Raiders week 6: Ballers & Busters

It was a day to honor Al Davis, and the Raiders took the field with that in mind. To do so they would need to play disciplined and keep the emotions of the day channeled toward the objective of winning. In the end they were able to hold on for the win, 24-17.

The Raiders outscored the Browns two touchdowns to one in the first half. With both teams scoring ten points in the second half, that touchdown lead would be enough to win it. As is usually the case, it came down to a few plays.

The Raiders controlled the pace of this game and the Browns were left to try and capitalize on their mistakes. The Raiders made a few mistakes but in the end they were able to close it out and escape with the win.

Ballers

Jacoby Ford

He is finally back healthy and it became obvious very quickly. His leaping 9 yard grab on the Raiders first drive was foreshadowing of his return. Two plays later, on third and six, he caught a seven yard pass to keep the drive alive. The drive ended in a touchdown to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead to begin the game. The next touchdown the Raiders scored was all Jacoby. After the Browns had tied the game at seven, they kicked the ball off to Ford. He took the kickoff one yard inside the end zone and ran it 101 yards for a touchdown. It gave him the Raider record for kick returns (4) and tied himself for the third longest kick return in Raider history. But most importantly it gave the Raiders a 14-7 lead heading into halftime. In the third quarter, he caught a pass on third and seven on a misdirection play and ran 27 yards to put the Raiders in field goal range. The ensuing field goal extended the lead to 17-7. It appears he is back, folks. Just in time to meet up with the team he broke out against last season—the Kansas City Chiefs.

John Fassel

A week after a successful fake punt resulted in a 35 yard gain by Rock Cartwright, the Raiders’ special teams were at it again this week. First it was the big 101 yard kick return for a touchdown. Then the team lined up for what everyone in the world, including the Browns, thought was yet another Sebastian Janikowski field goal, but which turned out to be a fake. Punter and emergency backup quarterback Shane Lechler took the snap, Janikowski sold the fake just as Lechler stood up with the ball, and tight end Kevin Boss broke free. Lechler dropped the ball into Boss’s outstretched arms and Boss rumbled 27 yards for a touchdown. These two touchdowns were the key to the Raiders winning the game.

Rolando McClain

The Raiders were able to hold the Browns to just 65 yards rushing and the big reason was the play of McClain. Last week a Browns writer asked me what the Raiders needed to do to beat the Browns. Due to the honoring of their late owner, I answered with an Al Davis favorite: “The greatness of the Raiders is in its future.” The player I highlighted was McClain because this team’s defense and particularly its run defense depends on how he plays. That theory proved true as the Raiders had their way with the Browns’ runners. McClain led the team in tackles as well which isn’t always a good thing. But in this game most of those tackles came at or near the line of scrimmage. He had a tackle for loss on the Browns’ second drive and it ended two plays later. He had another run stuff at the line on the next drive. Then on the next drive he showed up in coverage with two straight passes defended, the second he nearly intercepted, to force a three and out. He had two more run stuff tackles the remainder of the game and finished it off with a coverage incompletion to force the Browns to go for it on fourth down to end their hopes of completing the comeback.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

DHB becoming the Raiders’ leading receiver has seemingly come out of nowhere. He led the team in receiving yards again this week, catching six passes for 82 yards. Along the way he had several key receptions.

Darren McFadden

The Raiders ground out this game and they did it with their favorite weapon, Darren McFadden. He got started early as he broke open for a 24 yard gain on the first play of the game for the Raider offense. McFadden had 47 yards on that first drive including the last four to score the touchdown. He finished with 91 yards rushing on 20 carries.

Stanford Routt

He was targeted just four times in this game and gave up just one catch. Unfortunately that one catch was a touchdown but it is hard to take away all the great coverage he had in this game because of one catch. It was a good throw and a good catch.  His second target of the game was a good pass as well but he defended it on third down to end the Browns’ first drive of the second half. Later he ended the game when he swatted down their final pass attempt on fourth down to seal the victory.

Honorable Mention

Shane Lechler, Kevin Boss, Quentin Groves, Taiwan Jones

These four all had major contributions on special teams. Lechler was his usual standout on punts but also had the pass to Boss on the fake field goal to give the Raiders a touchdown. Groves had two great tackles on Josh Cribbs in the return game, one in which he chased down the speedy return man. Taiwan Jones blocked a man on the Jacoby Ford kick return and then escorted him stride for stride 60 yards downfield to lay another key block to help spring him for the final distance for the touchdown.

