Category Archives: derek carr

Game Grades: Raiders @ Chargers

Full game stats here.

Pass Offense:  Derek Carr had a sub-par day statistically, going 19-for-30 for 213 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. What the numbers don’t tell you, though, is what a terrific throw and catch (by Crabtree) that TD was, or that even though Amari Cooper had only one reception for 28 yards, that throw was basically through a keyhole, as Cooper was well-covered on the play. Or that Carr hit ten different receivers on those 19 passes.

Carr still has some issues with his finger, but his throws and decisions were much better than last game, so it must be getting better. And though he was sacked twice, that brings his grand total to 15 in 14 games. The downside is that the offense is still not doing a very good job of capitalizing on field position and opponents turning the ball over in their own red zone.
Grade:  B

Rush Offense: Nothing great, but nothing terrible either. Latavius Murray had some ball-control issues early on, fumbling out of bounds and then fumbling in San Diego’s red zone a few minutes later. But those were early enough in the game that Murray was able to recover fine, finishing with 81 yards on 13 carries, including a bruising 33-yard rumble late in the game. Jalen Rchard and DeAndre Washington contribute small but important yards.
Grade:  B

Pass Defense:  Aside from letting Travis Benjamin get way behind them in the first quarter for the Chargers’ first touchdown, the Raiders did a solid job in containing San Diego’s potent passing attack. Rivers was held to 17-30-206-2-1, that interception (by Reggie Nelson) sealing the game for the Raiders. Bruce Irvin sacked Rivers twice and Denico Autry sacked him once.
Grade:  B

Rush Defense:  The Raiders did a terrific job shutting down San Diego’s running game, allowing only 73 yards total on 22 carries between Kenny Farrow and Ronnie Hillman, forcing two fumbles by Farrow, one of which was recovered in San Diego’s red zone for a go-ahead field goal. No rushing TDs allowed, and the longest run of the day was Hillman for 17. The front seven had great penetration and pursuit on the Chargers’ o-line all day.
Grade:  A

Special Teams:  Janikowski went 4-for-4 on his field goals, as well as the extra point on the Raiders’ only TD. Marquette King only had to punt three times, for a 43.3-yard average with a long of 64. Even better, they contained San Diego’s return game extremely well, allowing a couple of 20-yard kickoff returns and little else. In a game decided by three points, it’s little things like that which can make the difference in the end.
Grade:  A

Coaching:  You can’t argue with success, nor can you argue with an 11-3 record and the first playoff berth in well over a decade. Head coach Jack Del Rio deserves consideration for Coach of the Year for the resilience and toughness he’s instilled in this team. Bill Musgrave continues to craft sharp game plans that utilize the strengths of the players, and imaginative play-calling for the most part. Ken Norton’s defense is coming together, though the cornerbacks still need to step it up.

If there’s one quibble, it’s that the offense needs to execute better and take advantage of turnovers and field position. San Diego had several 3-and-out possessions early on, giving the Raiders the ball at around the 50, and they kept getting field goals. Same with the fumble by Farrow in the 4th quarter, which was an opportunity to put them away, instead of settling for yet another field goal. That’s what cost them the game last week in Kansas City, getting two turnovers on back-to-back possessions in the space of a couple minutes, deep in Chefs territory, and only getting a single field goal out of it. That part has to improve if they’re going to go deep in the playoffs.

