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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.