Raiders week 17: Ballers & Busters

Well, that’s that. The 2011 season is over, and it ended in a similar fashion as just about every loss this season for the Raiders. They were close late and then had a collapse of epic proportions. We knew the Chargers were capable of putting a lot of points on the board and on this day, they were in top form while the Raiders were not. They ended the Raiders’ playoff hopes with a 38-26 victory.

As tempting as it is to put the blame on those who helped put the Raiders in this compromising situation, that criticism is for the year end Ballers & Busters, as much as this game individually meant to the evaluation of the entire season.

Ballers

Carson Palmer

This was far from a perfect game for Palmer. He certainly made a few throws that had you bracing for an interception. But at the end of the day, he had 417 yards passing and two touchdowns. His passing total is the third most in Raider franchise history. The last Raider QB to pass for more yards than Palmer did on Sunday was Jeff Hostetler back in 1994 — also in a loss. Palmer threw a touchdown pass on the Raiders’ first drive of the game, a perfectly thrown ball that dropped softly over the shoulder of Darrius Heyward-Bey in the back corner of the end zone to put the Raiders up 7-0. On the Raiders’ next scoring drive, Palmer was 3 for 5 for 39 yards and a 3 yard scramble to set up a Janikowski field goal. Next drive he was 3 for 5 for 43 yards with two drops. One of the drops was by DHB in the end zone that would have made him 4 for 5 for 69 yards and a touchdown. Instead the Raiders settled for a field goal again.

Just before halftime, he made probably his biggest mistake of the day when with just 8 seconds left on the clock, he threw to Louis Murphy in the middle of the field and the time ran out without the Raiders getting off even a field goal attempt. That was a ball he never should have thrown. After the game he blamed the ref for slipping while placing the ball. But even if the ref hadn’t slipped, the Raiders would have been called for 12 men on the field. The play never would have worked and the Raiders were held without a possible score before halftime.

After the half, the Raiders had the ball and Palmer atoned for his second quarter gaffe by throwing a perfect 78 yard pass to Denarius Moore. The amazing thing about the throw is it was in the air before Moore had even beat his man. But Palmer put it up and Moore went and got it without having to break stride. The only way it would have been better is if it resulted in a touchdown.

The Chargers answered with a touchdown drive so it was back on Palmer to keep up. He drove the Raiders downfield again despite two more dropped passes and two more penalties and added another field goal. The following drive, he had two big completions to DHB for 39 yards and to Kevin Boss from 22 yards out for a touchdown. It put the Raiders within five points with 9:32 remaining in the game. But the Chargers had their big 99 yard touchdown drive after that and in the desperation time, Palmer threw his interception.

Sebastian Janikowski

The Raiders should have gotten in the end zone more in this game. But as has been the case several times this season, Janikowski was there to be Mr Automatic whenever they needed him. He was there four times on Sunday and was ready to try a fifth if the Raiders had given him the chance before halftime. He connected from 52, 43, 32, and 28 yards out. If Carson Palmer had thrown away the final pass of the first half, Janikowski would have had an attempt from 55 yards — well within his range. Five of his seven kickoffs made the end zone with one touchback. Unfortunately, one of those kicks was returned 105 yards for a touchdown but that is hardly his fault. He squibbed another kickoff that was bobbled and was nearly a safety before being called down at the one yard line.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Before we get into his positives, it is necessary that I mention DHB nearly didn’t make the Baller list due to his three drops in this game. One of those drops was in the end zone and was right in his hands for what should have been a touchdown. In total, he had a whopping 17 passes thrown his way on Sunday. He pulled in nine of those passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. He also turned defender on another long pass that would have been intercepted had he not knocked it down. His best catch of the day came on the Raiders’ touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter. Palmer threw the pass to what appeared to be no one. The Charger defenders’ eyes got really wide and then seemingly out of nowhere DHB leapt up and grabbed it and took it for a 39 yard gain. It set up the touchdown two plays later.

Jared Veldheer

He was helped out when Chargers sack leader Antwan Barnes was ejected early in the game. But regardless of his opponents, Veldheer didn’t allow so much as a pressure on Palmer. He also didn’t have a penalty in the game. That is what a team asks for in a tackle.

