showed in this game why so many people wanted to see him on the field over some perhaps less deserving starters. And with injuries to two of their ‘top’ receivers, Hagan would get his shot. After the Routt interception, Hagan had a 16 yard catch on the first play of the series. It was the longest play on the drive that ended in a touchdown and a 14-0 Raider lead. To begin the fourth quarter, he caught a 25 yard pass and two plays later, an 8 yard pass. The 25 yarder was the longest play of the drive that resulted in the Raiders’ fourth TD of the day to retake the lead. He finished the game with 5 catches for 61 yards.

Busters

Chris Johnson

This was quite possibly the worst game of Chris Johnson’s career. He gave up 7 catches for 86 yards in this game. He also had 3 penalties for 35 yards. Between in catches given up and penalties, he surrendered 9 first downs, including the 9 yard catch on fourth and 3 that would have given the Raiders the win. He gave up a 19 yard catch and an 8 yard first down catch on the Bills’ first scoring drive. He had a 17 yard pass interference penalty of the Bills’ second scoring drive. He was blocked on a 12 yard run and gave up a 9 yard catch on the Bills’ third scoring drive. He gave up a 13 yard catch and a 10 yard catch to put the Bills at first and goal at the one yard line on their fourth scoring drive which completed the comeback and gave them their first lead 24-21. He gave up an 18 yard catch and was called for holding on third and goal at the 8 yard line to keep the Bills fifth scoring drive alive. And on the Bills final, game winning drive he started with a pass interference penalty for 14 yards then gave up the aforementioned nine yard catch on fourth and three but even after all that, he had a chance to be the hero but couldn’t hold onto a sure interception in the endzone and the Bills were able to score the game winning touchdown a couple plays later. Truly epic fail. This team misses Nnamdi Asomugha badly.

Rolando McClain

Believe it or not, it was a difficult choice not to put McClain as top Buster for this game. McClain had more mistakes but they were just slightly less costly than Johnson’s. But make no mistake, this is was a close one for runner up Buster. Rolando never seemed like he had his heart in this game. Maybe it was the jet lag or something but he just didn’t really seem to be with it. Sometimes it looked like he simply didn’t care. This game started out for him much like his previous games. He would make a play and then give up a play. First half positives were a tackle for loss, run stuff tackle, and a pass defended. Negative was giving up 4 catches for 30 yards and missing 2 tackles on runs for 46 yards. He along with the rest of the Raider defense played a ‘bend but don’t break’ style of defense in the first half. In the second half, they broke big time.

The Bills got the ball first and on that drive, he was out of position on a 13 yard quarterback scramble. Next play he was blocked on a 7 yard run. Then the next play, he was trailing the run and simply gave up and started jogging before the back was even two steps away from him. The run went for 47 yards and a touchdown. That dogging it is unacceptable from the guy who is supposed to be the leader of this defense. You think you would ever see Ray Lewis or Clay Matthews dogging it like that? Hell no. But I digress.

He was out of position on the first play of the Bills’ next possession. And since they all resulted in touchdowns, I will not say “scoring drive” anymore. Next drive he was blocked on a 29 yard run and had an illegal contact penalty that negated a sack. Next drive he had a missed tackle on a 25 yard run. Next drive, which was the final drive of the game, he missed a tackle on a 9 yard run and gave up three catches including the game winning touchdown.

Chuck Bresnahan

McClain may be the quarterback of the defense, but Bresnahan is quite literally the architect of it. The Bills went into the lockeroom at halftime and found the Raiders’ weaknesses on defense. Those weaknesses were the coverage of Johnson and McClain mostly. And even after the Bills exploited those weaknesses two, three, and four times, there were no surprises in store. The only change was a switch from man coverage to zone. The switch in coverage was eerily similar to the dreaded prevent defense. And it yielded the same dreaded results. Well before Bills tight end David Nelson had racked up his 10 catches and touchdown on McClain, there should have been some help by the safeties. Most of all though, this defense was just out of synch. Bresnahan is known for being an intense guy but his defense showed an utter lack of intensity in this game. They were also predictable. In the second half it seemed like Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had found the Raiders’ defensive playbook laying in the tunnel on his way to the lockeroom. When the defensive line would try to rush the quarterback, they would run it and when they protected from the run, he would have all the time he needed to pick apart the secondary. It was reminiscent of the Patriots and Spygate. Exactly like that in fact. So unless there is some shady activities going on in Buffalo, Bresnahan has some explaining to do of his own.

