Raiders week 5: Ballers & Busters

Saturday the Raiders and the rest of the sports world was shocked by the news of the passing of Al Davis. Hue Jackson and his players would have to go out the next day in a foreign stadium and honor the legacy of one of the greatest visionaries in sports history. And honor him they did with a 25-20 win over a tough Houston Texans team.

It didn’t start out well, though. The Raiders came out in the first half looking defeated. On the first three drives the Raiders managed a total of six yards of offense. They also didn’t manage a single first down until the final possession before halftime.

But even without moving the ball on offense, they still managed to get six points and on that final drive before halftime, put up their first touchdown to head into the locker room down just 12-14.

This was a different team in the second half. They scored on two of their first three possessions to take a 22-17 lead, all while the defense held the Texan offense down to allow the Raiders to keep the lead.

This team is full of Al Davis draft picks and acquisitions. Here are those who made him proud and those who have some explaining to do.

Ballers

Sebastian Janikowski

The most controversial of all Al Davis’ draft picks over the years, Janikowski iis the only kicker in the modern era to be chosen in the first round. Even some of the better NFL kickers are late round selections. But Al wanted the Raiders to have the greatest kicker to ever come out of college so he went and got him. Janikowski indeed made Al proud in this game. The Raiders had 25 points on the day and he had most of them. Even while the Raiders were without a first down early in the game, they were still in the game thanks to two huge field goals of 54 and 55 yards from Janikowski. He would connect on four field goals including another from 50 yards out. His three field goals of 50 yards plus in one game would tie an NFL record.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

I never thought I would say it but DHB has been the Raiders’ most reliable receiver. He came out in this game and posted a career high seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Five of the Raiders’ six yards on their first three drives came on his catch on the first play of the game. Then their first first down came on an 18 yard catch by DHB. Two plays later he had another 18 yard catch. Then he finished it off with a catch and run of 34 yards for a touchdown. On that 34 yard catch, he caught the ball at four yards out, broke a tackle, and sprinted 30 yards to the endzone. That was three catches for 70 yards and a touchdown on that drive alone to bring the Raiders to 12-14 heading into halftime. Heyward-Bey also showed off his blocking skills in this game. On the Raiders’ final touchdown drive, he blocked his man to allow Darren McFadden to pick up a 20 yard run which put the Raiders at the Texans’ 20 yard line. Then he blocked his man clear out the back of the endzone to allow Chaz Schilens room to take a crossing pattern for a 19 yard touchdown. If you were keeping track, that is two touchdown drives courtesy of DHB—one receiving, one blocking. Nice work.

Richard Seymour

After coming out last week and playing reckless, undisciplined football against his former team, he set out to channel that rage into productivity. Right off the top, he led all Raider defensive linemen in tackles with 4-1. His first tackle he teamed up with Desmond Bryant for a tackle for loss. A bit later in the first half he pressured Matt Schaub into an incompletion. On the next drive he had a solo run stuffing tackle for a short gain. Then to finish off the first half, he pressured Schaub into an incompletion and on the next play, he sacked Schaub with one arm to end the Texans’ chances of scoring before halftime.

After half, Seymour seemed to get even better. On the Texans’ second possession he had a tipped ball at the line and a tackle for no gain on a run. That drive would end with the Texans missing on a 41 yard field goal (Neil Rackers is no Janikowski). He finished off the Texans’ next drive with another run stuff tackle. A few drives later he had another tipped ball at the line that fell incomplete. Then on the next drive, on third down, he had his second sack of the day.

The Rest of the Defensive Line

I had to single out Seymour for his outstanding performance but the entire Raider defensive line deserves a lot of credit for this win, including Kamerion Wimbley even though he is technically a linebacker. They were instrumental in holding the Texans to a total of 70 yards rushing. Arian Foster was held to 68 yards on the ground on 22 carries which is phenomenal. That is an average of three yards per carry. This group also terrorized Matt Schaub all day long. They were led by Seymour but Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, and Wimbley all had great games with solid contributions from Desmond Bryant, Jarvis Moss, and John Henderson.

Several critical plays were made by this group. The first was John Henderson tipping the ball at the line where Lamarr Houston intercepted it and returned it to the Texans’ 35 yard line. That set up the Raiders’ score on a Janikowski field goal. Later Tommy Kelly had a run stuffing tackle for no gain on a third and two to force a punt. Wimbley ended the first possession of the second half when he pressured Schaub into an incompletion on third and ten. Moss ended the Texans’ next drive when on third and four he stuffed a run for a two yard gain. Kelly was back to work on the next series with a run stuff on first down and a sack on second down to help force a three and out. A couple possessions later, Bryant blew into the backfield to take down Foster for a loss of four yards.