Denarius Moore

Moore had three catches in the game for 101 yards. Most of those yards came on one catch. And oh what a catch it was. He has become the primary deep threat for this Raider team. Last week he had the huge 61 yard touchdown grab to help the Raiders win. This is becoming a regular occurrence for the fleet-footed, sticky-fingered rookie. On the 78 yard catch, Palmer knew right away that he was going to Denarius on the pass. Denarius hadn’t even shifted into high gear before Palmer threw the pass. Then Moore hit hyper speed and ran past Quentin Jammer to go get the ball. Jammer never had a chance. It was all he could do to tackle Moore before he could reach the end zone. Denarius is certainly exciting. Even his three yard run was exciting. He got the ball on an end around and started right but found no opening so he completely shifted course to the left. All told he probably ran about 100 yards just to get that three yards. But it was pretty exciting for a minute there as he looked like he might break through.

Busters

Chuck Bresnahan

This is probably the last game in which Bresnahan will be mentioned. His ticket out of Oakland was likely punched a while ago, but this game will make the decision to “let him go” that much easier. The players are frustrated and confused on the field but they seem to have a pretty good idea of why they continue to falter on defense. There were several times in this game that made you wonder what was going on with the defensive scheme. On the Chargers’ first touchdown, Bresnahan opts for Matt Giordano to blitz and put Mike Mitchell in single coverage on All Pro tight end Antonio Gates. The result was to be expected. Gates got behind Mitchell, pulled down the pass and ran through 38 yards of open space for the touchdown. Then in the third quarter, after the Raiders had pulled within one score, Lamarr Houston is spotted guarding Gates — on third down, no less. Gates gets the catch and the first down and the Chargers’ drive stays alive. To finish it off, Rivers throws a touchdown to his Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson who is guarded by middle linebacker Rolando McClain. Easy touchdown.

Then we come to the same point the Raiders have found themselves in several games this season. The defense needs a stop if they hope to win. This time the Chargers’ drive started at the half yard line. Four plays later, they had gone 99 yards for the touchdown. A 19 yard catch, a 40 yard run, a 7 yard run, and a 43 yard touchdown catch. The Chargers actually had to go 109 yards because they were called for holding on the second play. Absolutely pathetic. And inexcusable.

Mike Mitchell

I am really struggling to find what Mike Mitchell does well. In this game, like some previous games, his weaknesses showed across the board. He gave up the Chargers’ first touchdown when he was completely destroyed by Antonio Gates for a 38 yard touchdown catch. He didn’t have a safety to protect deep and he knew it and yet he chose to let Gates get behind him. A light forearm to the back by Gates (a basketball move from the former college basketball player) and Gates had all the wide open space he needed to run to the end zone.

But what about his special teams play? In the second quarter, just after the Raiders kicked a field goal to close the deficit to 14-10, they kicked off to the Chargers. Chargers return man Robert Goodwin fielded the kick five yard deep in the end zone and took it back 105 yards for the touchdown. There were a lot of good blocks on the return but the guy who had the best shot at stopping it was Mitchell who whiffed on the tackle as Goodwin went untouched all the way to the end zone.

On the Chargers’ next possession Mitchell was out of position on a catch and then missed the tackle and it was taken 13 yards to set up another Chargers score on a field goal and a 24-13 halftime lead. He wasn’t done though as he gave up a 16 yard catch on the Chargers’ next possession and they scored another touchdown a few plays later. Someone remind me again what his strengths are?

Lito Sheppard

He gave up five catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in this game. That’s a good day for a receiver which means it’s a bad day for a corner. Two of those catches came on the Chargers’ first touchdown drive. The first went for 14 yards on third and seven, the second went for 13 yards to put them in scoring position. Late in the second quarter he gave up a first down catch that, if stopped, would have been a three and out. Instead, they moved into field goal range to tack on another three points before halftime.

Sheppard’s undoing was on the big 99 yard drive. With Rivers deep in his own end zone, Lito gave up a 19 yard catch on the first play to instantly eliminate what should have been a big advantage for the Raiders. Now they were at the 20 yard line as if it were a touchback. After a holding penalty on the Chargers, it looked like the Raiders might just stop them yet. But then they broke off a 40 yard run in which Lito missed a tackle. Two plays later, he was victimized on a 43 yard touchdown pass and the game was essentially over.

