Game Grades: Raiders vs. Falcons

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Pass Offense: Derek Carr continues to be a model of efficiency, with going 34-45-299, with 3 TDs and no interceptions. Carr hit eleven receivers, topped by Amari Cooper with 5 catches for 71 yards. Cooper’s fantastic 50-yard catch-and-run late in the game was called back due to him stepping out of bounds prior to the catch. Michael Crabtree is clutch, going 4-31 with a TD. Clive Walford had a nice 31-yard TD rumble. The passing game is taking a while to get going, but once it does, it is proving difficult for opponents to stop.
Grade: B+

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray (8-57-1) and DeAndre Washington (6-46) each had decent days on the ground, each averaging over 7 yards per rush. Murray’s TD run was excellent. Unfortunately, with only 14 carries and 103 yards between them, it just showed they probably should have been used more. Jalen Richard got stuffed, with just 17 yards on 7 carries. Offensive line coach Mike Tice has his hands full with the early run of injuries, and the sooner the line is healthy, the better the power-running game will be.
Grade: B

Pass Defense: Sean Smith got owned again, this time by Julio Jones, who played every other play, using the off plays to nurse his obvious injuries. Jones racked up 106 yards and  touchdown with just 5 receptions. It’s probably just a good thing he wasn’t 100%. Matt Ryan went 26-34-399-3-1, very close to the numbers Drew Brees rolled up on the defense last week. David Amerson had a nice interception in the end zone to kill a Falcons drive. Stacy McGee had a nice sack on the Falcons’ first possession. I don’t know if opposing offensive coordinators are figuring out DC Ken Norton, Jr’s strategy or what, but the tendency so far is to have a solid, playmaking defense on the opponent’s opening drive, and then get picked apart for the rest of the afternoon. The Raiders have spent too much money upgrading their defensive backfield to be getting this kind of performance.
Grade: D-

Rush Defense: Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman totaled 139 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries between them, averaging almost 5 yards/carry. Many of these runs came later in the game, as the Raiders’ defense was getting gassed after getting picked apart all day, and leaning pass at that point. Coleman’s 13-yard TD run was ugly, right through the heart of the front seven. Khalil Mack has been a non-factor in the two games so far.
Grade: C-

Special Teams: Something of an off-day for this unit. Marquette King averaged just 34.3 on his four punts (although his first one was a beautiful 64-yarder). King’s net average got nuked when Eric Weems busted off a 74-yard return, which King himself had to stop with a horse-collar tackle to prevent a TD return (the drive ended with a field goal, so it was well worth it). Janikowski made all four of his extra points, but shanked his 56-yard field goal attempt from the dirt. Taiwan Jones had an end-zone touchback bounce off his chest, forcing the offense to start from the 2-yard line. Returns continue to be nothing to write home about.
Grade: C

Coaching: Raider greats abounded at the home opener, from John Madden to Ted Hendricks to Ray Guy to Willie Brown. But the magic just wasn’t there in the end. As disappointing as this loss is, there’s nothing here that can’t be fixed, and there are plenty of bright spots.

The offensive game plan was solid and well-executed for the most part, and OC Bill Musgrave continues to craft an offensive system that utilizes the players’ strengths well. Playing catch-up has not been something this offense has been well-suited for, but today and last week they showed that they can if they have to. Obviously, the goal of DC Ken Norton, Jr. is to get his players tighter so they don’t have to. But the adjustments don’t seem to be happening, or at least are not effective. Key players are not executing very well.

Jack Del Rio made not one but two gutsy fourth-down calls, one which worked and one which didn’t. The first one, at the goal-line, was essential and paid off. The other one took place at midfield, with under seven minutes remaining, and strongly implied the same thing that last week’s two-point call did:  Del Rio does not believe is defense is clutch enough to win games, and he is correct in that belief. Neither the Falcons nor the Saints are going to the playoffs this season, and this defense has performed dismally against both teams. It is only because those teams’ pass defenses are as bad as the Raiders’ that the offense was able to catch up and make things close. Against Carolina or even Kansas City, this team is going to get eaten alive at this rate.

The next two games are on the road, in Tennessee and Baltimore. The defense has to pull it together and start holding back opposing offenses, or it is going to be a long season for everyone.
Grade: C

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