Nick Miller

He is on this team for one reason and one reason only—as a kick returner. His play in that arena was not too good last week but with the injury to Jacoby Ford, Nick’s value actually went up. And in this game, his value took an economic downturn. He had the Raiders starting with a long field ahead of them every single time. Not once did he make it past the twenty yard line. He averaged the 15 yard line on four kickoffs. The last kickoff he fielded he slipped down and for some reason had a lot of difficulty getting up and made it to the 12 yard line. He had two punt returns in the game; one for six yards and the other for 12 yards. Not exactly the kind of play the Raiders need from their return man.

Matt Giordano

Even in limited action in this game, he still proved to be a liability. He missed a tackle that resulted in a 34 yard run in the first quarter, missed a tackle on a 43 yard touchdown run and missed a tackle on an 18 yard catch in the third quarter, was blocked on an 11 yard run out of the wildcat, and gave up an 18 yard catch in the fourth quarter. So after a good opening game of the season, we begin to see why he was waived in the first place.

Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston

Richard Seymour was clearly still ailing from the injury he suffered last week. I am not using that as an excuse as to why he is not a Buster. Seymour was able to make a few nice plays in this game. I am mentioning his injury because without Seymour at his best, he was unable to make up for the poor performances by his line mates. Both Kelly and Houston each had just one solo tackle in this game. The Bills offense was opening gaping holes in the Raider defensive line on runs and Fitzpatrick had all day to throw on passing downs. Neither Kelly or Houston offered any real pressure on the quarterback and the Bills racked up 217 yards on the ground due in part to the running start the backs had once they reached the line of scrimmage.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 2: Ballers & Busters

Sep 19, 2010; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (5) gestures during the game against the St. Louis Rams at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Rams 16-14. Photo via Newscom

The Raiders met up with the struggling Rams in week 2. But regardless of how bad the Rams are supposed to be, the Raiders still have plenty of issues of their own to work out. Not the least of those worries is how the offensive line will perform.

The offense struggled mightily last week against the Titans and therefore the entire offense stalled. The defensive line had it’s issues as well although, those problems look much less dire and far more fixable.

This game seemed to be a season in microchosm as there were several changes as different positions along the offensive line during the game as well as the quarterback position. The Raiders looked like an entirely different team in the second half than the first. The offense in the first half couldn’t do anything and the defense couldn’t stop anything. But something happened in the lockerroon during halftime and the Raiders suddenly began playing inspired football.

Rams running back Stephen Jackson had 112 yards of offense in the first half. In the second half, he had a total of just 13 total yards. The Raider offense was outgained in the first half. But their second half was so tremendous that they finished with over 400 yards of offense– their best since 2005. They also gave up just over 200 yards of total offense which is their best showing since early 2008.

Coach Cable appears to have chosen the Rams game to experiment and see what works on this team and what doesn’t. And a lot of good answers came from those experiments.

And since outlining which players did the job and which ones didn’t, is what Ballers & Busters is all about, here is how it turned out:

Ballers

Bruce Gradkowski

That inspired football we saw out of the Raiders can be directly attributed to the shot of adrenaline that was introduced when Bruce trotted onto the field. At half time, the Raiders were behind in every category. They were down 3 minutes in time of possession, 2 less first downs, with just 8 completions for 87 yards. And on five possession, they scored on just one (a field goal) to go into the lockerroom down 7-3. But that would all change instantaneously with Gradkowski on the field. The Raiders would scrore on their first two possessions of the second half and three of the first four as Bruce Almighty methodically moved the Raiders down the field. After those four drives, the Raiders would take the lead 16-7. That would be all the points the Raiders needed. Gradkowski finished with 11 completions for 162 yards and a touchdown. He had an interception but it was on a pass that was tipped at the line. The Raiders would finish with 9 more first downs and over 13 minutes more in time of possession. That is not a coinicidence. This win can be directly attributed to Gradkowski’s efficient running of this Raider offense and his quick decision making.