On the final Texans possession, Kelly looked to have his second sack of the day but the Raiders were called for 12 men on the field so it was wiped away. Funny thing was that Kelly got his sack despite the offensive lineman yanking on his facemask and the Texans would be marched back 15 yards anyway. That turned out to be the last drive of the game and the Raiders came away with the win.

This was an overall dominant performance for a group that has caught a lot of flack due to the Raiders having one of the worst rushing yards per game average. This performance should help that image considerably.

Al Davis

Yeah, this probably seems like a tribute Baller and that may be partially true. Al Davis has long been the guy at whom we are quick to point the finger when Raider personnel decisions go wrong. But it is important to recognize when things go right. Lately they have gone right. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sebastian Janikowski have been two of the most criticized draft picks in Raider history — and both came up big time in this game for the guy who took a chance on them as first round picks. Trading for Richard Seymour was also a great decision. But the players he put on the field aside, these players were playing to make Davis proud. His passing provided a spark to these guys. Much like Brett Favre’s performance a few years back after his father had died, they went all out for the father of their franchise, Al Davis. It was important to all of them that they honor the memory of the man who made the Raiders what they are today and gave this team the personality it has had for nearly five decades. Winning for him made this victory that much more emotional. These players did NOT want to lose the first game after his passing and they left it all on the field to ensure that did not happen. So here’s to you, Al Davis. A small token for all you have done for the Raiders and the NFL, but thank you.
 

Honorable Mention

Bruce Davis Jr, Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch

Neither of them did much in this game. But when the Raiders needed a big play, they made one. Davis shot into the backfield to block a punt in the first half which put the Raiders immediately in field goal range. It helped the Raiders stay within a score in the first half.

Huff had an overall bad game but at the end of the game with the Texans threatening to tie the game up, he had a huge interception. That interception was set up by the pressure put on by Branch. He redeemed himself for his missed interception in the endzone last week by shadowing Matt Schaub and ensuring Schaub didn’t play the hero. Branch’s pressure kept Schaub from attempting to run for a touchdown and made it a more difficult throw. The result was the game sealing interception.

Busters

Quentin Groves

Groves seemed out of sorts through much of this game. The Texans seemed to be picking on him and it paid off. On their first drive, he was blocked to allow a 20 yard run which was the longest run of the day and the drive resulted in a touchdown to open the game. Later in the first half he gave up a 28 yard catch on first down. Then on the Texans’ second possession of the second half, he whiffed on a tackle attempt that allowed Arian Foster to take a screen pass for 60 yards. His next mishap was his most shameful, on the final drive by the Texans as they attempted to tie the game. The Raiders were switching out personnel and Groves was going out of the game. But he jogged off the field instead of sprinting and didn’t get off the field before the snap. The Raiders were called for 12 men on the field, which wiped out a Tommy Kelly sack and gave the Texans a first down instead. In camp, Hue Jackson always insisted everyone run from one place to the next, especially situations like that. Groves’ lack of urgency nearly cost the Raiders big time. That on top of the three big plays that went through him that helped bloat Schaub’s passing numbers and keep the Texans in the game.

Jason Campbell

He had just enough decent plays to keep the Raiders afloat. But overall, he was just plain bad. He seemed to be rattled and out of rhythm the whole game—even after Mario Williams left with injury. Campbell had his chances early too. He overthrew a wide open Chaz Schilens on the Raiders’ second drive that looked to be a sure touchdown. Then on the next play, he had to call a time out because the clock was running down. The next drive ended with a pass into the turf incomplete. Next drive ended when the Raiders were lined up in third and 12 and he checked down for a four yard completion. Good thing Janikowski has a strong leg. The very next possession, Campbell overthrew Jacoby Ford and it was picked off. Next possession he held the ball too long, resulting in a sack. So, to review, that’s five drives ending on Campbell mistakes—overthrew wide open TD, pass into the turf, short check down on third and long, interception on overthrow, and held ball sack.

He had one good drive to end the first half to keep the Raiders close. But then after halftime, he was back to bad football. He overthrew his receiver on third and five to end the first series with a three and out. Then the next drive ended with two straight wide, off-target passes. The Raiders were able to put together a touchdown drive thanks in large part to three big runs by McFadden and finished off by a touchdown pass from Campbell to Schilens. Then it was back to ugly play by Campbell. On the next drive, Hue Jackson called for a fake punt that Cartwright ran for 33 yards. After that Campbell had a near interception that would have been taken back for an easy touchdown if it hadn’t been dropped. Then before the next play, he had to take another timeout. It was the Raiders’ last timeout so they would have to go nearly the entire fourth quarter without a timeout at their disposal. After the timeout, he threw another low pass that fell incomplete to end the drive.

