Category Archives: amari cooper

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Chiefs

Pass Offense: You almost have to grade on a curve here, as the first three quarters were solid if not great, capped by a dismal fourth quarter. Derek Carr finished the day 31-48-283, with 2 TDs and 3 INT. Amari Cooper led the receiving corps with 4 catches for 69 yards and no touchdowns, though Michael Crabtree had a 25-yard TD catch. The scoring drive to open the game was well-constructed and executed, but the offense kept stalling after that.

Carr spread the ball around (11 receivers total) and made some nice throws in the first three quarters, but suddenly got a case of happy feet as Chefs DC Bob Sutton changed up pressure packages on him, resulting in three ugly interceptions, including a pick-six by former Raider Tyvon Branch. The icing on the cake was on the Raiders’ final offensive drive, forced to pass, as linebacker Frank Zombo stormed through for two consecutive sacks. In the first 11 games, the offensive line gave up just 14 sacks; today they surrendered four to Kansas City, even without Justin Houston.
Grade: C-

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray gained 86 yards on 20 carries, with a long of 35 yards, and scored a touchdown, though his two fumbles didn’t help the cause. With Taiwan Jones injured, there doesn’t seem to be much halfback depth beyond Murray, as Roy Helu had no carries (but did have a nice 15-yard catch-and-run late in the game). Fullbacks Jamize Olawale and Marcel Reece continue to produce on the rare plays they get used, which just makes you wonder why they don’t get used more. The Raiders really do have an abundance of offensive weapons, so it’s hard to use all of them every game, but using the fullbacks and tight ends more would force defenses to single-cover either Cooper or Crabtree more often than not.
Grade: C

Pass Defense: The defense put pressure on Alex Smith (16-22-162-2-0) all day. Smith still has not thrown an interception since Week 3 in Green Bay, but the Raiders sacked him four times, including two from Khalil Mack. Charles Woodson forced and recovered a fumble from Travis Kelce with a textbook rip at a critical point in the game, and Woodson recovered another fumble by Jeremy Maclin, forced by Malcolm Smith. Maclin made up for his lost fumble later in the game however, notching 95 yards and 2 TDs in 9 receptions. This was due as much to field position from Derek Carr’s interceptions as a failure on the part of the defense.
Grade: B

Rush Defense: Run defense was respectable with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware combining for 61 yards on 16 carries. Alex Smith broke off a 19-yard run on a crucial go-ahead drive, but totaled 23 yards on 5 runs.
Grade: B

Special Teams: Maybe it’s the prolonged absence of Taiwan Jones, but whatever the case, coverage for this unit remains mediocre at best. Jeremy Ross at least gives some consistency to the return game, but the rest of the unit doesn’t open holes for him, so his averages are average at best. Chiefs returner Frankie Hammond had a 29-yard punt return late in the game to give his team better field position. Sebastian Janikowski had an off day, to put it kindly, missing one of his three extra points, as well as clanking his lone (40-yard) field goal attempt off the post. Twelve games in, and aside from some decent punting by Marquette King, and not giving too many long returns, the special teams unit just does not add any value to the offense’s starting field position. Which is, you know, a fairly significant part of their job.
Grade: D

Coaching: Yet another one that’s tough to hang entirely on the coaches. The defensive plan actually worked pretty well for the most part, as Ken Norton, Jr.’s defense played fast and aggressive, pressuring Alex Smith and forcing turnovers. Bill Musgrave’s offense, however, seemed one step behind Chiefs DC Bob Sutton’s aggressive defense, especially in the final quarter, as Sutton clearly noticed something either with Carr or his protection, and was able to exploit it.

The bigger picture, though, is that the team as a whole believes in the philosophy and system that Jack Del Rio is implementing, and continue to play hard, if not always well. As their playoff hopes fade, the goal for the final four games is to shore up inconsistencies, and play hard enough to be in all of them right up to the end. After the horrific last few seasons they’ve had, to end the season at 7-9 or 8-8 would show real progress, especially with budding superstars like Carr, Cooper, and Mack improving throughout the season.
Grade: B

Game Grades: Raiders at Titans

Full game stats here.