Kamerion Wimbley

When the Raiders beat the Chargers in week ten, it was due in large part to the pressure Wimbley and Co. were able to get on Philip Rivers. Wimbley had four sacks in that game and several other pressures. But Wimbley didn’t have his first sack in that game until after the Chargers lost their left tackle Marcus McNeill to injury. Afterward, he feasted on the backup tackle. Since then, the Chargers signed Jared Gaither to play left tackle for them, and Wimbley was rendered toothless. Rivers had all day to throw and picked the Raiders apart at will.

Wimbley had the first penalty of the day on a neutral zone infraction as the Raiders sought the NFL single season penalty record. On their next drive, he was blocked on a seven yard first down run, and the Chargers finished it off with their first touchdown. On their next drive, he was put on Gates and Rivers saw the matchup and threw for a 37 yard completion. That drive would end in the Chargers’ second TD of the day. Then just to finish off the day, he was blocked on a 46 yard end around and was called for an offsides penalty on the Chargers’ final drive.

Hue Jackson

This was another game of mismanagement for Hue. There was a timeout as the clock ran down and a delay of game before a field goal try. Then there was the missed opportunity to end the first half in which the Raiders ran out of time and didn’t get off a field goal attempt. Granted Carson Palmer should not have thrown the pass in the middle of the field to allow the clock to run out but some blame falls on Jackson as well. I mean, why are any of the receivers cutting to midfield on that play? That should have been a quick read for an open man along the boundary and a throw away. Or it should never have been run in the first place. Without the play it would have been a 55 yard field goal for Janikowski. That is commonplace for him. But it never happened.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 17: Ballers & Busters

The Raiders came out swinging in this game. They played like they had no intention of going into the offseason easily. There is no such thing as having nothing to play for. They were looking to finish .500 while sweeping the AFC West. And they had to go out and do it on the frozen field in Kansas City.

The players were angry that they were going home early. They also seemed like they knew they were fighting for their head coach’s job. There is something to be said for playing the final game of the season leaving everything on the field. It helps limit the regret throughout the offseason.

When these two teams met earlier in the season, it took a big comeback by the Raiders and a big play in overtime to pull out the victory. This game looked to be just as close midway through the 3rd quarter.

It was a close game early. The Chiefs got on the board first with a field goal. The Raiders came back by scoring 10 unanswered heading into halftime. The Chiefs would score a touchdown in the 3rd quarter to even it up at 10-10. But after that the Raiders ran away with the game, scoring three touchdowns in a little over a quarter of football to finish the Chiefs off 31-10.

So here are the Ballers & Busters for the final week of the 2010 NFL season.

Ballers


Kamerion Wimbley

He was just relentless in this game. And the Chiefs were powerless to stop him. First of all, he had three sacks in this game and he should have had even more. The first sack ended a Chiefs drive in the second quarter. On the Chiefs very next possession he came after Matt Cassel for the sack and Cassel was called for intentional grounding– as good or better than a sack. Then he teamed up with Jarvis Moss on a sack to end the drive although he was not given credit for even a half sack.

On a drive in the quarter, the Chiefs attempted a sweep left. Wimbley fought through his blocker and threw him to the side to tackle the runner for a loss on the play. Wimbley must have learned a lot from playing all those cold games in Cleveland because, he finished off the Chiefs in dominating fashion. Late in the game the Chiefs were trying to save a little pride and score another touchdown. But after three first downs, Wimbley said ‘enough.’ He welcomed the Chiefs’ third string quarterback to the NFL with a sack and a loss of nine yards. Then on the next play he came around the edge, the QB stepped up in the pocket looking to scramble and Wimbley came back to sack him again. A couple of run stuffs later, the Chiefs turned it over on downs and the game was over.

Michael Bush

What Bush did on Sunday was what the Raiders have come to expect from him. When they need him to step up and be great, he delivers. He is a big back and most defenses expect him to plow over them so when the brace themselves for impact, Bush just makes a cut and runs around them. They look up to find they are grasping at air. In this game He delivered 137 rushing yards and a touchdown and added 4 catches for 34 yards.