Darren McFadden

Ok, who is this guy and what has he done with Darren McFadden? Whoever it is, he is amazing. He runs behind his pads, shoots through creases in the line, and plows through defenders for extra yardage. He had 95 yards rushing last week and that was impressive enough. This week, he outdid that effort to finish with 145 yards rushing. It was the first time he went over 100 yards since his second game as a rookie. He also had his longest run from scrimmage when he broke off a 30 yarder in the third quarter that ended on the 4 yard line and set up the Raiders only touchdown of the day. Before he had even made it past the line of scrimmage, it was a great run. He made possibly the best cutback I have ever seen from him as he started left just enough to get the defense to commit, then saw his hole and avoided a would-be tackler, and shot through the line and was 20 yards down field in an instant.

As amazing as his footwork is these days, it is the way he finishes his runs that is by far the most impressive and surprising. He is spinning off defenders, stiff arming, and carrying defenders like I have never seen him do before. He said he worked out out at the Michael Johnson camp this offseason which is great, but Michael Johnson was a sprinter. He didn’t teach McFadden to mow over defenders like this. But, hey, whatever it is DMac has been doing, he should keep doing it.

Louis Murphy

Murphy was a big play machine in this game. So what’s new right? He has been the Raider big play receiver since his first game as a rookie. And when he and Gradkowski get on the field together, they are like a well oiled machine. Murphy had 6 catches in this game for 91 yards and a the Raiders only touchdown. The touchdown catch was his shortest of the day (5 yards) and on his other five catches he averaged over 18 yards a catch.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

I don’t really know how to best quantify this being the best game of his career. Simply because, by comparison to every other game he has played in, this is more like the ONLY game of his career. We are talking about a guy who had 9 catches and 6 drops last season. He had one catch last week to finally break into double figures. Only took him 12 games as a STARTER to do it. Then he goes out in this game and catches 6 passes for 80 yards. Even with all the hype coming from coach Cable about how well he was preparing in preseason, I still didn’t see this coming. And anyone who says they did, is either lying or fooling themself. Welcome to the NFL DHB.

Kamerion Wimbley

Two games in the season, two sacks. Being on pace for 16 sacks is a pretty good pace. His sack came on the third play of the game. Then he spent the rest of the game racking up run stuffs and QB pressures. One tackle for no gain, one tackle for a loss, and one hit on Sam Bradford as he threw for an incompletion on 3rd down. He ended the day tied for the team lead in tackles with 4 solo tackles and an assist to go with his sack.

Tommy Kelly

The Raiders run defense may have started out giving up large chunks to Stephen Jackson, but Tommy Kelly was still having a good game. He was credited with 3 solo tackles but I credit him for at least two more because he shut the gap down causing the runner to be stuffed at or near the line. He had a good first half and the rest of the defense came up to his level in the second half. That weight he took off is proving to be a really good thing for him. Which seems odd considering how much people were screaming for a big nose tackle type on this team. Kelly is playing in that spot now and playing probably better than he has in a couple years.

Nnamdi Asomugha

Gotta give Nnamdi some love here. He simply shut down his side of the field as usual. He was seen twice in this game. Once when the Rams tried to run a pick on him knowing that was their only hope to get a catch on his side. The Rams were called for the penalty and Nnamdi gets the credit for the 15 yards they were marched back. The other time was when he took out Stephen Jackson in the open field to stop a screen attempt for short yardage. He hurt himself on the play but was back in the game shortly thereafter. On a side note: Meanwhile Darrelle Revis was getting burnt by Randy Moss for a touchdown and is out for at least a game with a hamstring problem.

Busters

Jason Campbell

Just like last game, Campbell was having all kinds of issues trying to run the Raider offense. Yet again, he had little or no time to throw and he was running scared. And if Campbell had been the only quarterback to play behind that line in this game, all the blame could easily have fallen on the line in the court of public opinion. However, he was not the only quarterback to play for the Raiders. And when the Raiders put in Gradkowski it became painfully obvious, that Campbell was not only part of the problem, but perhaps the greater portion of the problem.

Not to say that Campbell couldn’t play well with a decent line in front of him. But he clearly cannot play well with the lack of protection this line is offering. He completed just 8 passes for 87 yards and an interception in this game for a QB rating of 47. Those first half stats I mentioned, were due in large part to his ineffective play. He should definitely be relegated to second string until either Gradkowski either gets injured or actually does something to lose the job.

Jared Veldheer, Mario Henderson

Henderson barely played in the game and still managed to give up a hit on Campbell that forced a fumble. Luckily Campbell was able to pick it back up and pick up a couple yards on the scramble.