Still, they’re back in the playoffs at long last, doing it their way, and not giving in or backing down. And it’s because the coaching staff has brought the best out of them, and given them solid game planning and coordination to beat opponents.
Grade:  B+

Game Grades: Raiders at Ravens

Full game stats here

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had a good day (25-35-199, 4 TDs, 0 INT), but Michael Crabtree had a great day with three touchdowns in his seven receptions (88 yards), and each TD reception was worthy of the highlight reel. Amari Cooper was held to 48 yards, and still is without a TD reception so far this season. Drops continue to be an issue for most of the receivers, and aside from Clive Walford , tight ends are under-utilized, as Mike Rivera and Lee Smith each had one (1) reception for one (1) yard. Even Walford had just two receptions for 23 yards. But they got it done when they needed to.
Grade: B+

Rush Offense:  Baltimore’s run defense is pretty tight, and the Raiders ended up with just 64 yards total on 16 carries by the three running backs and fullback Jamize Olawale. Only DeAndre Washington managed to have a decent per-carry average, finishing with 30 yards on his five carries, but he also fumbled the ball away.
Grade: C-

Pass Defense: Joe Flacco went 32-52-298-1-0, spreading the ball around to nine receivers. Steve Smith rolled up 111 yards in his eight receptions, including a 52-yard TD bomb. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk picked up 56 yards on 6 receptions out of the backfield. Sean Smith and D.J. Hayden had some nice tackles and deflections.
Grade: C

Rush Defense: Running back Terrance West averaged almost 5.5 yards per carry (21-113), including a TD run where he just bulled through the Raiders’ front seven from 3 yards out. Flacco, who is not exactly known for his scrambling abilities, also had a rushing touchdown.
Grade: D+

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made all four of his extra-point attempts, and had no field-goal attempts. Marquette King continues to cement his status as an elite punter, averaging 46.5 yards on his eight punts, including a 62-yarder. Jalen Richard broke off a nice 47-yard punt return. Devin Hester had a 60-yard return for the Ravens.
Grade: B

Coaching: Another hot mess, but a win is a win. The team still needs to learn how to build and secure a lead, and not let opponents back in, but they offset that issue by getting it done when they need to, and finishing strong. Offensive third-down efficiency is a serious weak spot, but again, the problem is somewhat balanced by efficient defensive third-down conversion rate. Considering their time of possession was barely 25 minutes, they made the most of it, and came out a tough road trip with another win.
Grade: B

Game Grades: Raiders at Titans

Full game stats here

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had a solid day, going 21-35 for 249 yards, with one touchdown and his first interception of the season (a deflection off Michael Crabtree). Carr continues to spread the ball around, hitting nine receivers in all this time, but mostly Crabtree, Cooper, Clive Walford and Seth Roberts. Roberts made up for an early drop with the game’s only TD reception. All of the main receivers had at least one drop, which hints at the larger potential this offense has once it clicks a little better a few games down the road. Still, while the execution needs to tighten a little, they got the job done.
Grade: B

Rush Offense: The running-back-by-committee approach is working well to keep the backs fresh and defenses guessing a bit. Latavius Murray (10-31-1) peeled off another great touchdown run, with a nice 22-yard downhill run through the heart of the Titans’ front seven. DeAndre Washington (6-57) is turning into a solid complementary runner, as is Jalen Richard (6-28). Ideally there would be a little more of a run-pass balance, especially with about a 5.0 YPC average, but again, they got it done. The interior o-line of Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson is pretty much built for a power-running up-the-gut game, so there will probably be much more of that in the weeks to come, as the line continues to gel.
Grade: B

Pass Defense: This unit performed much better than in the first two games, holding Marcus Mariota to just 214 passing yards, barely 50% completions, no passing touchdowns, two interceptions, and a lost fumble. Sean Smith’s interception at the beginning of the 4th quarter was outstanding; he basically pulled the ball out of Rishard Matthews’ hands as Matthews was trying to secure the reception. Reggie Nelson also had an interception at the end of the first half that should have given the Raiders a shot at a field goal, but apparently the timekeeper forgot to start the clock at the beginning of that play, so the refs ruled that time had expired for the half by the time Nelson’s interception return was stopped. Sounds like they run a tight ship there in Nashville. Either way, Tennessee’s first drive and last few drives were too easy and nerve-wracking, but overall, they did a solid job of containing the Titans’ passing game and limiting Mariota’s choices.
Grade: B-