After a long drive by the Texans that resulted in a field goal, the Raiders would get the ball back with 2:56 on the clock. They were up by five points and needed to burn clock. So what does Campbell do? He throws a long incompletion to stop the clock, of course. The drive resulted in a loss of three yards as well so the Texans would get the ball back in good field position at their own 37 yard line with 2:00 on the clock with which to work. The short field and ample time was very nearly enough for them to tie this game. Campbell finished completing 42% of his passes (15/35) for 190 yards, two TDs, and one interception.

Khalif Barnes

Last week he joined the rest of the offensive line in praise for their solid performance. Now we are back to the same old Khalif. On the Raiders’ second drive he couldn’t hold his block which allowed McFadden to get stuffed at the line to start a second three and out. He began the next series by giving up a sack. A few possessions later, he could keep his block again and it allowed Jacoby Ford to be tackled for a loss on an end around. Next possession his man got in the backfield to pressure Jason Campbell and force an incompletion to end the drive with yet another three and out. Later he would have a false start on an extra point try.  He is a big reason McFadden had just 12 yards in the first half and the Raiders didn’t have a first down until the end of the first half.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 5: Ballers & Busters

The best game for the Raiders was punting
As most of you are well aware of at this point, to witness the incident in New York (or rather New Jersey but whatever) last Sunday was to witness complete destruction. And the meadowlands was ground zero. Yeah, the Raiders showed up. But If they hadn’t, it sure would have been less embarrassing.

Each week we say “How could it get any worse” and each week we find ourselves saying “Oh, that’s how.”

There was a question before the game about how much Eli Manning was going to play with his plantar fascitis in his heel. The general consensus being that he would play as long as the Giants needed him. I would guess the Giants were thinking they would play him in the first half at least and then re-evaluate the situation. But a few minutes into the second quarter, they didn’t need to see any more from him. Afterall, the Giants had four straight drives go for a touchdown to go along with five straight three and outs by the Raiders. The game was already over before the Raiders had their very first first down which came a few minutes before halftime.

New York replaced Eli Manning with David Carr with Giants up 28-7. Still the Giants added another 16 points under Carr while the Raiders couldn’t get out of their own way to score again the rest of the game. The final score was 44-7.

Well, now that the shock has worn off a little bit, we can get down to the business of breaking down some of the individual performances by the Raiders on Sunday.

Ballers

Shane Lechler

He is hands down the best punter in the NFL. The Raiders haven’t been able to make much use of his great punts of late but he keeps trying. He certainly has enough practice in games to get it right. He had seven punts in this game. He would have had more but many Raider drives ended in turnovers. Of those seven, 3 were downed inside the 20 yard line. His first punt was a booming 59 yarder that was only returned for 2 yards. His second punt was another launch of 59 yards. This time to the Giants 12 yard line. The Giants would start on their own 6 yard line after a penalty. Next punt was a 54 yarder. Then he put so much air under the next one that the returner muffed it and the Raiders recovered to set up their only touchdown of the day. In the third quarter he had another 59 yarder which was followed up by a towering 46 yarder that pinned the Giants inside their own 10 yard line again.

Zach Miller

He has been double teamed much of this season and thus hasn’t been able to get open that often. Opposing teams figured out last seaon that Miller was Russell’s favorite and most reliable target. But he was able to get free a few times in this game. He caught 4 passes for 69 yards. His 29 yard catch in the fourth quarter was the longest play from scrimmage for the Raiders in this game. His 21 yard catch in the second quarter was the first first down of the game for the Raiders. He was a small bright spot on a vey dark day for the Raiders.

Tyvon Branch

While the defense overall was being torched by the Giants offense, Branch played pretty well. He was second on the team in tackles with 7 solo tackles and 3 assists. Of those tackles, three were run stuffs for little or no gain. One other time, he cut off the outside, forcing the Giants runner inside where he was tackled for no gain. He also had a couple of passes defended.

Mario Henderson

We heard his name one time in the game. That was when he came up gimpy on a play. But he came back in the game a short time later. He didn’t give up any sacks on a day that saw the Giants get six sacks on the Raiders. The Giants have long had a potent pass rush but Henderson has been holding down the left side of the Raiders line just as well for the past two seasons.

Honorable Mention

Cooper Carlisle

Outside of Henderson, he is the only guy who is really pulling his weight along the offensive line. Hopefully Khalif Barnes and Robert Gallery will be back soon to help him out.

Busters (breathe)

Al Davis

This topping of the Buster list is long overdue. Sometimes it just take a few games to find where the smell is coming from. And, no, I don’t mean that old man smell. I mean that foul stench that’s emanating from the Raider headquarters. It smells like the Broncos throwback uniforms look. This team is assembled by Al Davis and this game plan has his meddling fingers all up in it. I pointed out last week that Al Davis needs to have a few of his untouchable toys tacken away from him for this team to win. That fact becomes more and more painfully obvious every week. JaMarcus Russell is the biggest (pun intended) problem on this team. He is starting because Al Davis insists he does. Darrius Heyward-Bey drops more balls in each game than he has caught all season long (2) and yet he continues to get the start. This team lacks discipline and it has spread like a cancer. It only takes one bad apple (JaMarcus) to spoil the bunch and that is exactly what is happening. Until every player is forced to be equally accountable for their actions, this team will be defeated before it even steps on the field.