Veldheer was the main culprit of the two of them. But that was mostly due to the fact that he played more of this game than Henderson did. They were both pretty bad. Veldheer was the first big experiment Cable tried out. He had him at center last week in an epic disaster. This week, after Henderson struggled at left tackle last week, Cable decided to try Veldheer back at the position for which he was drafted (what a concept). He looked terrible as expected really because even though it is his natural position, he hasn’t been playing it all camp and preseason. It is hard enough to catch up to the speed of the NFL without getting thrown out there without a single shred of experience at the NFL level. Hell, Veldheer has only faced even top level college talent once in his life when he played in the Texas vs the world game his senior year.

He seems to make his mistakes in bunches too. His first two mistakes came on the same play just like last week. This time, he gave up a QB pressure on Campbell AND was called for holding. It is really bad when you hold a guy and STILL give up pressure on the quarterback. The very next Raider possession ended when he gave up a strip sack. He and the Raiders are lucky he saw the ball come out and fell on it to keep the Raiders in field goal range. Then near the end of the game, he had a false start on third down that put the Raiders in third and long. The ball was tipped and intercepted on the ensuing long pass attempt. He didn’t lose the game for the Raiders with his mistakes so hopefully he will learn the easy way and be the better for it from here on out.

Tyvon Branch

He had the worst game of his career last week as far as I saw it. I wouldn’t put this game in that realm mainly because he had a few nice plays. But he was the main in coverage to give up both of the Rams touchdowns in the game. Or at least he was supposed to be in coverage. Instead he was just nearby and/or trailing on the play as the receiver pulled down the TD. The second TD came right after he had given up the catch for the first down.

Daniel Loper

Loper was playing in place of the injured Robert Gallery. He seemed to make his mistakes whenever the Raiders were knocking on the door. His first transgression came when the Raiders apparently forgot he wasn’t Gallery and tried to run behind left guard on 3rd and one. The result was a tackle for loss which then led to Janikowski missing a 46 yard field goal attempt. A few drives later he gave up a QB pressure that caused an incompletion. The next play was third and long in which Jason Campbell was strip sacked. This time Janikowski would hit the 38 yard field goal. The first play of the next drive, he screwed up the screen play attempt and it fell incomplete. And again, oddly, the next play was a strip sack. He finished the game by giving up a run stuff on the first play of the critical final drive.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 2: Ballers & Busters

Huff and Asomugha shut down the Chiefs
Just a week after playing a great game, only to come out on the losing end, the Raiders play a mostly terrible game only to come out winners. The Raiders blew the game at home against San Diego last week only to come from behind to win the game on the road in Kansas City. The NFL can be a crazy bitch. Either way, the Raiders are 1-1 after the first two weeks just as most people expected. It isn’t the 2-0 that Raider fans had hoped and probably deserved but, as my mom always said, “it’s better than a kick in the pants”.

And after the game the Raiders played on Sunday, the team is probably feeling pretty releived not to be 0-2. Starting the season 0-2 against division rivals would be a difficult hole to dig out of. Now, while this team counts it’s blessings after pulling out a tough win, it will be short lived as they prepare for their third straight division opponent in the Broncos next week. So there is little or no time to celebrate because the grind stone awaits.

But with that said, let’s take one last look at those players that made this win happen and those who nearly pulled the rug out from under them.

Ballers

Michael Huff

Ok, I am officially worried. Someone needs to notify the proper authorities right now! Who is this guy in the #24 jersey and what has he done with Michael Huff?! Put out an Amber Alert, Dredge Lake Merrit or Lake Berryessa or the Delta or something because his family will need closure. On the other hand, whoever that dude is that was ball hawking the field in Kansas City on Sunday is damn good. And it must have been the same guy in Oakland last Monday against the Chargers so that should help the police with a time frame for Huff’s disappearance. This guy trouncing around posing as Michael Huff has THREE interceptions in the last two games when the real/old Michael Huff had ONE in his entire career prior to this season. Huff was a Baller last week with his interception and fumble recovery (along with his great coverage) and this week he tops the list. In part because of the two interceptions, but that was only a fraction of his day. His first nice play was a tackle on third down to stop the Chiefs short of a first down to hold them to a field goal. He had a pass defended just prior to half time on a drive that ended without the Chiefs scoring. Then the first drive of the second half, he ended with his first interception. Two drives later he ended with his second interception. And then he ended the game by hitting the Chiefs receiver as he got the ball to knock it down on fourth down. That is three drives that he stopped the Chiefs from scoring any points and two more that he held them to a field goal. What an unbelievable day for him. And a complete transformation from Bust(er) to Baller and looking like a Pro Bowler. For the record, I said many times that Huff would come into his own after a year making the transition back to free safety. But no one could have seen this coming.