Rush Defense: Unfortunately, perhaps because the defensive team focused on improving against the pass, they performed worse against the run, surrendering 181 yards for an average of over 6.2 YPC. DeMarco Murray gashed the defense particularly well, rolling up 114 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Khalil Mack had a tackle and an assist, bringing his total after three games to 7 tackles and 6 assists, although Mack is getting double-teamed pretty regularly.
Grade: C-

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski became the all-time leader for field goals over 50 yards, nailing his sole attempt from 52 yards, as well as both of his extra points. Marquette King had several booming punts, and continues to prove that a good punter adds a lot of value to the field position battle. Jalen Richard had a 14-yard punt return, and he and Taiwan Jones always seem to be on the verge of breaking off a big one, but it never quite happens (at least not without an accompanying penalty flag). But they’re not giving up any big returns either.
Grade: B-

Coaching: The defense needed to step up, and they did so, just enough to hold on to a win. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave continues to craft smart, aggressive game plans that take advantage of opportunities. Execution could have been a little better in this game, but the unit continues to improve and be effective.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. has more work to do with his team, but he has taken responsibility for their poor performance in the first two games, and gotten players to be more responsive, and make fewer mental errors in coverage.

Head coach Jack Del Rio had another opportunity to play riverboat gambler, as Latavius Murray got stuffed at the Titans’ 43-yard line for a 4th-and-1 heading into the two-minute warning. Del Rio wisely chose to punt, but King booted into the end zone instead of pinning Tennessee back with a coffin-corner kick. And then, of course, the defense made Mariota look like Joe Montana in a two-minute drill. It was a close call, one that could have been averted with better execution on the part of Special teams and defense. But Del Rio continues to show trust in those units, and hopefully they gain confidence and execute better because of that trust.

They’ll have their work cut out for them next week, with another cross-country road trip to Baltimore. But the Ravens are not what they used to be, and sharp, focused ball from all three units will give the Raiders a nice 3-1 record to finish off a fairly brutal schedule for the first quarter of the season.
Grade: B

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Falcons

Full game stats here

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

Game Grades: Raiders at Saints

Full game stats here

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had 24 completions in 38 attempts, for 319 yards and 1 TD. Carr spread the ball around effectively, to eight receivers in all. Amari Cooper led the squad with 6 catches for 137 yards, including a nice 43-yard catch-and-run. Michael Crabtree was 7-87, as well as fantastic catch on the go-ahead two-point conversion with just fifty seconds on the game clock. Seth Roberts made up for a critical drop on the final drive by catching the Raiders’ only passing TD to win the game.
Grade: A-

Rush Offense: The Raiders had a pretty good day on the ground. Rookie Jalen Richard was the unexpected star of the running game, with just three rushes but for 84 yards, including a 75-yard breakaway TD run. Latavius Murray went 14-for-59 and a touchdown. FB Jamize Olawale had just a single run, but it was a nice 2-yard punch into the end zone to comeback from what had been a 27-13 deficit in the 4th quarter. Derek Carr had a couple of decent drive-sustaining scrambles, and rookie DeAndre Washington had a few short relief runs.
Grade: A-

Pass Defense: Drew Brees passed at will on the Raiders’ secondary going 28-for-42 for 423 yards and 4 TDs. WRs Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks racked up yards on free-agent CB Sean Smith. Snead had 9 receptions for 172 yards and a touchdown, while Cooks went 6-143-2, including a 98-yard TD in which Cooks simply sprinted past Smith for a toss-and-catch from Brees from his own end zone. Jihad Ward had a nice fumble recovery from sacking Brees on the first possession of the game, thanks to an assist from Bruce Irvin, who had the game’s only sack. DJ Hayden came in for Smith in the second half and actually had some solid coverage and tackles, as did safety Reggie Nelson. With the loss of D Mario Edwards, Jr., this unit is going have to step up its pass rush to give the vulnerable secondary a better chance.
Grade: D+