Busters

Samson Satele

Satele had all kinds of trouble with Browns nose tackle, Phil Taylor in this game. Darren McFadden had followed a great block by Stefen Wisniewski to gain 24 yards on the first carry of the game. That was the last big hole he would receive up the middle. He averaged 4.6 yards rushing overall but after that initial run, he averaged just 2.5 yards per carry up the middle. Some of this failure is due to some fine play by Browns middle linebacker D’Quell Jackson who led the team in tackles. But Satele helped allow Phil Taylor to have three solo tackles as well as a sack by Taylor on Kyle Boller. On top of that he had two big costly penalties. The first penalty was an illegal hands to the face call that negated what would have been a long sideline grab by Chaz Schilens. The catch would have put the Raiders in scoring position but the penalty stalled the drive and forced a punt. A bit later he was called for holding that took the Raiders out of Browns territory. He went down with a sprained knee on that same drive. He has performed much better of late but struggling against big nose tackles was what he was known for prior to this season. His knee is fine according to Satele and he is not expected to miss his next start. Hopefully he won’t suffer too much ill effects of it and can protect Kyle Boller who is expected to make the start with Jason Campbell out with injury.

Hue Jackson

He had a few questionable calls in this game. The first faulty playcall was an end around to Denarius Moore. The play itself has worked well in the past but this time the Browns defense saw it coming a mile away. So either Hue is getting predictable or the offense is not disguising what it is doing. Denarius was greeted by two defenders and was dropped for a three yard loss. The next weird decision was a reverse to David Ausbery… the tight end. A reverse to a tight end is not exactly commonplace and Ausberry may be fast but he is only fast for a tight end. He isn’t Denarius or Taiwan Jones kind of fast.

Then came Hue’s most questionable call of the day and one that he has admitted he lost sleep over. The Raiders were in fourth and one at the five yard line and he opted to go for it instead of kick the field goal. The problem is that the Raiders could have gone up by three scores and all but sealed the victory if they had kicked the field goal. Sure, you could say the flipside is if they had made it we wouldn’t have been talking about this right now. But it still would have been a poor decision. If the Raiders had picked up the first down, that lesson would not have been learned. They missed it, the Browns took the ball back and went 96 yards for a touchdown, had a successful onsides kick, drove the ball into scoring position and nearly tied the game. It took some strong play in pass defense at the end to save the day. And that is learning the easy way. A loss would have been the hard way.

I have not questioned his aggressive nature this season thus far. In fact the only time I have questioned one of his decisions was when he opted not to be aggressive. One can always give him credit for the fake field goal that resulted in a touchdown. But Hue by his own admission says that the designer of those plays is John Fassel. He also says that he wants a fake every time and it is the players who look for the right situation to actually go through with it. Hue gets credit overall for the fakes being at the ready at all times. But while we laud his overall coaching philosophy, for this game it takes a backseat to his miscues.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 6: Ballers & Busters

Oct 17, 2010; San Francisco, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable reacts during the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Raiders 17-9. Photo via Newscom

If this game were a movie, the title would be “Missed Opportunities.” And we would watch it and wonder why the Raider players kept repeating the movie title ad nauseum. Those opportunities came on both offense and defense and another common theme when speaking with players was that no one on offense or defense is without some blame.

The offense missed opportunities to make several big plays that would likely have been touchdowns. They also got in the redzone three times and came away with field goals every trip. The Raiders were moving the ball in the first half but once they got in scoring position, they seemed like they didn’t know what to do with it.

The defense dominated in the first half. But there were three different occasions in which a defender got a ball right in his hands and could pull down the interception– two by Nnamdi Asomugha and one by Rolando McClain.

The Niners were held in check in the first half but with the Raiders only scoring on two field goals, it would only take one touchdown for them to lose the lead. A three point lead at halftime was gone after the Niners 2nd series of the 2nd half. On the drive the Niners drove down to score a touchdown and those 10 points were all they would need to come away with the win.

Well, everyone may have some blame in an ugly game like this, but I will try and find those who deserve some credit and those of whom were swinging the ugly stick.

Ballers

Matt Shaughnessy

He is just a beast. That is the best way I can put it. He plays with a violent passion that is difficult for a lot of offensive lineman and blockers to handle. That shuffling that Cable did to start the season in which Shaughnessy was removed as the starter, Trevor Scott was move to defensive end, and Quentin Groves was named the starting weakside linebacker, was a mistake. That is not meant to slight Groves or Scott in any way. Shaughnessy is simply the best defensive end this team has and he should be starting. Regardless of players at other positions. And since Groves went out injured and Shaughnessy was given back the job he held in camp, he has been tremendous.

He got this started on the Niners first possession. After they had picked up a first down on a run from Gore, Shaughnessy ensured that was the only first down they would get on that drive. On the next play, he broke into the backfield and chased down Alex Smith to force an incompletion. The drive ended two plays later.

