Category Archives: game grades

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 Grades: Raiders at Lions

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had a lousy day, going 13 for 25 for 169 yards, with no TD or INT. Only Michael Crabtree had more than two receptions, with 6 for 50 yards. Amari Cooper continues to drop passes, and is now second in the league in drops, behind Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans. Cooper ended up with one reception for four yards. The only positive note in all this is that only one sack was allowed, but even that was at a critical moment.
Grade: D

Rush Offense: Latavius Murray had just 28 yards on 13 carries. Jamize Olawale went 4-12, while Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece each gained two yards, on one and two carries respectively. That adds up to 20 carries for 44 yards. There is not a team in this league that is going to win with that kind of rushing total.
Grade: D-

Pass Defense: The pass defense managed somehow not to give up any passing touchdowns, and sacked Matthew Stafford four times. However, Stafford still went 22-35 for 282 yards, and his main receivers (Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Theo Riddick) each neared 100 yards (88, 73, and 72 yards respectively), suggesting some difficulty in knowing who to cover. Tight end Eric Ebron dropped a very catchable touchdown pass, which was a lucky break. This unit is already missing the disruptive presence of Aldon Smith.
Grade: C-

Rush Defense: Not great, but easily the best outing in a few weeks, holding running backs Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell to 12-44 and 6-22 respectively. It turned out to be Matthew Stafford who beat them with his legs, and at the worst times, following up an 18-yard scramble with a 5-yard TD run. Again, Smith’s contributions to this phase of the team cannot be overstated, and the defense will have its hands full with Marcus Mariota next week.
Grade: C-

Special Teams: Janikowski made both his field goal attempts, including one for 56 yards, and his sole extra point. Marquette King broke off a nice 66-yard punt at a critical point in the game. The return game continues to be practically nonexistent. At least they shut down the Lions’ return game as well.
Grade: C+

Coaching: Not only is this the third straight loss for the team, after two impressive wins against solid teams, but the Lions are arguably the worst team the Raiders have faced so far this season. True, Detroit comes off an impressive win in Green Bay, and really is not quite as bad as their record suggests, but still. They are not a good team, they will be lucky to finish 6-10.

The Raiders looked sluggish on offense and lackluster on defense. They don’t make useful halftime adjustments, not to mention in-game adjustments. They refuse to take a balanced pass-run ratio; the only reason this game was 25-20 in pass-run is because they only had the ball for just under 24 minutes. The remaining six games on the schedule (@ TEN; vs. KC; @ DEN; vs. GB; vs. SD; @ KC) would be entirely winnable for a good team; only the Packers and Broncos are above .500, and both are going to end up limping into the playoffs. Again, the concern is not so much about making the playoffs this season, as much as showing progress and being competitive, producing a solid core to make a real playoff run next year.

Here’s how you’ll know when the Raiders have really turned the proverbial corner — when they stop playing down to the level of the opponent, and just come in and beat the crap out of bad teams. That’s what they did with the Chargers and Jets, and should have done with Detroit. This is definitely one of those games that the team and coaches will look back on at the end of the season and know they should have won. In a conference where only four teams are above .500, and five teams are at 5-5 right now, the opportunity is there right now for the Raiders to jump the curve and grab a wild-card spot this season, instead of next season. It just depends on them getting their act together and playing like they did against the Jets, and in San Diego. They’ve shown they can do it, they just need consistency.
Grade: D

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 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 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

Game Grades: Raiders at Bears

Full game stats here, play-by-play here.

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had a rather average outing, going 20-33 for 196 yards, 2 TDs and an interception. Amari Cooper was held to four catches for 49 yards, but his touchdown catch in the back of the end zone was a thing of beauty and field awareness (as well as a fantastic throw by Carr. Michael Crabtree continues to be the free-agent steal of the year, notching five catches for 80 yards. The tight ends continue to be an afterthought, as Lee Smith and Mychal Rivera combined for four catches for 26 yards. Spreading the ball around to the backs (Murray, Helu, and Reece) helped but not enough.
Grade: B-

Rush Offense: It’s strange how, in such a close game, Oakland only had 22 total carries by running backs. The talk had been of how the Raiders had always won when Latavius Murray had at least 15 catches, but that was clearly too small of a sample size, as his 16 carries for just 49 yards did very little to keep Oakland in contention. It didn’t help that Murray clearly had an off day, between turning the ball over and getting stuffed on a critical 3rd-and-2 near the end of the game. A final time of possession of just 26:38 may have been the deciding factor.
Grade: D+