Pass Offense: Statistically a stronger game than the final score might indicate. Derek Carr had 24 completions on 37 attempts for 330 yards, 3 TD and no interceptions. The offensive line continues to provide superb protection for Carr, allowing only one sack this game, and just 14 total on the season so far. (Carr’s quick release and ability to read blitzes doesn’t hurt in that department either.) Amari Cooper bounced back from a mini-slump (for him) with 7 receptions for 115 yards. Seth Roberts had a career day with 6 receptions for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. Michael Crabtree didn’t post many yards (4-19), but made them count, with a nifty 7-yard touchdown grab in the front corner of the end zone. Mike Rivera only had two catches, but both of them were clutch.

Considering Tennessee’s formidable pass rush and the heavy rains throughout the game, the Raiders’ ability to make their pass package work is all the more impressive. The only blemish on the day was Derek Carr’s lost fumble of a snap late in the fourth quarter, but again the weather accounts for 99% of that.
Grade: A-

Rush Offense: The running game still needs some work, though the Raiders at least committed to it more than they have been lately. Latavius Murray gained 59 yards on 22 carries. Jamize Olawale had just 2 carries for 17 yards, but they were both impressive carries, and helped boost the meager YPC average to just over 3.0 yards. As good as the Titans’ pass defense may be, their run defense is in the middle of the league, and between that and the weather, it’s a bit of a surprise that the Raiders weren’t able to make more out of their running game. Backup center Tony Bergstrom has done well while starter Rodney Hudson nurses his injured ankle, but Hudson is a better run blocker, and should improve the rushing attack when he returns.
Grade: C

Pass Defense: For the most part, the defense did pretty well in containing Marcus Mariota, who ended up going 17-37-218-3-2. Khalil Mack registered two sacks on Mariota, and the rest of the team harassed him throughout the day, pressuring him into making bad throws and capitalizing on it. Tight end coverage continues to be an issue, as Delanie Walker had 6 receptions for 91 yards, and backup TE Craig Stevens burned the Raiders for a 20-yard TD catch, his only catch of the day. David Amerson had a nice interception to offset a special teams turnover a few plays earlier, and Nate Allen sealed the game with his interception. Amerson looks like he’s replacing DJ Hayden as starting corner.
Grade: B+

Rush Defense: This has been the biggest area of concern the last few weeks, and they showed up today, allowing just 44 yards on 18 running plays total. It helps that the Titans have no legitimate running back threat on the roster, though Mariota is as good a scrambler as you’ll find among NFL quarterbacks right now. A very solid effort, and hopefully a sign that the defense will be able to figure out how to deal with the suspension of Aldon Smith, which left a considerable hole in the run defense.
Grade: A

Special Teams: They had a nice block of Ryan Succop’s first extra point attempt, which nearly turned into a return as well, but was brought back because of a forward pass on the return. The kickoff and punt return game continues to be dismal; new returner Jeremy Ross lost a fumble at one point (fortunately David Amerson picked off an errant throw by Mariota a few plays later), and when Ross did have a decent return, it was because of blocking or holding, and thus got penalized. This has been the story with special teams all year — defensively, they are solid and aggressive; offensively, they’re usually better off just fair catching or taking the touchback. Janikowski looked ready to attempt a 65-yarder toward the end of the first half, but head coach Jack Del Rio wisely decided that given the weather conditions and the close score, it was a risk not worth taking.
Grade: C+

Coaching: A very solid game plan, in which coach Del Rio and OC Bill Musgrave crafted a more balanced attack designed to chew up clock time and exploit the Titans’ defensive secondary as opportunities arose. After two games in which the Raiders’ time of possession ended up substantially under 30 minutes, this game found them nearly at the 35-minute mark by game’s end. About the only quibble — but it’s a fairly serious one — came near the end, on the Raiders’ comeback drive. At the Titans’ 32-yard line with just under two minutes to go, on 4th-and-8 they attempt a high-risk bomb to Andre Holmes, who is generally third or fourth on the depth chart. It was just sheer luck that the refs decided to flag B.W. Webb for holding on Amari Cooper (but then, it’s entirely likely that Cooper was Carr’s first option, but was forced to check down to Holmes).

Still, a win is a win, and when the team needed it the most, they got it. The Chiefs, who started the season 1-5 and looked destined for a top 5 draft pick, have won their last five games and suddenly look like the biggest threat to the Raiders in the final five games. Hopefully the Titans game will serve as the slumpbuster Oakland needed to get back to their winning ways and move forward.
Grade: B+

Game Preview: Raiders at Titans

It would have been understandable if, after the losses to Pittsburgh and Minnesota, fans looked at the next two games, road games against terrible Detroit and Tennessee teams, and chalked them up as easy wins, or at least less challenging. Well, the Lions showed up last week and the Raiders didn’t, so we all saw how that went down.