Then after a long Raider drive and field goal, the 49ers got the ball back early in the second quarter. And on the very first play of the series, Shaughnessy shot into the backfield again. This time he sacked Smith. The loss of yardage put the Niners in a bigger hole than they could get out of and the possession ended with a three and out.

Two possessions later, the Raiders were losing a field position battle that set the 49ers up near midfield due to Shane Lechler being forced to punt out of the back of his own endzone. The Raiders needed a stop and Shaughnessy helped give them that. The Niners ran the ball off right guard and Shaughnessy flew in from the opposite end to catch Gore behind the line and stop him for minimal gain. Again, the series ended with a three and out.

He had two more run stuffing tackles for no gain in the game and he was second in tackles among Raider lineman with 4 solo tackles.

Kamerion Wimbley

While other players may stand out in this game for whatever reason, Wimbley quietly put together a pretty good game. On that first Niner series, when Shaughnessy pressured Smith into an incompletion, it was Wimbley who had Smith outlet receiver covered to force him to throw the ball into the turf. He began the next Niner possession blanketing his assignment and forcing another incompletion. Also lost in the Niners final drive of the first half, that resulted in a field goal, was a play in which Wimbley was bearing down on Smith and hit him hard just after he released the ball for an incompletion.

In the second half, the Niners came out and began a long drive in which they methodically moved the ball down the field to score. Well, that score would have come a lot sooner if it weren’t for Wimbley. The Niners directly snapped the ball to Frank Gore who took it off right guard (as usual) for 11 yards. Not a big deal, but it would have been a huge touchdown run if Wimbley hadn’t come all the way from the other side of the field to stop Gore just as he was looking to break into open field.

Wimbley was in on the 49ers final play of the game when he filled the middle to force Gore to change his direction where he was tackled immediately for no gain. It would give the Raiders the ball back with one more chance to score to try and tie up the game. Wimbley gave the Raiders offense that “opportunity” and they “missed” yet another one.

Zach Miller

He had two catches in this game which by itself might not seem worthy of much praise. Especially considering we know neither was a touchdown. But unlike some wide receivers on this team, cough-DHB-cough, the fact that Zach wasn’t seeing many passes was not his fault. The first pass thrown to him, should not have been thrown. Manny Lawson had Miller in good coverage but Campbell threw it anyway and it was intercepted. There were several other instances in which Miller was wide open and Campbell just didn’t see him. It wasn’t until the 4th quarter that Zach had his first catch. Then, not surprisingly, he was the target on the next throw as well. It was slightly underthrown and tipped but Zach smartly slowed and caught the ball anyway, off the deflection. Those two catches went for 22 and 26 yards and just like that, he had more offense (as usual) than anyone else on the team. He has long proven to be the key to this Raider offense’s ability to move the ball and score. The team abandoning that is a big reason why they never put the ball in the endzone in this game.

Louis Murphy

Another guy who can’t really be faulted for his lack of production in this game. In the locker room after the game, he was the most angry of all as far as I could tell. Granted, he is more firey than most, but this was a bit different. During the Jason Campbell interview, myself and a few other members of the media had their recorders on Campbell but our eyes on Murphy. He stood uneasily leaning his forehead against his locker, muttering angrily to himself. It is not hard to figure out why he was so frustrated. He had several passes come his way but only one was on target and it was a short pass that went for 4 yards. The other two passes, he was wide open with nothing but open field in front of him to the endzone. The first one was thrown short and the 49ers were called for pass interference when Murphy tried to come back for the ball. The other big one was well overthrown. Sure, Murphy had a fumble that he recovered but if he had caught even one of those long TD passes, would anyone care about the fumble? And even despite the missed opportunities, he was still part of the two biggest plays from scrimmage the Raiders had on the day– the 46 yard pass interference call, and the 43 yard end around he ran to put the Raiders in scoring position.

Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski

You may notice I said that no one on offense or defense is free of blame and that is because these two did just what was expected of them on Sunday. Janikowski had two touchbacks on kickoffs and was 3 for 3 on field goals (24,27, 40) for the Raiders only scoring. Lechler punted five times with nearly all of them being majestic moon shots. His most impressive one was with him backed up to the endline. He took the short snap and launched the ball 61 yards. Ah, to witness true greatness at work.