Rush Defense: Only 88 net rushing yards were surrendered, and no touchdowns, so statistically a solid effort. Mark Ingram led New Orleans with 12 carries for 58 yards, but his long for the day, a 17-yard rumble in which he carried half the front seven deep into the red zone late in the game to set up another short TD pass from Brees, was embarrassing. Still, 88 yards and no TDs. That’s something for them to build on.
Grade: B-

Special Teams: As the Raiders attempted three 2-point conversions (making two), Sebastian Janikowski made his lone extra point and both his field goals. Marquette King continues to establish himself as one of the league’s premier punters, counting a 62-yard long as well as sticking the Saints on their own 2-yard line, among his four punts for the day. The Raiders’ return game was nothing to write home about, but the special teams did a fine job in keeping Saints returner Marcus Murphy’s averages low as well, just 17 yards avg. (long of 26) on kickoffs, and a 5-yard avg. on the two returnable punts.
Grade: B

Coaching: We’ll get to the specifics shortly, but right off the bat, Jack Del Rio turned this game into a team statement at the end with his decision to go for two to lead 35-34 with 50 seconds remaining, rather than tie the game up with a PAT kick. Not only did Del Rio show some serious BALLS in making that call, he showed a lot of trust in his players, who were down 24-13 going into the 4th quarter, and roared back with 22 points in the final period.

The way this season’s schedule lays out is tough, and if the team is going to live up to the heady expectations everyone is placing on them, they needed first to win the season opener, which they haven’t been able to do much this century so far. After getting battered at home by the playoff-bound Bengals in last season’s opener, it was important to not come out of the gate short and get pushed around again to start a new season. The entire offense showed great poise and focus in mounting the comeback, if they didn’t get much help from the defense, who couldn’t stop Drew Brees and his receivers.

Even so, DC Ken Norton Jr. kept making adjustments and substitutions, occasionally getting to Brees, but continuing to try to crack the code on the Saints’ solid o-line and Brees’ quick release. There are new players in key areas, and they are clearly still gelling with one another. They managed to stop Brees enough on the final drive to force the Saints to attempt a 61-yard field goal. If Brees had had ten more seconds, there might have been a different outcome, but he didn’t and that’s what matters.

The entire coaching staff deserves credit for keeping the team in the game on a tough road trip to start the season. But again, Jack Del Rio gets the Balls Out award for the week just for having the guts to give it a shot. The old saying goes that you’re a genius when it works, and a fool when it doesn’t. But right when I saw they were going to go for it, before the play went off, I felt like win or lose, Del Rio deserved credit just for throwing the punch. (And of course, Carr and Crabtree made it all happen with an outstanding throw and catch.) The fact that it was successful just made it that much more of a statement for the team.
Grade: A

Game Grades: Raiders at Chiefs

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had 21 completions in 33 attempts, for 194 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and two fumbles. Carr finished the season just 13 yards shy of becoming the first Raiders QB to reach 4,000 yards since Rich Gannon in 2002. Offensive line issues continue to define the final part of the season for the team, as Carr took six sacks today, ending the season with a respectable total of 31 sacks. However, 19 of those sacks came in the final five games, and 10 of those were in the two Kansas City games. In both Chiefs games, Carr showed difficulty in figuring out Bob Sutton’s aggressive, man-coverage defensive scheme. Michael Crabtree once again proved to be the reliable outlet for Carr, with a great 31-yard grab for the team’s only offensive touchdown. Amari Cooper was still banged up, held to just 20 yards on two receptions.
Grade: D

Rush Offense: Normally we don’t add in Carr’s scrambles to the rushing yards total, because they are usually not designed runs, but broken passing plays. Might as well add Carr’s two runs for 12 yards this time around, since even then the Raiders’ grand total comes to a measly 48 yards on 16 total carries. Latavius Murray was rarely used and mostly shut down, gaining 31 yards on his 11 carries, with a long of 9 yards. Roy Helu was the only other ball carrier, with 3 carries for 5 yards and a long of 3 yards.
Grade: F