So the Titans game becomes one that not only cannot be overlooked, but is an opportunity for Oakland to right itself after a nasty three-game losing streak, and preserve some hope for a possible wild-card berth. Even though players, coaches, and fans all seemed to accept from the beginning that this would be a rebuilding season, and that playoffs were not a realistic expectation, the Raiders’ back-to-back dominant victories against the Chargers and Jets suddenly changed those expectations.

The main goal this year was for the team to be competitive, and in every game. And aside from the season opener, that goal has been getting accomplished. But the last three losses have been frustrating, and the last two especially have been characterized by listless offense and inconsistent (at best) defense. The Raiders are going to miss Aldon Smith, who turned out to be an excellent pickup for the team, but Khalil Mack continues to develop practically game-to-game, and David Amerson plays like someone who’s ready to move up from nickel back into a starting CB role.

As the Titans get Marcus Mariota going as their franchise QB, the team’s main strength is their pass rush, tied for 4th in the league with 31.0 sacks, with 13 of those coming in their last three games. They may be 2-8, the worst team in the worst division in the league, but they still have some defensive weapons, the weather forecast calls for 100% chance of rain, and the Titans are trying to break a 10-game home losing streak, dating back almost a full calendar year.

The Raiders still need to get a better balance to the offense, not necessarily a perfect 50-50 pass-run ratio, but the roughly 2.5:1 ration they’ve had the last couple games is killing their time of possession. Amari Cooper has had some drops, but also has already proven himself to be a very capable receiver with a great work ethic, and Derek Carr has confidence in him, so he’s due for a nice bounce-back game. Maybe not this game, if it rains too much, but you never know.

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Vikings

Pass Offense: Derek Carr went 29-43 for 302 yards, with 2 TD and 2 INT. The numbers are respectable enough, and the touchdown receptions by Andre Holmes and Clive Walford were both pretty impressive. But that last interception, on what could have been a comeback drive late in the game, was a killer. Amari Cooper seems to be struggling a bit, after several strong showings. Mike Rivera continues to work his way back into Carr’s roster of targets, notching 6 receptions for 46 yards.
Grade: B-

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry, with 12 carries for 48 yards. Jamize Olawale had 5 carries for 24 yards. Both decent averages, but that was the entirety of the running game. The Raiders ended up with a time of possession of just 26:59, and about a 2.5:1 pass-run play ratio. As long as the team is continuing to gel, and especially the defense tries to get consistent on their many issues, it is critical that the Raiders strive for a 50-50 pass-run attack, which means somewhere around 30 carries per game. Whether this comes mostly from Murray, or a combination of Murray, Roy Helu, and Marcel Reece, is up to the coaches, but it’s an effort that will pay dividends in building a balanced offensive attack that not only scores points and wears down opposing defenses, but keeps the Raiders’ own defense fresh and consistent.
Grade: D+

Pass Defense: The pass rush was actually pretty solid, holding Teddy Bridgewater to just 140 yards and 1 TD (14 completions in 22 attempts). Aldon Smith and Khalil Mack continue to be a force, each getting a sack. Mario Edwards also had a sack, and is making strides in filling in for Justin Tuck, who is on injured reserve. David Amerson needs to be used more often.
Grade: B

Rush Defense: Another failure to contain an elite running back, as Adrian Peterson romped for 203 yards on 26 carries, including that backbreaking 80-yard run at the end. Considering this is essentially the same unit that completely shut down the Jets’ potent rushing attack just a few weeks ago, it’s baffling to see such a huge reversal, but there it is.
Grade: D-

Special Teams: Aside from giving up that 93-yard kickoff return to Patterson at the end of the first half, special teams continue to be decidedly mediocre. Sebastian Janikowski made both his extra point attempts, and had no field goal tries. Marquette King had something of an off day, averaging 40.3 yards on his 6 punts, with a long of 50 yards. Taiwan Jones averaged 24 yards on his 6 kickoff returns. Oakland had the right idea in attempting to address the return issues in this year’s draft; unfortunately they went for a player (Andre Dubose) who refused to participate in the combine because of concerns about his ACL. Guess what happened to Dubse in training camp?
Grade: D+

Coaching: This was an opportunity to bounce back from a wrenching road loss, and the coaches seemed ill-prepared in setting the team up for success. It’s baffling to see that Jack Del Rio and Bill Musgrave don’t seem to recognize that the best way to compensate for the deficiencies in defensive talent is to maintain a balanced offense. If anything, the Raiders could take a tip from how the Vikings played it, and lean on the running game a little extra. Instead, Derek Carr had 43 pass attempts, while Murray and Olawale combined for just 17 carries. Murray needs at least 15-20 carries, with the rest of the rotation pulling in another 10-15 carries. Especially with Michael Crabtree getting banged up and Amari Cooper getting a case of the drops, the wise thing to do is have about 25-30 carries per game, minimum.

