Steady TEAM Play Wins The Race
byon 11-28-2011 at 07:24 AM (616 Views)
When I sit back and reflect on my beloved Oakland Raiders 25-20 victory over the Chicago Bears, who came into to this game with a very respectable 7-3 record, I try to pin point how the Raiders came away with the victory.
The only thing I can come up with is that overall, the Raiders had a very steady game.
Let me start with the offense, which had its struggles.
The offense was only able to convert 3 out 15 third down conversion attempts. They were only 1 for 5 in the red zone, and only 1 for 3 with goal to go. As Carson Palmer stated, sacks and penalties had the team going
backwards. At one time, we went from 1st and goal at the 9 yard line, to 3rd and goal from the 26 yard line.
None of that is anything to hang a hat on, or point to with chest -thumping type pride.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Raiders left points, and I mean all kinds, on the field.
Yet, Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards. The 73 yards on the ground isn't much to brag about, but they were hard fought yards. We should consider we were without several key weapons. Running back Darren McFadden missed yet another game, while back up Taiwan Jones also was sitting on the bench. This left the bulk of the work to Michael Bush, who was spelled a scant 3 plays by either Rock Cartwright or Marcel Reece.
In our air game, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford were out.
The offense ran 27 ground plays, 37 in the air. That's not unexpected, and considering the lack of production on the ground, and the conservative play calling, 374 yards, gross, is pretty good. The running game itself was straight ahead running, with only one pitch out. We did not try a single reverse. Long pass attempts not born out of necessity, were not all that many. In fact , we had only 4 offensive plays over 20 yards, and one of those was due to yards after catch. But when push came to shove and we absolutely HAD to have the big play, Louis Murphy came down with a big reception from Carson Palmer.
I don't mind the 17 earned first downs, including our successful and important 4th down conversion attempt.
We scored in every quarter, and ended the touchdown drought in
the game, as well as giving us a 4th quarter touchdown for the first time since game 5, with the Michael Bush touch down run with 3:51 left in the game.
Nothing insane, nothing out of the ordinary, no tricks, no gimmicks, nothing unknown. That, in my mind, is steady production. The only problem was that we settled for so many field goals.
I am sure just about everyone by now has talked about how Sebastian Janikowski set a franchise record, scoring 18 points on 6 successful field goals. Not only that, but he had to worry about kick returns with 2 very dangerous kick returners in Devin Hester and Johnny Knox. Hester averaged only 19.2 yards per return, though Knox faired better, mostly due to one big 56 yard return. He also had one touchback. Pretty good considering he is still dealing with an injured kicking leg.
But he wasn't the only player setting franchise records. Punter Shane Lechler helped the team immensely. Out of 5 punts, Hester had only one return, and that was only 7 yards. And that franchise record? It stood for 50 years,
being set back in 1961 by Wayne Crow. That would be a 77 yard punt. Shane punted for 80 yards. It was a mere 60 net, as it was a touchback. Watching Devin Hester chase down more than one Lechler punt like a center fielder going after a fly ball was so sweet! I guess maybe he was thinking that Lechler was the one with bum hamstring.
Which brings me to overall special teams coverage, which I considered pretty good. We are still struggling some on kick off returns, but that is do largely to the fashion in which Janikowksi is kicking because he is not 100%.
But they stepped up the pace. Only one big return, and our "slow safety" Matt Giordano is the one that brought down the speedy Johnny Knox.
The best play by special teams. though, had to be the recovery of the on side kick by the Bears. Matt Giordano had a bead on it, ended up taking a huge hit to the head, and missing the ball. David Ausberry covered it up.
Matt thinks he stayed too flat footed, and had he jumped, thinks he would have recovered the ball on his own. Being a Cal guy, said he wasn't keen on thanking Ausberry, an SC guy, for taking care of business, but it was said with a big smile, and the added statement, "We're ALL Raiders now."
So now on to the defense.