On the Raiders first touchdown drive, he had a 14 yard run and a few plays later he had an impressive one hand grab on a high pass by Campbell that he took for a 6 yard first down. On the Raiders last drive before halftime, he bulled his way for a short first down run and on then on third down he caught a pass for 16 yards. His five yard run on the next play helped set up the Raiders to hit a field goal to head into the lockeroom up 10-3.

On the very first play of the 3rd quarter, Bush picked up where he left off as he took the handoff 22 yards up the middle. The Raiders next drive was his best of the day. He had a 9 yard run on the 2nd play of the drive, a five yard first down run, and finished it off with his big 26 yard touchdown run to retake the lead for the Raiders, 17-10.

Desmond Bryant

The Raiders would be without their Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour for this game. That meant the duo of Desmond Bryant and John Henderson would fill in for him just as they did last week. This week it was Bryant’s turn to show his value. He started things off on the Chiefs 2nd drive when he broke into the backfield to pressure the runningback and force a tackle for loss. He had another run stuff and a hit on the quarterback to force an incompletion in the first half.

He was replaced by John Henderson for most of the third quarter but as soon as he was brought back in the game, he was back to making plays. He helped close out the third quarter with a run stuff. Then midway thru the 4th quarter he chased Matt Cassell deep into his own backfield to sack him for a 15 yard loss. With the Chiefs in 3rd and very long, Cassel would throw and interception on the next play that was taken back for a touchdown and 31-10 Raider lead. Bryant wanted to make sure the Chiefs got no closer than that so on the next drive, he had a run stuff on 1st down, a tackle for loss on the next play, and pressured the QB into an incompletion a few plays later.

Bryant was a big reason the Chiefs were held to just 115 yards rushing on the day. In fact, he wasn’t even in the game for much of those yards. The NFL’s leading rusher in yards per carry, Jamal Charles, had 87 yards and a touchdown. But 47 of those yards came on one big run in the third quarter which was followed by a 5 yard TD run. Neither of those runs happened with Bryant in the game. Which means Bryant helped hold Charles to just 35 yards on 12 carries the rest of the game.

John Marshall

He played Matt Cassel and the Chiefs like a fiddle in this game. The Raiders looked like they were much more at home on the Arrowhead frozen turf than the Chiefs. He drew up blitzes and schemes that had a Raider defender in Cassel’s back pocket on every single passing play. All the while, the Raiders still somehow managed to hold the NFL leader in yards per carry bottled up for nearly the entire game. Jamal Charles’ backfield mate, Thomas Jones, fared even worse with 10 carries for a total of 17 yards.

Marshall had done his homework on Cassel and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and it appeared as if Marshall was reading their playbook. The result was 7 sacks by the Raiders spread out among 5 different players and two interceptions. Cassel completed just 11 passes for 115 yards, no TD passes, 2 interceptions and a completion percentage of 33%. John Marshall likes the players he has to work with on the Raiders and they are enjoyed having him drawing up the defense.

Jason Campbell

He was efficient in this game and made great decisions. He may have had just 155 yards passing but he did it on 60% completion. It was also great to see him fitting balls into tight windows on intermediate routes, making quicker decisions, and running for good yardage when the opportunity presented itself. On the Raiders first drive, he ran out of bounds and hurt his knee. But it only kept him out one series. The next drive, he came back in and immediately led the Raiders to a touchdown drive. Along the way he had a critcal 21 yard scramble on 2nd and 20. He was limping the whole way and was clearly in pain but still managed to cross the first down marker to move the sticks. A couple plays later he squeezed a first down pass into Chaz Schilens on 3rd down and then finished it off by hitting a wide open Schilens in the end zone to give the Raiders their first lead 7-3.

Just before halftime, he led the Raiders down the field with 5 completions and a scramble to set up the a field goal heading into the half. The next Raider scoring drive he had a beautiful play action fake that allowed Jacoby Ford to gain 14 yards on an end-around. The next Raider touchdown drive started in the redzone after an interception and it took all of one play. They went back to the Jacoby Ford end-around but this time Campbell rolled out and laid a key block to spring Ford for the touchdown and a 24-10 lead.