Rod Streater appears to have played his way off the team, the same way Denarius Moore did last year. Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is that with all the holes in the defensive secondary, if Streater is done, then cut him already just to free up the roster space for a defensive back to work into the rotation. These are the little things that separate playoff teams from also-rans.
Grade: C-

Game Grades: Raiders at Steelers

Pass Offense: Derek Carr was superb, going 24-44 for 301 yards, with 4 TDs and one interception. That interception and a several drops were the only flaws in an otherwise excellent outing for the Raiders offense. Michael Crabtree led the receiving corps once again, with 7 receptions for 108 yards and 2 TDs, both of which were fantastic throws and catches. Amari Cooper had a strong day as well, with 7 receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown. Tight ends continue to be an afterthought, with four total receptions for the three TEs, though Clive Walford did have a 1-yard TD reception.
Grade: B+

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray broke off a nice 44-yard run early in the game, and ended up with 17 carries for 96 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter. Jamize Olawale had a sweet 19-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to get the Raiders back in the game. Murray’s fumble deep in Raider territory early in the third quarter was fortunate in getting overturned, even though the subsequent punt got blocked anyway, and his later fumble, on the tackle that knocked him out of the game was recovered by the Steelers. Taiwan Jones also fumbled one of his two carries, and was lucky not to have it recovered by Pittsburgh (though his other fumble on a kickoff return did get recovered by them). A solid outing marred by poor ball security from multiple players.
Grade: C+

Pass Defense: Antonio Brown had a career day against the defense, piling up 180 yards on 10 catches just in the first half, and finishing with a team record 17 receptions for 284 yards. Brown is certainly one of the elite receivers in the league, but the Raiders acted as if they’d never heard of him, and insisted on playing single man coverage on him most of the time, even as he kept burning them. It didn’t matter whether D.J. Hayden or David Amerson lined up on Brown, and a clearly banged-up Charles Woodson was able to provide only so much support up top. Martavis Bryant also had a highlight-reel catch and run for a touchdown late in the game, making Hayden and Woodson both whiff on tackles. They failed to make even modest adjustments at halftime to contain Brown, and completely failed to hold the line on the Steelers’ final game-winning drive. Aldon Smith had the team’s lone sack, knocking Ben Roethlisberger out of the game. Amerson had the team’s sole interception.
Grade: D

Rush Defense: The defense also had no answer for DeAngelo Williams, who had 45 yards and 2 TDs on 14 carries in the first half, and finished the day with 27 carries for 170 yards, including a 53-yard scamper from the Steeler 7-yard line to spark a touchdown drive. Antonio Brown gained 22 yards on a pair of end-around runs, meaning that not only did Brown account for over half of the Steelers’ 597 offensive yards, but that he single-handedly burned the Raiders’ defense for a total of 306 yards on 19 touches.
Grade: D

Special Teams: This is a tale of two squads: on Pittsburgh’s returns, the gunners did a great job containing the dangerous Jacoby Jones on kickoff and punt returns, holding him to a 20-yard average on kickoff returns, and a measly 1-yard average on his two punt returns. Antonio Brown’s fumble on his single punt return was a terrific play on the part of Taiwan Jones, even if the offense failed to capitalize on it, and it didn’t quite make up for Jones’ own fumble on a 4th-quarter kickoff return, which led quickly to a Steeler touchdown. On the other side of it, though, the Raiders’ own return game was mediocre at best; in addition to Jones’ fumble, Marcus Thigpen also lost a fumble, and Oakland averages on kickoff and punt returns was just as bad as Pittsburgh’s. One of Marquette King’s punts got blocked and went only 24 yards (and that thanks only to a lucky roll). The return game continues to be the area that should be easiest for the Raiders to fix, for the most immediate impact. Until they are able to do so, every return is going to be one of those white-knuckle affairs where you wait for something to go wrong or just not add any value to field position.
Grade: C

Coaching: Except for the failure to adjust coverage on Brown, it’s hard to hang this one on the coaches, who continue to draft strong, aggressive game plans that punch early and often, and utilize the players’ strengths well. Failure to execute and hang on to the ball could be attributed to focus and preparation, but the fact is that the Steelers are a solid team with an opportunistic defense that hits hard and creates turnovers. The lapses in the secondary are more a problem of shortage of talent and rotating injured players in and out almost constantly, than an issue of scheme, though again the baffling insistence on single-covering Brown stands out.