Pass Defense: Alex Smith ended his 2015 season with just 7 interceptions, but two of them were in this game, and David Amerson took his in for a pick-six. With Charles Woodson retiring, Amerson is the best remaining player on the Raiders’ secondary right now. The Raiders held Smith to just 14-24-154, but he also had two passing touchdowns. Considering the Raiders defense was on the field for almost 35 minutes, it could have been worse.
Grade: B+

Rush Defense: When Alex Smith couldn’t damage the Raiders with his arm, he victimized them with his legs, racking up 61 rushing yards on just nine carries, frequently at critical third-down points. Spencer Ware also had a field day, going 16-76 with a touchdown. Charcandrick West got into the festivities as well, gaining 34 yards on 13 carries. Jeremy Maclin’s 18-yard end-around pushes the grand total up to 189 rushing yards, a real step back for what had been an improved run defense. But again, 35 minutes on the field and very little offense, and that’s what happens.
Grade: C

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made his lone 29-yard field goal attempt, and both extra points. Marquette King had a (for him) off day, averaging just 35.6 yards on his 6 punts, although one of them was a 57-yarder. Taiwan Jones had a 70-yard kickoff return. Kick coverage continues to be solid, giving up nothing longer than 14 yards.
Grade: B-

Coaching: While the Raiders this season have shown themselves to be much more competitive in general and against division opponents, both Kansas City games were by far their weakest division efforts. For whatever reason, they appear unable to handle Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme and packages. As Denver and San Diego appear to be fading in the AFC West for at least the next couple seasons, it becomes even more critical for the Raiders to figure out the Chiefs and adapt. This will require developing a much more balanced rushing attack, and a complementary back to Latavius Murray. The days of the 35-carries-per-game workhorse running back are over; ideally Murray should get around 20-25 carries max, and the other RB should get 10-15. The 2:1 pass-run ratio today (33 pass plays, 16 running plays) is a surefire indicator of where the offense’s deficiencies lie. An adaptive game plan, especially after what happened in the first Raiders-Chiefs matchup on December 6, would have taken some of the load off Carr and spread it around in a jumbo-formation running package, to slow down the Chiefs’ front seven.
Grade: C-

Game Preview: Raiders at Chiefs

It’s the end of an era, as Charles Woodson suits up for his final NFL game. And of course the Raiders will strive to send him out on a high note. The Chiefs are already in the playoffs, so there’s no spoiler role to be had in this final game of the 2015-16 regular season. But that doesn’t mean that Oakland can’t use this game as a barometer of the direction the team is heading, and how quickly and effectively. Kansas City is red-hot, winning nine in a row after a 1-5 start, and will win the AFC West with a win against the Raiders, and a loss by Denver.

The Chiefs have continued their winning ways with the steady play of Alex Smith, the next-man-up approach of the running back corps, and the usual tight defensive play. Defensive back Marcus Peters is a legitimate contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Kansas City is top-10 in their rushing attack, and second in the league in defensive points allowed.

There are some noteworthy parallels between this game and the season-ender in KC in 1999, for what that’s worth. Probably the main key to victory for the Raiders is to generate a strong running game and ride it for all it’s worth. If they do that, and own the clock enough, they can actually pull this one off and end the season at a respectable 8-8, more than the last two seasons combined.

