Category Archives: game recaps

Week 8 Final: Raiders 34, Jets 20

Full game stats here.

Well, it’s probably too early to call the Raiders a legitimate wild-card contender, but after this week’s new and improved smackdown, this time against a highly ranked team, it’s definitely okay to be optimistic about their chances. Look at the rest of the AFC — perennial contenders such as the Colts and Ravens are terrible, and even resurgent teams such as Pittsburgh and Buffalo are merely mediocre. Only New England, Cincinnati, and Denver are any good, and of course they’re all undefeated. But the Raiders are definitely in the next tier, and more importantly, are improving, and can still make some easy adjustments to improve even more.

With this game and the previous one, the Raiders caught some breaks — the Chargers were easier to roll without Pro Bowlers Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle, and knocking Ryan Fitzpatrick out on the Jets’ first possession certainly didn’t hurt the Raiders’ cause today. But the fact is that good teams take advantage of breaks like those, and bad teams don’t. The Raiders made the most of those breaks, and backed it up once again with great play on both sides of the ball. There were several highlight-reel offensive plays, especially from Taiwan Jones and Andre Holmes.

This time there was less of a fourth-quarter let-up, showing that they’ve already learned from last week, and will continue in that direction. They’re play competitively and winning, and showing great signs of the long-awaited turnaround. Going into Heinz Field is always a tough prospect, but the Steelers are weathering key injuries and roster losses, and once again the Raiders may catch some breaks they can capitalize on.

Week 7 Final: Raiders 37, Chargers 29

Full game stats here.

San Diego managed to make it exciting in the fourth quarter, but the first three quarters of this game was the best we’ve seen out of this team in several years, at the very least since the epic 59-14 beatdown of the Kyle “Neckbeard” Orton Broncos in 2010, almost exactly to the date.

The score is deceptive because the Raiders took their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and let the Chargers back into the game, but make no mistake — Oakland dismantled the Chargers, made them one-dimensional, forced them to lean on Rivers. Right from the start, from Malcolm Smith’s interception on the third play of the game, leading to an easy touchdown for the Raiders, Oakland controlled the tempo of the game, on offense and defense. The 30-6 halftime lead left no doubt as to the outcome.

The Chargers were wounded and vulnerable, and had two key scratches right before the game, in Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle. But the Raiders were so dominant throughout that even Gates and Weddle, who are both outstanding players, might not have made that much of a difference.

The best teams know how to hold a big lead on an opponent, to keep them down and not let them back in the game. After being down 37-6, San Diego was able to put up 23 points in the final quarter and get within a touchdown, while the Raiders couldn’t get a first down just to burn off the clock at the end. If the game had been even two or three minutes longer it might have been a problem.

But this is a young team that’s still learning how to win, much less win decisively. Things happen, and the main thing is that they held on for the win, and learned a lesson without having to lose a game in the process. Whatever the case, the Raiders played crisp, focused ball, and they put together one of their best games in half a decade.

Week 5 Final: Broncos 16, Raiders 10

Full game stats here.Well, it was very close to being a nice upset game, a chance for a young team on their way up to show that they could run with the bigger (if somewhat older) dogs. And for the first half, as well as Denver’s first possession of the second half, the Raiders did just that.

After that, not so much. From Austin Howard’s completely whiffed chip block that left Derek Carr wide open for a sack-fumble, to Seth Roberts misreading a Carr pass late in the 4th quarter, leaving Chris Harris to take the pick-six to the house, the offense choked on a very winnable game. Throw in a pair of missed field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, in a game that ended up being lost by six points, and it was that kind of day for the Raiders as they head into the bye week.

But Oakland also showed that they could run with the big dogs, holding Peyton Manning to zero touchdowns and two interceptions, both by the ageless wonder Charles Woodson, who amazingly had never intercepted Manning in the 18 years the two have been in the NFL. Denver’s defense is probably the best overall in the league, a veritable buzzsaw that gives grief to every team they face. And for a couple of missed field goal attempts and a bad throw on a bad route, the Raiders might actually have pulled off a huge upset.

So even with a 2-3 record going into the bye, there is cause for real optimism. Aside from the season opener debacle against a Bengals team that is still undefeated, the Raiders have been in every game, are playing competitively and with confidence. They look focused and prepared, and are executing well for the most part. This is just a bump on a long road, they will continue to improve at this rate, with just a few minor tweaks.

Week 4 Final: Bears 22, Raiders 20

Look, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Everything that’s been an issue for the Raiders so far — the inability to cover tight ends; settling for field goals instead of driving for touchdowns; getting points from turnovers — came to the forefront against what is (was) arguably the NFL’s worst team.

Full stats here, play-by-play here.