The main thing is that the coaches are also responsible for the team competing hard throughout, staying resilient and bouncing back from large point deficits. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is clearly having fun with Carr, Cooper, and Crabtree, recognizes the massive potential of those players and uses them with creativity and confidence. Only three remaining teams on the Raiders’ schedule (Vikings, Broncos, and Packers) have records above .500, and Green Bay and Minnesota both appear to have serious vulnerabilities that Oakland can take advantage of. The coaches have done a good job in keeping the team ready and rolling and competitive, and there’s good reason for optimism that they will bounce back well from this and head for a wild-card slot at this rate.
Grade: B

Game Preview: Raiders at Steelers

I mentioned before that in their dominating victories over the Jets and Chargers in the last two weeks, the Raiders caught some significant breaks in each game, and that the mark of truly good teams is that they know how to take advantage of those breaks when they come along. The Raiders came into each game playing crisp, focused ball, and the breaks just made it that much easier to roll their opponents.

So in heading into Heinz Field — always a tough place — this Sunday, the Raiders catch yet another break, in that Steelers RB LeVeon Bell, arguably the key component in their offense, is out for the rest of the season. DeAngelo Williams is also a very good running back, averaging just under 5.0 yards per carry, but so is the Jets’ Chris Ivory, whom the Raiders held to just 17 yards on 15 carries last Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger is clearly still on the mend, but he and Antonio Brown are always a dangerous combination. Given the QB shuffling Pittsburgh has had to do far this season, it’s understandable that Brown is by far the team’s leading receiver, with 52 receptions for 718 yards and 3 TDs. But after that it’s a very steep drop-off; tight end Heath Miller is second with 27 receptions for 273 yards, and receivers Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, and former Raider Darrius Heyward-Bey all linger between 209 and 257 yards.

Oakland has better balance as far as receivers, with Michael Crabtree’s stats very close to Amari Cooper’s, but also key contributions from receivers down the chain, such as Andre Holmes and Marcel Reece. Holmes only has six receptions on the year, for 107 yards, but three touchdowns, showing how effective his size and speed are when used. The o-line is providing great pass protection, as Carr has been sacked only 10 times in 7 games, and Carr’s confidence in Cooper and Crabtree have allowed him — and them — to progress very quickly as the season goes along. Really, you can see it from game to game.

The key here is really more about getting the road whammy off their back. On the one hand, the Raiders won in Cleveland for the first time in thirty years; on the other hand, they then went to Chicago and played down to the level of the opponent, and lost a squeaker. But the two games they’ve put together since the bye week have boosted them into the top ten power rankings, they are very healthy compared to most other teams right now, and are rolling. This is going to be another good game, and a very winnable one.

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Jets

Pass Offense: Derek Carr was just about flawless, going 23 for 36 for 333 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Amari Cooper was shadowed by Darrelle Revis most of the game, and was held to five receptions for 46 yards and no touchdowns. But Michael Crabtree, who continues to shine as one of the Raiders’ best free-agent pickups in years, picked up the slack with seven receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. Andre Holmes burned Antonio Cromartie on a terrific 49-yard run-and-catch for a touchdown, and Taiwan Jones turned a simple dump-off pass in the flat into a brilliant play-of-the-week scamper for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Grade: A

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray carried almost the entire workload in this game, and did it well — 20 carries for 113 yards, often keeping drives alive at key moments. Taiwan Jones had just two carries for five yards, but it’s more a function of how effective Murray was throughout the game.
Grade: A

Pass Defense: Like Philip Rivers last week, Geno Smith ended up with respectable numbers (27-42-265-2-1), but again most of that came long after the game had gotten away from them. Khalil Mack, D.J. Hayden, and Denico Autry each had a sack, and Charles Woodson (who else?) had an interception.
Grade: A