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Chargers

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had 23 completions in 38 attempts, for 204 yards, one touchdown, and one interception that led to the Chargers’ first touchdown. To be fair, the right side of the offensive line has been in flux for the better part of the last month, with Jamarcus Webb and rookie Jon Feliciano filling in the RT and RG slots since Austin Howard and Khalif Barnes went down. This has led to 13 sacks over the last four games (counting this one), while Carr had been sacked just 12 times total in the first 11 games. Amari Cooper’s lingering foot injury doesn’t help matters, though Michael Crabtree’s 3-yard TD catch was outstanding, and Seth Roberts stepped in nicely at critical moments once again.
Grade: C-

Rush Offense: Good, but not great. Latavius Murray gained 79 yards on 19 carries, including a sweet 22-yard TD run. Derek Carr gained 30 yards on four scrambles, and Charles Woodson lost three yards on his late-game end-around, which was still very cool. This is yet another area the Raiders need to address in the off-season, finding a solid complementary back for Murray.
Grade: C

Pass Defense: They were good when it counted the most. Philip Rivers went 31-49-277, with one touchdown pass and no interceptions. The Raiders’ only sack on Rivers was a pivotal one, with Denico Autry taking Rivers down in the end zone in the quarter for a safety, and effectively turning the momentum of the game.
Grade: B

Rush Defense: San Diego totaled 72 yards on 25 carries, averaging just under 3.0 yards per carry. Better yet, when you break down the numbers, they become even more respectable: Donald Brown had 14 carries for just 17 yards, with a long of 5, and while Danny Woodhead broke off a 27-yard carry, he ended up with 11 carries for 55 yards, meaning that the rest of his carries averaged just 2.8 yards. Since getting tuned up by Adrian Peterson back in Week 10, the run defense unit has stepped up their game.
Grade: B+

Special Teams: Marquette King is emerging as the star of this unit. King averaged 49.8 yards on his eight punts, placing six of them inside the Chargers’ 20-yard line. Over the last several games, this has made a huge difference in letting the defense key off on opposing quarterbacks frantically trying to get out of their own end zones. Two safeties in three games is no coincidence; it’s completely due to King nailing the ball deep without getting a touchback. Sebastian Janikowski made his extra point attempt, and both field goals (including a 50-yarder). Taiwan Jones had several nice kickoff returns.
Grade: A-

Coaching: Whether at home or on the road — but especially at home — the Raiders have started out flat in the second half of the season. Whether this comes down to game planning or motivation or both is up for speculation, but we’ve all seen the results. No doubt much of the reason can be attributed to a young team with a lot of key injuries. But if you’re going to give Jack Del Rio and the coordinators a hard time for those issues, you also have to give them all credit for finding ways to keep them resilient and playing hard for the full 60 minutes. Derek Carr has been in a bit of a slump lately, making it easy to forget he’s only in his second year, but he also bounces back quickly and well, and manages to climb out of the holes he’s dug lately. These are the kind of things that show how Del Rio and Bill Musgrave have become adept at managing the natural highs and lows of any game, and keeping Carr and the offense in the game as much as possible. A solid draft and maybe a few key free-agency signings should propel this team into the playoffs next season.
Grade: B

Week 16 Final: Raiders 23, Chargers 20

Full game stats here.

With both teams out of contention, there’s just as much chance for a game to turn into a free-for-all as a sleep-fest. And this one began as the latter, and ended as the former.

It started out poorly enough, with Derek Carr getting picked early in the game yet again. This time, unlike last week against Green Bay, he managed to stop digging that early hole, and the Raiders found their way back into it. The defense still has trouble stopping Danny Woodhead, but managed to hang in there long enough to gut it out. The late end-around attempt with Charles Woodson, even though it didn’t work, was a nice gesture and a fitting tribute to a great all-time Oakland Raider.

As this was definitely Woodson’s final home game, and possibly the team’s final home game in Oakland, it seems appropriate that this would turn out to be an exciting finish against an original AFL rival. Good game, and a good opportunity to assess the team’s needs as it heads into the off-season.

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Packers

Pass Offense: Once again, when Derek Carr has an off day, at least he finds ways to make up for it as the game progresses. Carr dug the Raiders an early hole, with two interceptions in the first quarter that quickly gave Green Bay a 14-0 lead. But he finished the day with 23 completions in 47 attempts for 276 yards, with two touchdown passes to Amari Cooper that were both brilliant examples of the touch Carr has, and the trust he and Cooper have already developed. Cooper became the first Raider receiver to reach 1,000 yards since Randy Moss (who?) in 2005, and the first Raider rookie ever to reach that mark.