Busters

Jason Campbell

There was a lot of ugly play on that field from the Raiders on Sunday. But Jason Campbell had futility for the record books. He completed just 8 out of 21 passes for 89 yards and 2 interceptions and a fumble. Believe it or not, that is statistically worse than JaMarcus Russell ever did. In fact, it is the worst performance by a Raider starting quarterback since 1992 (Jay Schroeder). Also, not surprisingly, it was Campbell’s worst performance of his pro career. The only reason the Raiders were still in this game was Alex Smith was only slightly less crappy. His first offense was on the very first play of the game when he underthrew an open Louis Murphy on a pass off a flee flicker. Luckily the Niners had a pass interference but if he would have thrown it on target, it would have been an easy touchdown. Then he ended the Raiders first drive with another errant pass that he threw out of the back of the endzone, resulting in a field goal settlement.

His next big mistake was his first interception in which he tried to force a ball to Zach Miller in coverage, right to the defender for an easy pick. Then he stopped throwing the Zach at all for three quarters, even when Miller was wide open on several plays.

Someone Campbell WAS throwing to was Murphy… or rather throwing NEAR Murphy. Hearing the stat announcer say “pass intended for…” was often comical to me because I wanted to say, “Was it?! Seriously, was it REALLY intended for anyone to catch it?”

When interviewing Murphy after the game, several of us tried to get him to be more specific about his frustrations in this game. He wouldn’t throw his QB under the bus but he knew that we all knew what opportunities were missed out there. And he was probably thinking that if it were Gradkowski out there throwing it, those would have been touchdowns.

Campbell can’t be blamed so much for the 2nd interception, as it was a dropped ball that was tipped up in the air. But he CAN be blamed for the fumble. He felt the pocket closing and started to look like he was going to try and run it but instead he made a quick, awkward throw backward in the direction of Michael Bush. The lateral was way short and wide, falling incomplete and therefore it was a fumble and a live ball. Bush had some trouble picking it up and was forced to simply fall on the ball and take a loss. The result was a three and out on a critical series. If the defense hadn’t held the 49ers on their next possession, that would have been the Raiders last chance to score. Flush.

Chris Johnson

With the play of Stanford Routt not being much better this season, Johnson has been seeing more playing time than he did to start the season– and he has not made the most of it. He was a key part of the big play at the end of the game last week to beat the Chargers, but that was the only thing that kept him from being named a Buster then too. He had no such heroics in this game. Quite to the contrary in fact. He was responsible for 79 yards in this game and 67 of them came on one drive alone. The Niners second series after halftime, they seemed to have figured out a few things about how to move the ball on the Raiders. One of those things was to throw at Chris Johnson. With the Niners moving the ball and nearing midfield, he gave up a 6 yard catch on 2nd down and then on the next play he was called for holding to give them another first down. Then after two nice defensive plays, he gives up a 19 yard catch on 3rd down to put the Niners in scoring position. Two plays later he was late getting over to cover a suddenly open Michael Crabtree in the endzone for the 49ers first touchdown.

Tyvon Branch

Is it too early to give up on the Pro Bowl aspirations we all had for Branch after last season? In one offseason he has gone from playing at an All Pro level, to being a total liability. His biggest issue is being out of position on long pass plays. And again, as has happened a few times this season, Branch gave up a touchdown. It was the 16 yard touchdown to Vernon Davis, in which Branch was way out of position, in the middle of the field while Davis ran free on a slant to a wide open area on the left side of the field. Branch was also partially responsible for the 64 yard run by Gore that set up the touchdown. He was supposed to secure the gap and was easily taken out of the play on a block. He would have been responsible for another TD as well when he completely whiffed on a tackle, but Wimbley swooped in to hold the potential TD run to 11 yards.

Tom Cable

The game started out great with an 8 minute opening drive by the Raiders to the 4 yard line. But, due to poor discipline and confusion, that is where it ended. With the Raiders at 2nd and goal at the 4 yard line, Langston Walker was not reported as an eligible receiver and was called for illegal formation. This same illegal formation has been called on the Raiders in a similar situation in several, if not every one, of the games this season. How could such a simple thing keep happening? Then to make matters worse, after the 5 yard penalty, there is further confusion on offense, forcing the Raiders to burn a timeout.

Overall, this team’s inability to string two wins together in a row is the biggest issue here. And these lapses in the simple fundamentals of football are one of the main culprits. The media was itching to ask Cable why this team still has these monumental letdowns on the heels of big wins like last week against San Diego. So Cable basically gave us all the slip. He knows it takes a while to get all the way from the press box at the top of the stadium down to the conference room. So he very quickly went to the press room after the game, answered a few questions from the small group that was able to get there fast enough, and then split. Several other long-time sportswriters said that was the quickest they had ever seen a coach get in and out of a post game press conference. Although, from the looks of it on the field, it wouldn’t have mattered because Cable wouldn’t have had any answers anyway. If he knew what was going wrong, he might have actually been able to fix it already.