Stanford Routt

Obviously Routt’s biggest contribution was his interception return for a touchdown. It was a masterful interception too. It was not an errant pass, Routt simply read it perfectly and broke on the ball as soon as it left Cassel’s hand. It was only a matter of clutching the ball and Routt had a pick six all the way. It was the proverbial nail in the Chiefs’ coffin to put the game away. The interception wasn’t his only good play in the game though. He would have a tackle as well as give up just one catch for nine yards in the first half.

The third quarter was a forgettable one for Routt as he began with a pass interference penalty on a drive that resulted in the Chiefs only TD of the day. Then on the next Chiefs possession he gave up catches of 11 and 19 yards. But he came back in the 4th quarter with a coverage incompletion followed by the interception for the touchdown and a pass defended in the end zone to prevent a late score by the Chiefs. This was a great way to end the season for Routt and hopefully it is a springboard for further improvement next season.

Jacoby Ford

He torched the Chiefs again. And he only saw the ball three times in this game. He had two rushes on end-arounds and one reception. The pass was a five yard bubble screen he took another 30 yards to the Chiefs 6 yard line to set up the Raiders first touchdown. The first end-around went for 14 yards, and it set up the Raiders 2nd touchdown. The 2nd end-around was the only play of the drive and it went 10 yards for a touchdown. He also contributed as a blocker when he helped spring Bush for a 14 yard gainer to start off the Raiders first touchdown drive. He probably would have had more of an impact in the return game but the Chiefs only kicked off three times, with one of those kicked away from Ford (for obvious reasons).

Cooper Carlisle

It was another fine performance by the Raider offensive line and as per usual, I try and find the player that stood out among the group. Carlisle distinguished himself by laying key blocks on several big run plays. The first was the 35 yard catch and run by Jacoby Ford that set up the Raiders first touchdown. Then he was the primary blocker that opened the hole the Michael Bush ran through to pick up 22 yards to begin the 3rd quarter. Carslisle also manhandled his assignent to open a huge hole for Bush to run through on his 26 yard touchdown scamper. That means that Carlisle layed key blocks on the two longest run plays of the day as well as the longest pass play of the day. He also did not have any penalties, give up any tackles for loss or sacks on the day.

Lamarr Houston

Continued his beast mode play in this game. He had two run stuffs in the first quarter and hit Cassel for an incompletion in the 2nd quarter. Then he finished off the game with a sack and a tackle for loss late in the 4th quarter.

Honorable Mention

Michael Huff, Rolando McClain

Both made several nice plays on the day. Huff had a great interception that led to a Raider touchdown and also had a pass defended. McClain led the team in tackles. It was just a few lapses in coverage that kept them off the already very long Baller list.

Robert Gallery, Samson Satele

Both played mistake free football. Satele laid a couple of nice blocks on long runs and Gallery was seen often helping rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer keep Tamba Hali out of the backfield and off of Jason Campbell.

Busters

Darrius Heyward-Bey

DHB threatened to tear down the Raiders chances of victory before they had laid a single brick. He took and end around on the first play of the game and fumbled it to give the Chiefs that ball at the 17 yard line. The first time the Chiefs touched the ball, they were in scoring position. If things had continued like that, this would have been a blowout. It was only because of a second straight defensive stand that the Chiefs would settle for a field goal. But even without that fumble, he had a terrible game. He didn’t have a single catch in the game. Jason Campbell didn’t even throw a ball to him until the 4th quarter. On the play that the ball was thrown his way, it seemed clear that Campbell was told to throw it to DHB regardless. DHB made a sorry excuse for a move that was supposed to fool the defender and didn’t. Instead, it looked like some weird spind move that probably had the defensive back laughing about afterward. Campbell was forced to throw the ball well over the play in the hopes that DHB could catch up to it. He couldn’t. The next play, the Raiders would draw up another pass play designed to go to DHB. This time it was on target and he simply dropped it. And that was his day.

Jared Veldheer

I don’t want to be too hard on the kid. But he has a lot of work to do in the offseason if he is truly going to be the Raiders left tackle of the future. He started off his day with a false start in the first quarter that the Raiders were unable to recover from. Then on the next drive, with the Raiders set up at the Chiefs’ 6 yard line, he gave up a pressure on Jason Campbell to force an incompletion. The very next drive he gave up a sack on third down to end the possession with a three and out. On the Raiders’ first drive of the 3rd quarter, he was called for an illegal hands to the face penalty to take the Raiders out of field goal range. The Raiders would end failing on a 4th down attempt and turn the ball over on downs.