Rush Defense: Once again, the Raiders building up a strong halftime lead forced the opponent to become one-dimensional. The Jets had just 21 carries total, and three of those were by Smith and Fitzpatrick; in fact, Smith’s two runs for 34 yards total led the team. Featured RB Chris Ivory, who had been averaging nearly 100 yards per game and 5 yards per carry, gained just 17 yards on 15 carries. David Amerson, who was recently signed to bolster the secondary, laid an especially nasty hit on Geno Smith late in the game, as Smith was trying to run up the sideline.
Grade: A

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made 2 of his 3 field goal attempts, and all of his extra points. Marquette King only had to punt three times, averaging 41.7 yards, with a 52-yard long. Taiwan Jones had decent kickoff returns, while T.J. Carrie had just 4 yards total on 4 punt returns. The return game is one of those areas that should be relatively easy to shore up, if a roster spot can be opened up to sign a specialist, and let Jones go back to gunner on special teams, for which he has made the Pro Bowl.
Grade: B

Coaching: During the broadcast of the game, one of the announcers mentioned that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had basically been working 12-14 hour days “cracking the code” on the Jets’ top-3 defense. Whatever Musgrave did, it worked in spades, as the Raiders attacked the Jets’ strong points and pushed them around all day. But Ken Norton, Jr.’s defensive squad has been pulling their weight as well, improving week after week, neutralizing the Jets’ offensive strengths effectively.

There are still areas of relatively untapped potential for the team, especially on the offensive side: Cooper and Crabtree have been so good that the tight ends still haven’t really been worked into the passing game; Murray is having some good games but there hasn’t yet been a complementary running back in the mix yet; and the return game could be beefed up a bit for better field position. That is not a complaint at all, but merely to point out that the team is really good right now, and could get even better without a lot of extra work or talent.

Not to look ahead too far, but should the Raiders manage to get into the playoffs this year — and given the state of the AFC right now, they seriously look like the fourth-best team in the conference — this game will be seen as a real turning point. This is the most complete, dominant start-to-finish game they have played in some time, last week’s beatdown in San Diego notwithstanding.
Grade: A

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Jets

The Jets, with a new coach and some quarterback issues, are surprisingly good so far this season, already appearing in the top ten rankings of many observers. This is primarily due to their top-3 defense and rushing attack. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has beaten the Raiders with three other teams (Buffalo, Tennessee, and Houston) and looks to become the only QB to do that with a fourth team. Fitzpatrick’s numbers are nothing to write home about, but what the stats don’t record is how he keeps drives alive, keeps his offense in the game, and doesn’t make dumb mistakes. Since Geno Smith got cold-cocked in the locker room at the beginning of the season and has been out since with a broken jaw, Fitzpatrick has kept the team going in a division where the Patriots seem determined to make every other team pay for their (the Patriots’) transgressions.

The Raiders are riding high after pummeling the Chargers, and looking to prove themselves as legitimate contenders, sooner rather than later. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have brought out the best in Derek Carr, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has done a stellar job in tailoring the offense to the players’ strengths. This should be a good game, with every chance for Oakland to win against a highly touted opponent.

Game Grades: Raiders @ Chargers

This was a game that almost deserves two sets of grades, one for the first three quarters and another for the fourth. The Raiders played brilliantly for 45 minutes, letting up in the final period of a blowout. So we’ll just round up.

Pass Offense: Derek Carr went 24 for 31 for 289 yards, with three TDS (to three different receivers), no interceptions and one sack. Amari Cooper continues to shine, with 133 yards on five receptions, including a 52-yard TD catch. Michael Crabtree had six reception for 63 yards and a touchdown. In all, Carr spread the ball around to nine receivers.
Grade: A-

Rush Offense: The running game added a nice balance to Oakland’s rapidly improving offense, picking up 117 yards on 24 carries total. Latavius Murray accounted for 85 of those yards on 15 carries, including a touchdown. Taiwan Jones notched 35 yards on just three carries. They had trouble getting first downs in the fourth quarter to burn down the clock, but Murray and Jones still ended the day with excellent yards per carry.
Grade: A-