Hue Jackson

He was off to a good start calling a flea flicker that was a bad throw from being a touchdown right off the bat. That play gained 46 yards on a pass interference call. On the second drive Hue called a reverse to Louis Murphy that went for 43 yards. Once Jason Campbell threw an interception on the Raiders third possession the play calling changed. It would be charitable to call it vanilla. It was give the ball to Michael Bush up the middle every play. That play worked so well they had five consecutive three and outs. The third drive of that streak summed everything up perfectly. First and ten: Michael Bush left side one yard. Second and nine: Marcel Reece up the middle for one yard. Third and seven: From a shotgun formation they run a draw play to Bush up the middle and Shane Lechler trotted on the field for a 60 yard punt.

Mario Henderson

Usually when there is a Raider offensive lineman on the Buster list, it is because they gave up a sack or three. This is especially the case when it is an offensive tackle. But this time Henderson is a Buster mainly because of poor run blocking. On four different occasions in this game that I saw, he could not clear his man out of the way to allow Bush to get through. Often times his man would shed off of him and seek out the running back even when he wasn’t attempting to find a gap near left tackle. In each case, it resulted in a tackle for run stuff at or near the line of scrimmage. He also gave up a quarterback pressure late in the game that helped force a three and out.

Jacoby Ford

We have already seen him make multiple mistakes in the return game. This week he made his biggest mistake of the season and it was as a receiver. He let a ball bounce off his hands and pop up in the air where it was intercepted. It was the nail in the coffin for the Raiders. That drive was their last gasp and when the 49ers took over, they needed only get one first down to officially end the game. What is it with Raider rookie receivers with the number 12, dropping passes, and tipping them in the air for an interception? At this rate, the Raiders should force him to change his number and allow only quarterbacks to wear the number.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 6: Ballers & Busters

Zach had a career day
I am nearly at a loss for words to describe what occurred in Oakland Colliseum on Sunday. The 3-1 Eagles come to town looking like one of the NFL elite teams all set to face the 1-4 Raiders who just came off of a monumental beat down at the hands of the Giants. The Raiders may as well have not shown up right? Well, I guess this would be the classic example of “games are not played on paper”. Because the Raiders stopped the high-flying Eagles offense in their tracks and moved the ball against that great Eagles defense as well as they have against anyone this season.

So what happened? Some say that it was motivation from the comments that Antonio Pierce said following the Giants game in which he said playing the Raiders was like a “Scrimmage”. He was not wrong either and while he didn’t sugar coat what he said, he wasn’t trying to twist the knife either. He was right. And if that gave the Raiders the motivation to go out and do what they did on Sunday, then he should keep talking. If it was something else that was the key, then hopefully it can be duplicated the rest of the season with equal success.

 

Whatever the motivation was, the entire Raider team was buying in. They were on a mission and as Annie Lennox taught us, you “Don’t mess with a missionary man.” So let’s break down this week’s Ballers and Busters…um…missionary style.

Ballers

Richard Seymour

Coming into this game, fans were screaming “Feed me Seymour” and feed us he did. He gave us a generous helping of 4 tackles (2 were for a loss), 2 sacks, 2 QB pressures, a pass deflection and a forced fumble. He was in the Eagles backfield all day, terrorizing the Eagles lineman. He would have had three sacks but McNabb threw the ball to the turf as Seymour was pulling him down. We haven’t seen Seymour wreak this much havoc since week one against the Chargers. Some credit goes to Greg Ellis of course because the Eagles were clearly keying on Ellis as the Raiders’ sack leader. Yessir, the Raiders have two fine defensive ends now. Seymour is definitely worth the 2011 first round pick the Raiders gave up to get him.

Zach Miller

This Russell/Miller connection needs to have it’s own nickname or something because as Miller goes, so goes the JaMarcus and the Raiders. He had 6 catches on the day for 135 yards and a touchdown. His first catch went for nine yards and was short of the first down which led to the Raiders second 3 and out to start the game. Nothing special really. But the next catch was a bit more special. It was just a simple short pass but Miller caught it and rumbled 86 yards for a touchdown. The play has made the round of highlight reels for two days. It also happened to be the longest pass play for the Raiders since 1983!! We’re talking Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch people! Yeah, it’s hard to believe it has been that long. Back to the game at hand…To start the second quarter, he had a 9 yard catch and a 20 yard catch to set the Raiders up for their first field goal of the game.