Nnamdi Asomugha

This guy is pretty good too. Chipped bone and all. His instincts and footbll IQ are so truly brilliant that it just boggles my mind. How does he so flawlessly execute almost every facet of the game the way he does? I just get goose bumps thinking of his on-field prowess. He played this game in tremendous pain. He was replaced by John Bowie late in the game and taken into the lockeroom to receive pain medication. But when the Raiders needed him the most, in the Chiefs last gasp final drive, Nnamdi went back in to shut down his half the field. He had arguably the biggest play of the first half when he came up to tackle the KC receiver for a short gain IN-BOUNDS to keep the clock moving and send the Chiefs into half time without scoring. That 3 points was the final margin of victory. He had two great tackles on the Chiefs second drive of the third quarter. The first was a run stuff for no gain and the other was a solid open field tackle on a short catch with the Chiefs at third and 18. The next drive he sniffed out a run play to his side and he brushed off the blocker to tackle the running back for a loss. That set up a long yardage situation that resulted in the second Huff interception. Oh yeah, and he didn’t give up a single catch all day. That is pretty important too.

Kirk Morrison

Just his tackle numbers jump out at you considering he had 13 on the day. And while a few were on receptions he possibly should have prevented, he had quite a few more that were much more vital to the success of this team on Sunday. Six of his tackles were either run stuffs for short gain or short gains on screens or check downs. On the Chiefs second to last drive, he hit Matt Cassel so hard on a QB scramble, it left Cassel whincing in pain in the huddle afterward. Those kinds of hits tend to send messages that make a guy a bit more tentative and nervous when considering leaving the pocket again. Usually referred to as “happy feet”.

Shane Lechler

He had a game like any other punter last week but he rose to Lechler standards this week against the Chiefs. One would usually only see punts like that in Denver. But Shane is not your “usual” punter. He is the best in the game. He displayed that on Sunday with punts of 66, 70, 53, and 59 yards. And none of his punts were returned for many yards. Most of them had the return man backpeddling much further than he had expected or was comfortable with.

Thomas Howard

Howard is one of those guys that has great speed and knows how to use it. Sure every now and then he overruns a play and misses the tackle, but rarely are those mistakes too costly. And it is worth it because he makes the big play much more often. In the Chiefs second drive of the game he had a run stuff and two plays later he read a screen perfectly and tackles the running back six yards in the backfield. On the next Chiefs posession he shot between lineman and into the backfield to tackle the back for another six yard loss. This set up a third and long that the Chiefs were unable to convert. On the next Chief posession, he had tight coverage on an incompletion and then ended the drive three plays later when he teamed up on third down to stop the KC receiver short of the first down marker.

Sebastian Janikowski

How much do I need to say, really? He converted on both of his field goal attempts. One was from 48 yards out and the other was a hefty (no pun intended) 54 yards. Both kicks were no doubters that hit the net in the back of the end zone. He also sent every one of his kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback. No problem.

Greg Ellis

He wasn’t quite flying all over the place in the game but he had two sacks and both of them were drive killers for the Chiefs. Both were also late in the game when one might think he would be wearing down. The first sack was in the fourth quarter that forced a punt with the Chiefs in borderline field goal position. That was before he removed any mystery with the sack. The second sack was on the final Chiefs possession, third and ONE. It set up fourth and 4 and a passing situation. The pass fell incomplete and the Raiders took over on downs to end the game. Sacks are always a big deal but that last one was HUGE. That makes 3 sacks for Ellis already in just two games with the Raiders.