Pass Defense: 38-58-336-3-2 After throwing for over 500 yards on 65 attempts last week in Green Bay, Philip Rivers put up 336 yards on 38 completion in 58 attempts today against the Raiders. At this rate, he will set a single-season yardage record, if his arm doesn’t fall off first. Rivers had three touchdowns and two interceptions in the process, but most of his numbers came late in the game, when the Raiders let up a little. Malcolm Smith’s interception on the third play of the game helped put the Raiders ahead early and command the tempo of the game, and Smith also had a sack. D.J. Hayden also had a very good game, with an interception, a forced fumble and 10 tackles. Tight end Ladarius Green was inexcusably wide open on his touchdown catch, but this was well after the game was getting out of reach for the Chargers.
Grade: B+

Rush Defense: San Diego’s three running backs totaled 90 yards on 21 carries, which is decent, but also shows how one-dimensional the Chargers’ offense became, thanks to the Raiders’ swarming defense, ending up with a nearly 3:1 pass-run ratio for San Diego. They had some trouble containing Danny Woodhead late in the game, but again….
Grade: B+

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made all of his extra point attempts, and had no field goal tries. Marquette King’s punt average (38.0) was below his usual, but a couple of those were short-field shots. The return game was decent, nothing spectacular. This is a unit that is better off staying consistent, and not breaking or giving up big plays.
Grade: B

Coaching: Whatever the coaches told the team going into the bye week, after a close loss to an undefeated Denver team, worked great. Right from the start, the Raiders came out swinging, playing offense and defense with equal levels of passion and precision. Too often, what has hurt the team is that one unit will show up and the other doesn’t, leading to an impressive offensive showing but poor defense, or vice versa. But they showed that when both units are going strong, they can beat up on teams, even decent ones like the Chargers. Next week’s matchup at home against the Jets will provide a better test of the direction the team is headed.
Grade: A

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Broncos

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had 26 completions in 39 attempts for 249 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT, which are pretty respectable stats against Denver’s defense. The offensive line gave up four sacks, however, the worst of which was a whiffed block by right tackle Austin Howard that caused Carr to fumble the ball away. Amari Cooper was held in check; Michael Crabtree was the only Raider receiver to gain over 50 yards (4-54).
Grade: C

Rush Offense: Not much to speak of, as there were only 24 carries for 66 yards total (Latavius Murray went 13 for 39). The Broncos clearly were not going to give anything up on the ground, so Oakland had to devote most of their energies to short passing attempts. Again, while the team made a very solid and respectable effort against a team with a Hall of Fame QB, All-Pro WR, and one of the best all-around defenses in recent years, a stronger rushing attack will give them better balance and consistency.
Grade: D

Pass Defense: Peyton Manning went 22 for 36 for 266 yards, but had two interceptions (both to Charles Woodson) and no touchdowns, a rarity for Manning, who is having an off year so far. Just as impressively, considering how badly the Raiders have been getting burned by tight ends, Denver TE Owen Daniels had no receptions. Putting LB Neiron Ball on Daniels was a good move that paid off, and should be continued. Emmanuel Sanders had 9 receptions for 111 yards, but Demaryious Thomas went only 5 for 55. Manning was also sacked twice.
Grade: B+

Rush Defense: C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman combined for just 18 carries for 43 yards. The defensive line has benefited already from the addition of Aldon Smith, who disrupts just about every play he’s involved in, as well as the continued improvement of Khalil Mack. At the rate these players continue to gel, they will impact games later in the season.
Grade: A-

Special Teams: Seabass had an off day, missing two of his three field goals, which makes all the difference in the world in a game decided by six points. And you can’t even blame it on the damned infield dirt, since the A’s are done and the field is all turf now. Marquette King averaged 50.8 yards on his four punts, with a long of 61 yards. Every time I see Amari Cooper back to return a punt, my heart stops and my stomach tightens up, waiting for the inevitable crushing hit, but Cooper’s sole punt return went for a nice 18 yards.
Grade: C-

Coaching: The coaching plan for this game was simple — keep the game close, and any damage to a minimum. The Broncos’ defense is fast, dangerous, and opportunistic, and even a past-his-prime Peyton Manning is better than most quarterbacks in full stride. The best way to neutralize that defense would be to have a powerful rushing attack and some nice screen plays in their pocket, but having neither of those things, the Raiders settled on a controlled short-passing game, which was pretty effective for the most part. This was just one of those games that hinged on a few crucial breaks, none of which went the Raiders’ way. But the coaches deserve credit for keeping the team focused and prepared against a division-leading rival stacked with talent. There’s no such thing as a moral victory, but this is definitely one of those losses where the team can see how close they came, and make a few adjustments going forward. A very respectable effort.
Grade: B