Pass Defense: It’s hard to argue with three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception, yet the results don’t lie. Cutler went 28-43-281-2-1, not exactly superstar numbers but not bad for someone who played hurt. Tight ends continue to burn this unit at will; Bears TE Martellus Bennett tuned them up all day, with 11 catches for 83 yards, including a TD catch where he was embarrassingly wide open, and a crucial 4th-and-5 catch right before the two-minute warning to keep Chicago’s final drive alive. That last play is ultimately what made the difference between a win and a loss, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. This is exactly why the offense needs to not settle for field goals.
Grade: C-

Rush Defense: They actually did a respectable job here, as Matt Forte had 25 carries for 91 yards (3.64 ypc) and no touchdowns. Jeremy Langford and Jacquizz Rodgers added just three carries for seven yards total. Aldon Smith in particular had a solid game, making critical tackles and stops.
Grade: B

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski made both of his field goals and both of his extra points. Marquette King finished with a 45.0 average on his five punts, including two beauties that forced Chicago to start drives within their own 10-yard line. The decision to use valuable players such as TJ Carrie and Amari Cooper as punt returners finally bit the team in the rear, as Carrie was injured on one of his two returns and left the game. As Carrie seems to be the most consistent playmaker among the Raiders’ cornerbacks, it likely made Cutler’s job that much easier.
Grade: B+

Coaching: Head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave found out the hard way about playing not to lose, as the Raiders’ final offensive drive, which ended conservatively in a go-ahead field goal, left the Bears way too much time to respond with their own game-winning field goal. It makes sense that with a young, rebuilding team, the coaches would want to stay conservative and try to hold leads to the end. But as the secondary is the team’s biggest vulnerability, that has to be factored into fourth-quarter offensive strategy. It didn’t even necessarily need to be a touchdown drive, just one more first down would have made a huge difference, and two more first downs would have sealed the game. And they need to figure out another solution to the return game, as they cannot afford to lose players like Carrie or Cooper. But as always, all is forgiven if they can pull it together and knock off Denver this Sunday, before heading into the bye week.
Grade: C-

Game Grades: Raiders at Browns

Full game stats here.

Pass Offense: Derek Carr turned in another strong performance, notching 20 completions in 32 attempts (62.5%) for 314 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Amari Cooper had an impressive first half, but a lackluster second half, with a midfield fumble in the fourth quarter that gave the Browns an opportunity to close the sizable lead the Raiders had built up. Still, it’s a small blemish on an otherwise good day for Cooper, who finished with eight catches for 134 yards and no touchdowns. Seth Roberts was second in receiving, with 3 receptions for 36 yards and one touchdown. Marcel Reece had a 55-yard reception. Andre Holmes had a single 3-yard catch for a touchdown.
Grade: A-

Rush Offense: It took a while for the running game to get going, but once it did, it helped the Raiders chew up the clock and move the ball downfield. Latavius Murray had a career day with 26 carries for 139 yards, including a 54-yard rumble, and one touchdown. Taiwan Jones had 2 carries for 16 yards, and Marcel Reece had one carry for one yard. The more balanced offensive approach made a difference in the Browns defense looking winded late in the game.
Grade: B+

Pass Defense: On the one hand, after not having any sacks the first two weeks, the Raiders had five sacks (among four players) of Josh McCown, including two for Khalil Mack, who is emerging as a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, McCown finished up 28-49-341-2-1, and tight end coverage continues to be an issue, as Browns TE Gary Barnidge led the team with 6 receptions for 105 yards and an easy touchdown. DJ Hayden continues to struggle with coverage and tackling, letting Travis Benjamin twist him around for an end-zone lunge late in the game. It’s a good thing the offense is clicking, because the cornerbacks are going to let opponents hang around and come back. Charles Woodson’s game-ending interception was a relief, as the Browns’ final drive, which started at their own 1-yard line, had marched up the field at will up that point.
Grade: C+

Rush Defense: As Cleveland found themselves in an early hole, they only ran 14 times total between Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, for just 39 yards. Still, that 2.8 YPC average is significant, and shows that DT Dan Williams in particular has added to the defensive line’s run-stopping ability.
Grade: B

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski continues his streak, going 2/2 on field goals and 3/3 on extra points. Marquette King had a bit of an off day (for him), with 4 punts for a 37.0 average. King’s final punt, thanks to an acrobatic play by Taiwan Jones and a break from the refs (the replay showed Jones’ foot hitting the end zone just as the ball rolled off his fingers), was critical in pinning the Browns at their own 1-yard line to start their final drive. Amari Cooper showed that punt returning may not be his strong suit, gaining 9 yards on one and losing the same number on his other return.
Grade: B-