Justin Fargas

How many times has Fargas has his starting job taken away from him only to earn it right back? This is the best the Raiders running game has looked all season. He also had the longest rush by any Raider all season when he broke off a 20 yarder. Previous to that run, the longest run by a Raider back was 15 yards which McFadden did once this season. Prior to that, the longest was a 13 yard run by McFadden. By comparison, Fargas had two 14 yard runs in this game alone. His other notable runs include two first downs and a hard fought 5 yard run en route to the Raiders first field goal. One of his 14 yard runs ended with him laying the wood to Eagles safety Quintin Mikell, knocking Mikell out of the game. Fargas has earned the right to get his starting job back and I hope he is rewarded in kind. He also had a fantastic block on a blitzing linebacker to Russell’s blind side that gave JaMarcus the time he needed to find Zach Miller on his 86 yard touchdown.

Louis Murphy

In a season with few highlights for the Raiders, Murphy has created a good number of them. What is all the more impressive is that Murphy is a baller this week without catching a single pass or even having a single yard of offense. He contributed elsewhere. The big highlight of the day was of course the 86 yard Zach Miller touchdown catch. A highlight that saw Murphy nail a would-be tackler to free Miller for big yards. But Murphy wasn’t done yet. When Zach got down to the ten yard line, he looked to stopped there but who should come running into the picture but Louis Murphy to lay the final block that allowed Zach to take it to the house. It was some of the finest blocking I have ever seen. That play must have really gotten under the skin of Asante Samuel because in the next Raider drive, Samuel was called for a personal foul on Murphy that put the Raiders in field goal range.

John Marshall

It had begun to come clear that the toothless defense was because of Al Davis’ reluctance to allow the blitz on a regular basis and this game was solid proof of that. I have been very critical of Marsall this season and I am not taking any of that criticism back. I simply am sympathizing a little with his predicament. I have never seen the Raiders blitz as much as they did in this game and the Eagles were not ready for it AT ALL. They were lost and confused and McNabb was running scared. On almost every third down, the Raiders brought the house at McNabb to much success. That game plan was an integral part of this win. One good thing that comes out of the timid style the Raiders played up to this point is someone is going to be caught off guard if/when things change. This time it was the Eagles. Way to grow a pair Marshall. Keep it comin’.

Stanford Routt

Yet another guy who normally has Buster reservations. But this week Nnamdi Asomugha went out early with an eye injury (he is ok) and Routt filled in admirably. This proves that as long as the opposing QB has to make their decision quickly, Routt and the other Raider corners can hold down the receiver. The first nice play we saw from Routt was when he stepped into a poorly thrown ball from McNabb and took it in for a touchdown. And event that some pats on the back and making this list are all the credit he will ever get because the refs called him for a pass interference that didn’t happen. On top of that, Cable was so livid that he was called for a rare unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. So instead of a pick six to put the Raiders up 14-3, the Eagles are gift wrapped 25 yards. You made that play in my book Routt. And the refs know it too. Also in the game he had a pass defended on third down and a coverage incompletion on fourth down for the final play of the game for the Eagles.

Trevor Scott

The ideal situational pass rusher. He came in on third down on the Eagles first posession: SACK. He came in on third down on the Eagles next posession: SACK. After that I think they wised up a little. But the damage was already done.

Shane Lechler

He punted 7 times in the game, pinning the Eagles inside the 20 yard line twice. His first punt went for 58 yards with a short return. His second punt went for 59 yards and took an unlucky bounce into the end zone for a touchback. His third punt hung in the air long enough that the Eagles just stayed away from it and it was downed on the 11 yard line. His fourth went for 45 with a short return. His fifth punt was a 58 yarder that, even with a short return, was stopped at the 14 yard line. His sixth punt went 53 yards with a short return. His seventh and final punt was a high kick that was fair caught at the 20 yard line. His punting continues to save the Raiders from any kind of bad field position.

Mario Henderson, Cooper Carlisle, Samson Satele

Overall, the line played pretty well in this game but while the remaining two offensive lineman (which I will get to later) had their share of mistakes, these three played virtually mistake free football. Which, as usual, is the best an offensive lineman can hope for. On top of that, they get a considerable amount of the credit for the success in the running game with the holes they opened up.

Sebastian Janikowski

Yes, the obligatory Janikowski mention. Two field goals, one from 46 yards out, the other from 29 yards. The 46 yarder looked as effortless as the 29 yarder.

Gary Russell

And by popular demand (a demand I happen to agree with but wavered on) we have “the other Russell”. He was extremely valuable for his screens and check downs in this game. He caught every one of them and took most of them for first down yardage. His first notice was not so good when he was beaten on the pass rush to allow a sack on Russell. Then in the second quarter he plowed the way for Fargas to run for 11 yards and a first down. His first play of the day was a nice catch on a ball that was behind him that he took for a 5 yards. Then he started to really do his damage (to the Eagles). He caught an 18 yard screen to set up the second Raiders field goal. Then near the end of the fourth quarter he had a 19 yard screen to allow the Raiders to run more time off the clock. His best play though, was his 13 yard screen catch that sealed the game and allowed the Raiders to kneel it down the final seconds to end the game.