It’s a strong indicator of the sheer talent Cooper possesses that you already feel like if he has a bad game (he had no catches last week) he’ll make up for it in the next outing, as he did today, finishing with 6 receptions for 120 yards. Michael Crabtree also had 6 receptions for 70 yards, one a fantastic catch on an underthrown third-down pass that Crabtree came back for to extend the drive. The final drive of the first half, to almost completely erase the 14-point deficit, was a thing of beauty, a flawlessly executed two-minute drill with some nice features that Bill Musgrave really should use more often.
Grade: B-

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray had 21 carries for 78 yards, with a long of 22. Overall, Murray performed well, and had several nice runs. Between that and the generally poor field and weather conditions, it’s a bit baffling why Musgrave didn’t push the run game a bit more, and maybe mix Taiwan Jones and Roy Helu (yes, and Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale) into the offense. We’ll explore this more at the end of the season, but I feel strongly that one of the bigger missing pieces to the offense is the failure to keep a more even pass-run ratio — for today’s game it was greater than 2:1.
Grade: C+

Pass Defense: Aaron Rodgers finished the day with 204 yards on 22 completions, out of 39 attempts, with one touchdown and one interception. Rodgers was completely stifled in the first half, but began to find his footing in the second half, as the Raiders offense sputtered and gave him more chances. TJ Carrie had an especially bad day, missing tackles and coverages and drawing unnecessary penalties. But the most glaring error was on James Jones’ 30-yard touchdown reception, where the coverage was so blown that all the Packers receivers were wide open. Khalil Mack notched another sack to add to his league-leading total, though he didn’t register after Mario Edwards left the game with an injury. Ben Heeney also had a sack and made some solid plays. The kid is a keeper.
Grade: B

Rush Defense: The Packers gained a grand total of 104 rushing yards on 27 attempts, though that average was skewed by James Starks’ 25-yard gallop late in the game. Eddie Lacy finished 11-23 with no touchdowns, which is pretty good since Lacy had put up big yards for the Packers in their last few games. The only real drop was early in the game, after Carr’s first interception, when Jon Kuhn ran through effortlessly for the Packers’ first touchdown.
Grade: B+

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made both of his field goal attempts (which were short) and both of his extra points. Marquette King continues to have some really nice moments with his punts, pinning Green Bay against the Black Hole a couple times.

The return game is still one of those deals where you wish the returner would just take a knee in the end zone, instead of bringing it out to the 17-yard line, or bringing it out 30-35 yards and losing 10 on an illegal block to the back. Virtually every decent return the Raiders have had this season — and there have been only a few to begin with — has been shortened because of some stupid penalty. Remember that one year when Jacoby Ford had some really good returns, and was actually something of a threat, and gave the offense good field position? That was a good year.
Grade: B

Coaching: As much as I complain about things that the offense and defense are doing or not doing week-to-week, I do hope that the coaching staff remains intact in the off-season. Good teams have continuity, and the Raiders need that as much as they need more talent in the right spots. Ken Norton, Jr.’s defense is doing more with less, week after injury-riddled week. Bill Musgrave really needs to better utilize all the offensive tools he has at his disposal, but again, that catch-up drive after recovering James Starks’ fumble was one of their best all year, flawless in pacing and execution.

Consistency is the big key here, and that’s tough to do with a young team that has a bunch of key injuries. Jack Del Rio and his entire coaching staff have done a great job in keeping the team competitive in every game, even against playoff contenders like Green Bay. The next step is in solidifying the core of the team, giving Latavius Murray a complementary running back to take some of the load, utilizing the tight ends more, and rebuilding the defensive backfield through free agency and the draft.
Grade: B