I will have my 2010 Season Ballers & Busters next week so be on the lookout for that. And as always, you can look back at all the year’s best and worst, as well as those from years passed, in the Ballers & Busters Index.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Raiders Week 17: Ballers & Busters

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders

And so the final week of the 2009 NFL regular season has passed. The week 17 game against the Ravens was the Raiders’ last chance to come out of the season with their best record since their ’02 Super Bowl season. The only other positive note the Raiders could take from this game was the opportunity to play spoiler for the second season in a row. If the Raiders had won the game, it would have knocked the Ravens out of playoff contention just as the Raiders had done to the Buccaneers at the end of last season. But it wasn’t to be.

The Ravens running game and run defense both proved to be too much. While the Ravens were picking up large chunks of yardage on every drive, the Raiders couldn’t break through the line to get any kind of momentum.

 

Despite the dominance in the trenches, the Raiders crept back to within one point (14-13) in the third quarter. But in the end the team that wanted it more triumphed over the team that had nothing to lose as the Ravens would score another touchdown to win 21-13.

So let’s lay out those who felt like losing wasn’t an option and those who just played like they were on a 5-11 team.

Ballers

Charlie Frye

After a poor showing in last week’s loss to his hometown Browns, Frye came out looking like he deserved the starting nod in this game. He went out with injury after the first half, but in that half of football he didn’t make any big mistakes or turnovers and he put the Raiders in a position to win the game, despite running for his very life nearly every snap of the ball. He really got it going on the Raiders’ third drive of the game. He started the drive with a perfect throw to Chaz Schilens for 15 yards. Two plays later he executed a beautiful play fake that fooled the defense and allowed for a nice 16 yard completion to Jonnie Lee Higgins. Then on third down and 7 with the Raiders just outside of field goal range, Frye escaped the oncoming rush of several Raven lineman to get out of the pocket and hit Higgins for another 16 yard completion. This would set up Janikowski for his first field goal and the Raiders’ first score of the game. Two possessions later, he was back at it again. The drive began with two short catches and an automatic first down on a Baltimore pass interference penalty. Then he completely fooled the Ravens again on a great play fake and hit Higgins again, this time for 21 yards. The next play was a designed roll to his right. He hit Murphy for a 17 yard gain. A couple plays later, with the Raiders in third and one, he sneaked it for a first down on the Ravens’ 12 yard line. On the next play he threw a gorgeous ball over the leaping Ray Lewis to hit Zach Miller in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. That would be his last pass of the day as he would leave the game with a lower back strain. Honestly, it was a surprise he lasted as long as he did. He was getting nailed from every direction by oncoming rushers every time he dropped back to pass. But one of the things he has always been known for is throwing on the run and that ability was on display on Sunday. He would have more passing yards (180) in the first half than JaMarcus Russell had in the second half (102) and Joe Flacco had the entire game (102).

Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, Jonnie Lee Higgins

While their quarterback(s) were constantly under siege all day, these guys really worked their tails off to get open, come back to the ball, and make the tough catches. The run was not working against the stout Raven run defense so they needed to pick up the slack. Chaz Schilens led the team in catches and yards with 8 grabs for 99 yards. He had the first nice catch of the day when he dove to scoop up a low thrown ball on third down to keep the first drive alive. Two possessions later, he got things started with a 15 yard catch. Then Higgins, who was second on the team in receiving yards, got into the act. He would make two consecutive 16 yard catches that set the Raiders up for their first score. Next possession, it was Schilens’ turn again. On the third play of the drive he caught a ball at 15 yards and made an acrobatic (and risky) leap over Chris Carr to gain 7 more yards and a 22 yard gain on the play. He had another 10 yard catch on the drive but it was third and 17 so the Raiders were forced to punt. Then, after the Ravens quickly scored another touchdown, the Raiders would get the ball back down 14-3. Now it was Murphy’s turn to go to work. He had a short 5 yard catch on the second play and on the following play he beat his defender and was interfered with to give the Raiders a much needed automatic first down. Next, after a 21 yard completion by Higgins, Murphy would grab a 17 yard catch to put the Raiders in scoring position. A few plays later, Frye hit Miller for a touchdown. On the first Raider possession of the second half, Schilens had the only first down with an 18 yard grab. The next possession, Murphy started things off with an 11 yard catch. Then a few plays later on third and 14, Schilens caught a pass for 17 yards. This would set Janikowski up for his second field goal of the day to put the Raiders within a point at 13-14. These three would continue to make several more great catches but the Raiders could not capitalize on them due to costly turnovers.