Busters

Chris Morris

Robert Gallery gets more and more popular each week that goes by. Morris is just…not good. On a play in the first quarter, he gets manhandled and allows Michael Bush to be tackled for no gain and the Raiders couldn’t pick up the ensuing third and long. Just before halftime, he is beaten by his man who nearly sacks JaMarcus Russell. To start the second half, after a nice 9 yard run sets the Raiders up with second and 1, he false starts. On the next play, Bush gets those five yards back on set up third and 1. At which point, Morris can’t get push on this man and the run gets stuffed for no gain. The Raiders go for it on fourth down and don’t convert. Khalif Barnes is healthy now and after another week of practice, he could step in an play left guard until Gallery comes back. Look for the possibility of that happening. I just wonder if Satele would keep his starting job at Center.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Yet another game without a single catch for him. He only even touched the ball one time and it was an end around that went for a loss of one yard. Wait, I take that back, he did touch the ball more than once. The first time was on the second play of the game. He touched the ball as it bounced off of his hands, straight up in the air and was almost intercepted. So technically, he touched the ball twice in the game. Next week Michael Crabtree is going to be playing for the Niners. I wonder if he will eclipse DHB’s TWO catches before halftime or if it will take him the whole game? I am sure the cackling from NFL analyists will start back up immediately.

Kirk Morrison

Again he leads the Raiders in tackles (8-3) and again he is a Buster. How does this keep happening? Same reason– he gives up huge plays that eclipse those great plays he has. He gave up the first big play of the game when he was blocked easily on a 32 yard screen play. Oddly enough, he had the next tackle for a 4 yard loss and then a tackle for a short gain. Those plays gave him a temporary reprieve. But a couple of Eagle possessions later, he was in trouble again. He was way out of position on yet another screen. This time it went for 43 yards. He was bailed out by Richard Seymour on two of the next three plays to stop the drive. Just before half time, after a JaMarcus Russell interception gave the Eagles great field position, he gave up a 14 yard first down catch to the tight end that set up the Eagles second field goal and give the Raiders no time to make an attempt to score again before half. To start the second half, he wasn’t in his gap when Brian Westbrook burst through the middle for 25 yards to set the Eagles up in field goal range again. So if you were counting, that is 114 yard just on those four plays. The longest run play for the Eagles and the second and third longest pass plays– all through Morrison. He did some nice things in this game and I don’t want to pile on, but until he can limit these huge plays from happening, he will be a Buster. That’s how it goes.

John Fassel

The special teams still suck. Both in the return game and the coverage units. And just to top it off, in this game the Raiders had to call a time out at one point when Fassel couldn’t get the correct personnel on the field in time. How difficult is that really? It is pretty much the same guys each time. It might only vary slightly when you are trying for a block or trying for a return. Tom Cable was extremely angry at Fassel on the sideline for having to waste a valuable timeout on special teams. But what should really be making him angry is the lack of any semblance of a return game. There is absolutely NONE. Every return goes for little or not yards and is often for negative yards. And you can’t put that all on Higgins. He looked superb last season with three return touchdowns. All the blockers are the same. The only difference here is Fassel. I don’t know for sure but I would bet that the Raiders return yards are dead last in the NFL. I need to look that up. Not like it makes much difference anyway. Bad is bad.

Erik Pears

The other culprit on the offensive line and magnet that draws my ire. He was not Kwamesque (to coin a phrase) but he was still bad. He gave up a tackle for no gain on Fargas in the third quarter. Then the next Raider posession ended with him giving up a sack on third down. Good news is that we could see the return of Langston Walker at right tackle next week. I am not saying that Walker is the answer but could he be worse than Pears? I don’t think so (knock on wood).

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 6: Ballers & Busters

Unfortunately, yet again, there is not much good that can be said about this game. Because while the last two games had the Raiders ahead at half time only to blow the game, this one was never that close. As usual the Raiders looked great on their first offensive and defensive drives. First the Raiders defense forced the Saints to go three and out. Then on the ensuing punt, Jonnie Lee Higgins had a nice 35 yard run back to start the game, which he has done in three consecutive games, and the Raider offense drove the rest of the way into scoring position. But also as usual, they were forced to kick a field goal instead of get a touchdown. By now most of us are well aware that those three points were all the Raiders would see all day and their only trip into the red zone. There is plenty of blame to go around but I will get the ballers out of the way first.