Coaching: Head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave crafted another strong, aggressive game plan for today’s matchup, mixing passing and running plays almost equally (32-30 pass-run ratio). Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. makes the most of what he has with the roster talent, using the front seven creatively at times to force Josh McCown to scramble or throw off his back foot. On the Raiders’ final offensive possession, after the midfield recovery of Travis Benjamin’s muffed punt return, the play calls were somewhat perplexing, in that the Raiders seemed content to run down the clock with running plays, but then tried a pass play on third down, instead of running down the clock to the two-minute warning, and possibly giving Sebastian Janikowski a better chance at a field goal to put the Browns away. These are the sorts of things that will be a problem against better teams down the schedule, such as the Packers and Chiefs. But the key to their two victories so far have been in building early leads and hanging on enough to win in the end. If they can pull it off against Denver in a couple of weeks, the team may be turning a corner after all.
Grade: A-

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Ravens

Pass Offense:  The numbers don’t lie — Carr had 30 completions in 46 attempts for 351 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. That interception, coming near the end of the game and allowing Baltimore to take its first lead of the game, could have been a back-breaker. But it turned out to be a good test for Carr and his receiver corps, who all showed great poise and confidence in roaring back down the field for the final go-ahead touchdown. Cooper and Crabtree each had over 100 receiving yards, something that has not happened since Carson Palmer was quarterback. Crabtree in particular had several difficult catches in crucial moments, keeping drives alive. Pass protection was strong as well; while Carr took several hits, he was only sacked once all afternoon. Grade:  A-

Rush Offense:  What we did see of the running game was good, there just wasn’t enough of it. Latavius Murray ran for 65 yards on 15 carries, while Taiwan Jones’ two carries netted him 9 yards. Carr had the best run of the day, a 24-yard rumble down the sideline on a designed bootleg keeper. Grade:  B

Pass Defense:  After two games, the Raiders still have zero sacks, and are still getting torched in the passing game. Joe Flacco passed for 384 yards through the day, 150 of those yards going to Steve Smith. Tight end coverage is still a problem, as Crockett Gillmore had 5 receptions for 88 yards and 2 TDs, though almost all of that was in the first half. TJ Carrie’s forced fumble on Baltimore’s first offensive play helped the Raiders jump out to a ten-point lead within the first five minutes of game time. DJ Hayden had some moments of nice coverage and tackling. Neiko Thorpe made up for a poor showing throughout the day with the game-sealing interception, brought on in part by Khalil Mack getting good pressure on the left tackle and forcing Flacco to throw in desperation. There is something to be said for being good at the right time. Grade: C+

Rush Defense:  Justin Forsett’s numbers were almost exactly the same as Latavius Murray’s, 15 carries for 68 yards, with a long of 16. Lorenzo Taliaferro’s 7-yard end-zone rumble for a late touchdown was way too easy. The line needs to improve against both the pass and the run, of course, but really even one of those would be a good start. Grade: C

Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals, and hit all four extra points. Marquette King only had to punt twice, the second one a booming 70-yarder that forced the Ravens to start from inside their own 10-yard line. Balitmore’s Sam Koch boomed all of his kickoffs through the end zone, which may have been for the best, since the return game is still very much a question mark. TJ Carrie returned two punts, for a total of 4 yards, with a long of 5 yards, which tells you how the other punt return went. Grade:  B-

Coaching:   Head coach Jack Del Rio and his staff deserve a lot of credit for getting the team to rebound from a nasty opening-day loss. As the defense weathers key injuries and continues to gel, it is crucial that the offense pulls its weight and then some. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave crafted a nice game plan that suits Derek Carr’s strengths, and lets him utilize his new offensive tools efficiently. There still needs to be more of a running game, but Musgrave seemed to be adapting his game plan to what the Ravens defense gave the Raiders offense.

Third-down efficiency on both sides of the ball is always a telling stat, and this game was no exception — the offense converted nearly two-thirds (9/14) of their third-down plays, while Baltimore converted barely one-third (4/11). Perhaps most importantly, the mostly young team faced and passed some critical tests, including staying in the game after losing an early lead, getting into (and surviving) a classic “shootout” game, and bouncing back quickly and strongly from an interception late in the game, to pull out an exciting victory in the final seconds of the game.

As the Raiders prepare for their first road game (three of the next four games are on the road), before coming back to start facing tough division opponents, it’s hard-fought games like this that the team can build on. Grade:  A-