Zach Miller

Although he only had 39 yards on the day, he was second on the team in catches with 7 and he caught the only touchdown for the Raiders. On the touchdown he broke open in the back of the end zone and caught a perfectly placed ball that was too high for Ray Lewis as Miller reached up to pluck it out of the air. It was a thing of beauty — but no surprise there. He is a Pro Bowl alternate this year because he has been performing feats of beauty since he came into the league three years ago.

Richard Seymour

Seymour is the only defensive player to make the Baller list from an otherwise weak and ugly effort by the Raider defensive line. Oddly enough, he was a Buster for the first time last week after his lack of professionalism and leadership gave the Browns a pivotal score. This week he seemed like he either wanted to make up for that or give the Raiders and other teams in the NFL something to think about with him heading into possible free agency. He led all Raider defensive linemen in tackles with 5 solo and 1 assist. On the Ravens’ third possession of the day, he book ended the drive with nice plays. He started it off when he held containment on a run play and then when he forced the back to the inside, he tackled him for no gain. Two nice plays in one. He later ended the drive by deflecting a Flacco pass at the line to force a punt. On the Ravens’ final drive of the first half, he had a run stuff tackle for no gain. Two plays later, the Ravens would miss their field goal attempt to keep the Raiders close at 10-14 heading into the locker room. After the Raiders forced two straight three-and-outs to start the second half, they were in line for a third. On third and 8 the Raiders blitzed and Seymour got pressure on Flacco that flushed him from the pocket where he was sacked. On the Ravens’ final two possessions he tried desperately to keep the Raiders in the game. On the first of the two he had a run stuff tackle for a short gain that would set up a 51 yard field goal attempt that fell short. Then with just under three minutes left in the game and the Raiders needing a stop, he stuffed a run attempt for a short gain. This would set up a pivotal third down. But unfortunately the Ravens were able to convert and kneel down to run the clock out.

Shane Lechler

Lechler was in line to possibly overtake Sammy Baugh with the all-time leading single season punting average. Baugh set the mark at 51.4 and Lechler just missed it with a 51.1 average this season. Still pretty impressive though. Lechler had four punts over 50 yards on Sunday with his longest traveling 59. But distance is just part of his impressive work. His shortest punt may have been the best of all. While it traveled just 45 yards, this was by design. It was a towering shot that the returner stayed well away from. It landed at the ONE yard line with a backspin and bounced away from the end zone to be downed at the 5 yard line. His 59 yarder was taken at the 3 yard line and Baltimore was called for a hold on the return to start their drive on their own 10 yard line. His final punt was a moon shot that sailed 51 yards and was fair caught at the Ravens’ 7 yard line.

Busters

Cornell Green, Mario Henderson, Chris Morris

I had to give these three the top Busters to share. I couldn’t decide which of them was worse. When on the first play of the game Green is called for a penalty, you know it is going to be a long day. The Raiders would start the game in first and 15 after Green was illegally downfield. They would dig out of that hole just in time for Morris to give up a run stuff. Two plays later the drive ended when Henderson allowed pressure on Frye to force an incompletion. Then, after a couple of possessions and a nice drive, they couldn’t hold it any longer. A promising drive that had the Raiders in Raven territory ended quickly after Morris gave up a run stuff, and Morris, Green, and Henderson were all pushed back into Charlie Frye where Henderson gave up a sack. The drive ended on the next play. Then the first drive of the second half had the Raiders in a third and one. But when Bush tried to go through the right guard/tackle gap, he had a defender there waiting for him because Green couldn’t block him. When Bush tried to break it outside, it was too late and he was tackled for a loss to force a punt. The next drive, the Raiders were able to overcome a false start penalty on Green to get a field goal. The next drive, they weren’t so lucky. The drive ended when Henderson gave up a hit on Russell as he threw and the ball fluttered into the arms of a defender for an interception. The next possession, Morris would give up yet another run stuff. And another drive would end when Henderson’s man rushed the outside and as Russell stepped into the pocket he ran up and slapped the ball out of the quarterback’s hands to force a fumble. After a time consuming possession, the Raiders had one last chance to tie the game. The drive would begin with yet another Cornell Green false start penalty. It ended in three plays because Russell was pressured from all sides and in a panic he threw a rushed pass that fell incomplete. It ended up as the last time the Raider offense would have the ball.