Busters

JaMarcus Russell

As critical as I was of JaMarcus Russell last week, he was considerably worse in this game. He began the game 0-5 in completions. He went into half time having gone 3-12 for 42 yards. Then he didn’t have a single completion in the second half until the final drive. Sure, that was the most important time to do it but where was that the rest of the game? He was again wildly inaccurate. There were so many badly thrown balls that I am not even going to bother going through them all. This included missing a wide open Zach Miller at one point and a wide open Louis Murphy on plays that both would have resulted in touchdowns. He couldn’t even execute a screen most of the time. On three screens in particular, he overthrew McFadden, threw one too softly that was batted down, and threw one too low that was also batted down. How much more vanilla does this offensive play calling have to be to stoop to his level? He finished the game going 7-24 for 109 yards. After 35% completion last week, he is below 30% this week. I just have two questions:

1. Is there a NFL equivelant of the MLB “Mendoza line”?

2. How close is Russell to being given the Vince Young/Matt Leinert treatment?

Stanford Routt

Seriously, what is he doing out there? When he isn’t being completely burnt for catches and touchdowns, he is seen near the receiver making half hearted attempts at defending. On the Chiefs second drive, he gave up a 16 yard catch on third down, and then later gave up an 8 yard catch that would have gone for much more had Huff not been there to clean up. The drive ended in a field goal for the first score by either team. He was later seen giving up first down catches on two occasions and then a 29 yard touchdown to Dwayne Bowe. He seemed to have good coverage on the TD catch but he didn’t get in tight and make a play on the ball. He just waved his arms around like he was trying to distract Bowe from making the catch or something. Obviously it didn’t work and the Chiefs took the lead in the fourth quarter and it appeared at that point that the Raider may be in for another long week of wondering what happened. Luckily his teammates saved his ass from being the goat in this one. Speaking of which, does Cable still have Chris McAlister’s number laying around? That could come in handy.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 2: Ballers & Busters

While it was hard to tell whether the Raiders were better or the Chiefs were simply worse, the Raiders did play as they should have. As the analyists like to say “They beat the team they were supposed to beat”. And the experts are just going to say that this win was because the Chiefs are bad as opposed to giving the Raiders any credit but the important thing is that the Raiders didn’t lose. Nothing else really matters at this point. This means there is still hope to live another day. If the Raiders had lost, it would be catastrophic. The Chiefs had a terrible team before they put in the previously released, 7th round pick out of Coastal Carolina at quarterback playing in his first NFL game. Quite frankly, I was disappointed that the Raiders gave up a TD and a 2 point conversion at the end of the game. Well now that we have set the scene, here are this weeks Ballers and Buster:

Ballers:

Thomas Howard

He was all over the place on every play. He was the Kansas City Visa: “Everywhere you want to be”. He started out the game with great coverage on a long pass to RB Jamaal Charles that if the ball weren’t so under thrown, he could have intercepted it. Then the next time you saw him he was in the KC backfield stopping LJ for a loss. Two plays later he timed the snap and burst through the line to get a sack. Just before the half he swatted the ball out of LJ’s hands, causing him to fumble. In the 2nd half, it was more of the same from Howard. He swatted the ball away from a receiver, combined on a sack for a 10 yd loss, and drilled the KC RB on a short dump off pass for no gain.

Gerrard Warren

He played the way everyone expected him to play against Denver. He was pushing the KC olinemen into their own backfield all day and collapsing the running lanes they were trying to open up. Early in the game he put pressure on the QB and deflected his pass at the line. Later he combined to tackle LJ for a loss. Then tackled LJ again for no gain. Just before the half he was in the backfield for another QB pressure and combined to tackle LJ again for no gain. In the 2nd half, the Raiders played Terdell Sands a bit more to keep Warren from getting worn out but when he was in, he still kept the holes filled and made life miserable for the Chiefs Oline. Which was evident by the fact he still combined on two sacks and a tackle at the line.

The Entire Oline

Bravo fellas. The Oline was pushing the Chiefs Dline around all day. Opening up huge holes for Fargas and McFadden to run through. They seemed a little rusty to start the game in pass protection but gave up no sacks. This was despite Mario Henderson starting (he did an admirable job). The interior lineman were especially good. Gallery and Grove were manhandling the Chiefs Dts. McFadden’s big 51 yd run came right through a Gallery block (along with a great block by Miller) and quite a few other good runs went right through Cooper Carlisle’s blocks. Cornell Green didn’t give up any whiffs or have any bonehead plays either. Great work guys.

Kirk Morrison

You didn’t see him much in the first half. He quietly held down the middle of the field discouraging passes near him and tackling anyone who made it past the line. He seemed to have earned his keep in the first half and was set loose in the second half to wreak havoc on the Chiefs. On the Chiefs 2nd drive of the second half, he nearly single handedly made them go three and out. He sacked the QB and forced a fumble (luckily for the Chiefs, it went out of bounds) and then two plays later he tackled the RB for a minimal gain forcing the Chiefs to punt. He defended a pass in the end zone just before the Chiefs finally scored their first TD of the day. Then after Michael Bush fumbled the ball away to give the Chiefs another shot at the end zone which could have tied the game up, he had the game sealing interception.
Sebastian Janikowski- He set a new career high and a Raider record 56 yard field goal as well as nailing two other no-doubt field goals and kicking a touchback on all but one of his kickoffs.