Ballers:

Zach Miller 

Yet again, he was the Raiders leading receiver. He finished the game with 3 catches for 46 yards. While it is sad that a TE always seems to lead this team in receiving yards (cough Chiefs), it is good to know that there is at least one set of sure hands out there. Not to mention his ability to run crisp routes and get open consistently. I am sure he would be more than happy to see some of his wide receiver teammates get more catches and yards than him one of these days.

Ronald Curry

Finally he was able catch the ball a few times. He too finished the game with three catches. Two of those catches came on the Raiders first drive that lead to their field goal. And while three catches is not great, it is the most he has had all season and for the first time, he looked like he could catch a Russell pass. In previous games he looked lost and out of sync. This could signal good things. I am going to try and take a wait and see approach though.

Busters:

JaMarcus Russell

He looked terrible. Yet again he completed just a handfull of throws all day. 13 for 35 for 159 yards and much of that came after the game was already lost. He hadn’t even amassed a hundred yards passing in the first half. And this time we can’t blame it on lack of attempts. I hate to be so hard on him because he is in many ways a rookie, but I am not here to give the benefit of the doubt. When he plays well, he will get credit for it. But as long as he continues to overthrow, under throw and throw late to his receivers and turn the ball over, this team will continue to lose. He threw an interception right into the hands of Jason David in this game because on what was supposed to have been a timing route, he threw WAY too late and David jumped it. He has fumbled in all but one game this season. So even while he was not given too many chances to throw interceptions or make risky throws, he has still found a way to turn the ball over. And it is always either with the Raiders in scoring position or with their backs to the end zone. In this case, the Raiders were down 27-3 and immediately after he fumbled, CBS (in my area) switched over to the Jets/Bengals game stating they were “moving to a game that is more competitive.” That’s right, the BENGALS were more competitive than the Raiders on Sunday. That is the same bengals who are without Carson Palmer. No wonder Kiffin didn’t trust Russell.

Greg Knapp

Ok so he was given the opportunity he had wanted and was supposed to be well qualified for and he blew it. It is all fine and good to want to have a balanced attack on offense. The concept being to keep the defense on it’s toes. But Sunday wasn’t balanced. The Raiders passed 35 times and ran 21 times. What it looked like to me was that Knapp was attempting to play to the Saints’ weakness instead of the Raiders’ strength. And that may have worked except we don’t have a quarterback who can make that idea work quite yet. The Raiders have the #3 rushing attack in the NFL thanks to the zone blocking scheme that Cable and Knapp installed and they abandoned it on Sunday. The Raiders finally had Fargas back healthy and he was given TEN carries. McFadden was only given EIGHT carries. That is unacceptable.

Rob Ryan

I thought the defense was supposed to be playing with passion for Ryan? That is what Ryan and Sapp have led everyone to believe. The defense didn’t look like a team that just came off of a bye week. Usually with two weeks to prepare for a team and get healthy, they come out rejuvenated. There was no aggressiveness or fight in them on Sunday. Every time a Saints receiver would make a long catch, they seemed like they were on an island. The Linebackers and safeties were so far away, it was often hard to tell who was supposed to be covering the open man. The Saints have a great offense but the poor schemes and lack of passion on defense made them look like some kind of juggernaut. And the Saints were without their best receiver and starting tight end. Pathetic.

Thomas Howard

Wow he was out of position so many times I think I lost count. The Saints 2nd drive nearly all went through him. He gave up a 21 yard catch to Reggie Bush and then two plays later gave up a 13 yard catch to the tight end Billy Miller. The Saints next drive resulted in a TD in which Reggie Bush needed no moves or explosiveness to execute because when he ran to the outside, there was no one there AT ALL. This is where Howard and/or Morrison were supposed to be. On the Saints next drive, he gave up two consecutive first downs. One was a Moore catch and the other was a Deuce McAllister run up the middle in which his first contact was at 5 yards and Deuce drove him for 5 more yards like he wasn’t even there. He tied for the team lead in tackles but much of that had to do with the fact that he gave up a catch first.

Michael Huff

He gave a huge catch that set up the Saints field goal just before the half. Then he gave up another huge catch to Devery Henderson in the 3rd quarter that went for 51 yards and set up another field goal to put the game completely out of reach. Then on the next Saints touch down his man was wide open in the back of the end zone with him looking like “Wait, what just happened?” The only starter that had fewer tackles than he did was Aso and we all know why he doesn’t get tackles (because they don’t throw his way). Huff was responsible for quite a few scores last week as well. It is getting tiresome watching the other team score a touchdown or get into field goal range and seeing Huff run into the picture late. Free safety is supposed to be his natural position where he was going to show his true potential. Well it hasn’t happened yet but hopefully eventually he will find it.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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