John Fassel

As I have said all season, the Raiders’ special teams is a shell of its former self. They can’t return and they can’t cover. Even with the best kicker and the best punter in the entire NFL, they can’t capitalize. The Ravens averaged 34 yards on kick-off returns in this game and their longest was 53 yards. Janikowski often kicks into the end zone but opposing returners rarely take a knee for a touchback because they know that they have a really good shot at getting a nice return against the Raider coverage unit. All the while, the Raiders averaged less than half as many return yards than the Ravens. And this is against a kicker in Cundiff that missed a 51 yard field goal short. Punt returns are not great either. Even with Lechler’s big leg, on the two returns the Ravens had, they averaged 16 yards. Meanwhile the Raiders averaged THREE YARDS on two returns. The Ravens’ average field position off of kick-offs was the 38 yard line including one return to the Raider 43 yard line. The Raiders’ average start was the 20 yard line. This should not happen with the strongest legged kicker in the NFL. And they sure as hell shouldn’t be averaging 16 yards a return on punts with Lechler back there launching it. The fault lies in poor blocking and the lack of a good scheme falls on Fassel.

Gerard Warren

One thing that really jumped out at me was that Warren didn’t record a single tackle or assist in this game despite being the starter. This was no fluke either. He was out there, he just was a complete non-factor. Well, at least for the Raiders anyway. He was certainly a factor for the Ravens. He was a nice target for a positive run when the Ravens needed it. It can be hard to keep track of a guy who is no where to be found in the stat line but there was a couple of times he could be spotted. The first time came on the Ravens’ first possession. With the Ravens in second and 5 they ran it right up the middle where Warren was embarrassingly pushed at least five yards off the line to allow a six yard run and a first down for the Ravens. That should never happen but it wouldn’t be the last time. On the next Ravens’ drive, they were set up on the 2 yard line and went up the middle again. Same exact result too. Warren was driven about 4 yards into the end zone to allow the Ravens to score easily. When your starting nose tackle is getting plowed over by the opposing team’s center, you have problems. Which the Raiders certainly have. Warren wasn’t done embarrassing himself though. He would completely whiff on his best chance at recording a tackle in this game on the Ravens second-to-last drive of the game. It would set up a third and short that the Ravens would convert to keep their lengthy drive alive and put them in scoring position.

Thomas Howard

He was another guy who wasn’t around the ball much — unless he was giving up a big catch or a score. On the Ravens’ second possession, he gave up a pivotal catch for 22 yards that put the Ravens at the 6 yard line. Then, two plays later, he completely missed the tackle on a run up the middle for the Ravens’ first touchdown. He was nowhere to be found on the Ravens’ second touchdown. And on the Ravens’ third touchdown, he was late getting over to make the tackle on another run in from short yardage.

Kirk Morrison

Again, he led the Raiders in tackles, and again he is a Buster. It is always about those lapses he seems to have that end up in huge gains and touchdowns by the opposing running backs. On the Ravens’ first touchdown drive, he was responsible for the biggest gain when he failed to get containment on the outside and Ray Rice ran around the edge for 27 yards to put the Ravens in scoring position. In the second quarter, after a huge punt by Lechler that pinned the Ravens at their own 5 yard line, he immediately gave up an 18 yard catch to the tight end. On the very next play, he was handled on the block that allowed Willis McGahee to run 77 yards for a touchdown. Later, in the third quarter with the Ravens looking to score, he gave up a 7 yard catch to the running back to set them up at the one yard line. They would score on the next play. He would have two more missed tackles in the game. The first kept a long drive alive to run too much time off the clock to allow the Raiders another chance to score at the end of the game. Game over.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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