They were hampered this game. One less man in the defensive line rotation, a dinged up middle linebacker, but mostly there is very little in the lines of game film on Caleb Hanie. I figured a lot of roll outs and a lot of running by Hanie. We saw a little of both, and again, it seemed that some of our defensive players were out of position.
The Bears were able to put up 6 plays of over 20 yards, but only one was a Hanie scramble. He had another nice one, just shy of 20 yards, which counted for a first, but netted only 4 yards because of a personal foul. The
others were all pass plays, including an 81 yard pass play late in the game which gave the Bears and their fans hope. But again, Johnny Knox, speedster, was brought down by that "slow" safety, Matt Giordano.
Lito Sheppard seemed off his man too many times, maybe thinking he was a bit faster than he is. He made the tackles, but had he been closer , maybe there would have been a couple of less first downs for the Bears.
However, even when the Bears were driving the defense stepped it up.
Kamerion Wimbley took an intercepted Hanie pass tipped by Aaron Curry down to the Chicago 12 yard line. The only reason he was brought down was because Bears guard Lance Louis dragged him down by horse collar tackle. Wimbley said he had seen Matt Forte bearing down on him, so slowed up to set up some blocking, and that is what allowed Louis to even get close. The real pity was with the penalty enforced, the ball was at the 6 yard line. We ended up settling for a field goal because even though Michael Bush went out of bounds with 8 seconds left on the clock before half, somehow we had only 5 seconds for a play. We settled for a field goal.
While Wimbley had the longest interception return, he wasn't the only one. Michael Huff had a nice 24 yard return when he intercepted a pass at our 19 yard line. Stanford Routt's interception garnered him only a 2 yard return,
but was a key part of keeping Hanie guessing, early in the game.
Aaron Curry and Rolando McClain both had good games.
The team recorded the 3 interceptions, 6 passes defended and 7 qb hurries and 4 sacks. Those are pretty good numbers.
We were tagged for only 6 penalties, including one delay of game, which we took to run time off the clock.
If there is anything I question in this game, it was the coaching. Again a mobile quarterback was left without a spy. The offense was overly conservative. The usage of time outs was less than judicious, especially after there was one pass play the Bears were allowed to review that was ruled complete, but under review was reversed. That was the right call, though, and even without the time out, it is a possibility, the challenge flag would have been thrown. Besides, I would rather have won with legitimate plays. The Raiders have been on the wrong side of too many incorrect calls for me to want to take advantage of that.
This was a hard fought game, by both teams. The Bears should take no shame in losing, and hopefully they'll learn to get going without their starting quarterback, just as the Raiders had to when Jason Campbell broke his collar bone. We were lucky to get a qb the caliber of Carson Palmer, even as rusty as he was, and as I mentioned before, we had Ford, Moore, McFadden out of uniform.
I want to mention briefly a chat I had with Matt Giordano post game. This is a young man that was drafted in 2005. His minimal claim to fame was being a good special teamer. With injuries, Giordano has had an opportunity to show what he can offer, and he thinks he can be a starting safety in the NFL. With 3 interceptions already, tied with cornerback Stanford Routt, he may have a valid point. And as for the "slow" safety? That's how I heard him referenced one game, when he did get beat in a reception. Matt has to cover Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford in practices. If he can hang with them, and he does, I don't think "slow" is a word I would use for him. Or we could just ask Johnny Knox. I don't think he thinks Matt is slow , either. This pick up , I think, has been more beneficial for the team than ever expected.
That being said, we have won 3 games now, but we can not let up. We have to keep scoring steady, touchdowns more so than field goals. We need to keep up the solid play on defense. We need to protect our QB a little better, and Palmer knows he needs to make faster decisions. Once we get some guys back from injury, it should help put us more on an even keel offensively. Keep playing as a team. If one area falters, another has to step up. All three had their issues today, and in each case, another facet of the team did step up, as we held on for the win.
For now, stay the course, prepare and execute against our next opponent, the Miami Dolphins.
WIn, lose or tie, RAIDERS til I DIE!