Honorable Mention:

Lane Kiffin

Last week I asked Lane a few questions. First was: Why, when you have the ball on the Chiefs 38 yard line, would you punt instead of either go for it or try for a field goal? Well this week the Raiders were oddly enough, right on the 38 yard line again. And he sent Seabass out there to nail a field goal. Thanks for listening Lane. The next question was: Why did we not see Michael Bush especially in short yardage situations? Well we saw quite a bit of Bush in this game (there is a great joke there that I know all of you dirty little monkeys are thinking right now). Granted it was mainly because Fargas went out with a groin injury (God help us) but none the less Bush was out there to be had and we got some. You might even say we got lucky. Even though he had a maddeningly untimely fumble, he ended the game with a nice 32 yd romp into the end zone. See what happens when you listen to me Kiff? Good things.

Darren McFadden

He would be near the top of the Ballers except for the fact that he tainted his great runs by fumbling TWICE. One of those fumbles was a lost fumble when the Raiders were in scoring position and the other one luckily went out of bounds. His game was like his college career: Lots of yards and fumbles. His runs were fantastic and very few RB would have taken that 19 yarder around the outside and scored the way he did. But I give equal credit for his long runs to the Oline. They were opening up holes for Fargas the entire first half before McFadden took over and they opened up holes for Michael Bush after that. Dmac makes honorable mention because we could not have won this game without him. He needs to work on the fumbling problem or we will no doubt lose some games because of him too.

Rob Ryan

Last week everyone was wondering where the fierceness had gone from his schemes. There was no blitzing and he had the corners and safeties playing so far off in zone that the Broncos had a good 15 yards off the line to drop short passes to their receivers all day. This week, much like Kiffin, he listened. We saw a guy blitzing on nearly every play. Whether it be Gibril Wilson, Thomas Howard, or Kirk Morrison. He also had DeAngelo Hall playing a lot more man coverage and Huff was flying around like I have never seen him before. Nice adjustment. Now let’s see if you can duplicate it against a team that is not completely inept on offense.

Busters:

JaMarcus Russell

6 completions for 55 yards (only one was a drop by the receiver). Not much more needs to be said for him to make this list. But I will go further anyway. He looked terrible. His first trip to the redzone he evaded pressure and stepped up in the pocket as he should but then he had a wide open Ronald Curry staring at him on a crossing pattern and passed him up to pass to Lelie in coverage which of course was incomplete. He was way off target with nearly every throw he made. Usually he was behind the receiver which is a recipe for an INT. But he was also throwing ahead of them and over their heads. He didn’t even run well. The most intelligent play he had all day was when he threw the ball away instead of taking a sack. I shudder to think what he will look like next week against the Bills who actually HAVE a defense.

Ronald Curry

He didn’t have a single catch all day. Which usually means that he couldn’t get open most of the time. A veteran like him should be getting open much more often. He was thrown to twice. One was a bad pass that was thrown way ahead of him but the other was put right in his hands and he couldn’t handle it. He dropped a couple of passes last week too. I think that makes 1 pass caught in two games. Not what we expected from the guy who is supposed to be the Raiders most reliable receiver. Oddly enough Lelie is looking much more reliable.

Wrap up:

It is nice to see that the tables are turned in the two categories between this week and last week. There were only two Ballers last week and only two Busters this week. As I said before, it is hard to tell whether the Raiders good play was more about the Chiefs being so bad but the Raiders did score more points on them than the Patriots did last week and also gave up fewer points so that is saying something. It should also be more clear to Ryan how the defense functions best. Attack, attack, attack! The tables are also turned between the offense and defense. Yet again, that could be more a product of how bad the Broncos defense is as evidence by how easily the Chargers were driving on them. It will be a few more games before this team gets a more accurate judge of it’s strengths and weaknesses. But it is very clear that both offense and defense need a lot of work. For now we can breathe a sigh of relief that the Raiders didn’t lose to the lowly Chiefs. If that were to happen I am not sure any more judgement would have been necessary. So I think I speak for all of us when I say: WHEW!

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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