JaMarcus Russell

Three fumbles. That is what Darren McFadden had in week three against the Broncos. And yet Dmac was in the starting lineup again the next week. He also only completed 8 passes through the entire game for 100 yards. 6 of those 8 passes were completed after the Gaints were up 28 to nothing and the game was already out of hand. The two passes he completed before that went for a TOTAL of SEVEN yards. Oh and did I mention he had THREE FUMBLES?! Funny thing was that none of them were forced by a defender from his blind side either. Every single one came from his right side where he should have seen it coming and either held onto the ball or escaped the pressure. He also didn’t have any on-target drops in this game so Cable can’t make excuses for him in that regard. Every one of his five drops were either an inaccurate throw or a pass into coverage that was knocked down.

Erik Pears

I never thought I would want Cornell Green back. Eric Pears is just about worthless. He is a few more penalties away from being Kwame Harris the sequal. Speaking of penalties, he did have a false start on the second play of the game for the Raiders. This came right after Michael Bush ran for 8 yards to set the Raiders up in second and 2. But with a second and 7, the Raiders, of course went three and out. Russell’s second fumble of the day was caused when Pears was beaten around the edge. The second play of the second half, Pears couldn’t handle his man who tackled Fargas at the line for no gain. Then Russell’s third fumble was forced when Pears was given the old “Ole!” on the play. So let’s check the score here: Two sacks, two fumbles given up, one run stuff given up and a drive killing false start penalty. That’s quite a day.

Kirk Morrison

Yes, Morrison was the Raiders leading tackler on the day with 13 solo tackles. But in this case, less is more. The only reason Morrison had so many tackles is because he gave up big plays that kept the Raider defense in the field longer. A good example of this is that the Giants leading tackler had 6 solo tackles. See, less is more. Half of Kirk’s tackles came in the second half when the Giants were mostly just trying to run the clock out. On the Giants first drive, he gave up an 8 yard catch to Brandon Jacobs on one play and then was out of position on the next play that set the Giants up at first and goal. Next drive he was blocked on a 17 yard run and on the next play was out of position on the 19 yard touchdwon run. On the Giants big third and 24 conversion that went for 55 yards, and set up their next score, he was no where to be found. Two drives later he was blocked on a 19 yard run. The next drive, after Russell’s second fumble gave the Giants a short field, he gave up a 13 yard catch to the tight end. It was the only play on the drive and it set the Giants up with a field goal just before half time.

Chris Johnson, Hiram Eugene

I group these two together because they were both responsible for giving up two big plays in this game. The first was a 43 yard catch that set up the second Giant touchdown and the second was a 30 yard touchdown strike for the Giants third touchdown of the game. In both cases, Johnson was beaten on the route and Eugene was late getting over. The two instances looked identical. It was like the Giants saw the Eugene was in at free safety and so they called the same play twice knowing he would bite on the under route and CJ would lose a step on an inside fake. Those two scores were the back breaker for the Raiders. It put the Giants up 21-0 midway through the first quarter.

Thomas Howard

He gave up an 11 yard first down catch to the tight end on the Giants first drive. Then he got caught up in the block on the 19 yard run for the Giants second TD. He was caught up in the block again on the Giants big 55 yard screen pass on third and 24. He was blocked on the Giants first play of the second half that sprung Ahmad Bradshaw for 24 yards. All of his mistakes either went for a TD or were big plays on drives that resulted in a touchdown.

John Marshall

Yet again, the Giants were able to take advantage of the Raiders on third and long. The first time was the screen pass on third and 24 that went for 55 yards (that I have mentioned a few times). The Raiders get burnt on third and long every single game because he had the linebackers all drop into coverage, leaving the middle of the field wide open. In the opening game against the Chargers, Darren Sproles caught a check down pass and ran through 20 yards of open field on the biggest play of the game for the Chargers. It handed the Chargers the win. That 55 yard run gave the Giants their third consecutive score to start the game. The final Giants touchdown was much the same. This time it was David Carr escaping the pocket to find 12 yards of wide open field in front of him to run into the end zone untouched. Just too easy.

Tom Cable

Still sitting Javon Walker? Still sitting Jonnie Lee Higgins? Still have a job? The answer all these questions: Not for long. The JaMarcus Russell situation is out of his hands. That is an Al Davis decision. Cable is doing what he is told but it won’t save his job.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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