Going into this game, it was basically understood that no one should make too big of a deal out of it either way, especially if the Raiders had won. It’s interconference, against a mediocre team, there were a few bright spots, yada yada. But since they not only lost, but found a way to lose, you can at least say that this was a game that will dog them at the end of the season, just for rankings’ sake, that it was a game that they could and should have won, that it emphasized several glaring weaknesses that they are really going to have to work on if they’re going to take things to the proverbial next level.

This was always going to be a tougher game than it looked on paper, partly because it was in Chicago, partly because Jay Cutler, despite his flaws, was going to be tougher to beat than Jimmy Clausen. But again, these are the kinds of games that sort out average teams from truly good teams.

Onward and upward. Surely Jack Del Rio has the Raiders primed for an epic matchup against his former team, ready to tear Peyton Manning a new one, and head into the bye week on a really strong note. Keep your fingers crossed.

Week 3 Final: Raiders 27, Browns 20

Good game, right down to the wire, but a bit frustrating in some respects. It’s always a good day to walk away with a W, no matter how close, but before people start talking about turning a corner, it’s important to keep it in perspective. After a strong first three quarters, Oakland found a way to make a nail-biter out of what should have been a laugher, nearly blowing a three-possession lead. That’s the hallmark of young teams who haven’t learned how to finish games strong.

Some real bright spots to be worked on in the weeks to come, though — despite a midfield fumble in the 4th quarter that let the Browns get back in the game, Amari Cooper just gets better week to week. His route-running and after-catch moves make him a real offensive threat. The running game took a while to get going, but once it did, Latavius Murray broke off some great runs to extend drives.

Getting some sacks definitely helps as well, of course, but on a day where the secondary struggled as usual, it was somehow fitting that a banged-up Charles Woodson had the game-clinching interception, with Cleveland driving strong for what would have been a tying score. Linebackers Ray Ray Armstrong, who had the Raiders first sack of the game (and season), and Neiron Ball, who had a fumble recovery and a sack in the last five minutes of the game, really stepped up. Again, the key here is not so much the mistakes that let the Browns stay in the game, but that the Raiders continue to finish games, which they have done well today and last week.

How long has it been since the Raiders started off 2-1, ten years, twelve? How long as it been since they won two games in a row? I honestly can’t recall. Next week is another road game, against the Bears, who are terrible this season, then home against Denver, who are definitely not the team they’ve been the last few years. If the Raiders continue to play like they have against Baltimore and Cleveland, with poise and resilience, they could hit the bye week at 4-1.

Week 2 Final: Raiders 37, Ravens 33

Wow. What a crazy, fun game to watch. This is exactly the kind of game a young team needs to get under their belt — sloppy and unfocused at times, but pulling it together and getting it done when it counted the most. Key fouls by the Ravens during Oakland’s comeback drive helped, but Carr and the rest of the team showed great poise in finishing a tough game against a solid opponent.

Full game stats here.

I don’t think anyone foresaw the Raiders putting up 10 points within the first 5 minutes of the game, but that’s exactly what they did. After a couple of uncharacteristic drops by Amari Cooper, Derek Carr hooked up with him on a third-down play with a nice 68-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. Baltimore started off its following possession with a fumble on the first play of the series, recovered by the Raiders and exploited for a short field goal. Unfortunately, due to the secondary’s continued difficulty in covering tight ends and seam routes, that lead was erased at the end of the first quarter. Sloppy penalties by Michael Crabtree (taunting) and Austin Howard (holding) stalled a promising early drive that would have added momentum to the Raiders’ lead.

Crabtree and Andre Holmes had terrific catches on a 2nd-quarter drive, and throughout the game at critical moments. Murray punched it in on a goal-line run. The defense had a nice stand on a 3rd-and-1 at midfield in the 2nd quarter, though they also gave up two 4th-and-1 plays (one in each half) that each cost them dearly. Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith killed a Ravens drive in 3rd qtr, forcing Flacco to throw, nearly picked by Asante. Offensive third downs were solid in the game, producing a nice long clock-killing touchdown drive late in the third quarter. A long run by Carr on a bootleg keeper was key to maintaining that drive.

The team and coaches deserve a lot of credit for being resilient after a nasty opening-day loss. There’s still a ton of work to do, as the defense gave up nearly 500 yards total, but the team at least showed that they could rebound respectably, start strong, and punch a good team square in the mouth.

Week 16 Final: Raiders 26, Bills 24

One thing to salvage from a tough season like this one is that, when the Raiders have won, it’s been against teams with winning records, and it’s been pretty decisively. Although Kyle Orton managed to lead Buffalo on a comeback drive and make it close(r), the fact is that the Raiders beat up the Bills on both sides of the ball throughout the game. Assuming that the team is finally beginning an upswing to carry into 2015, this is one of those games they can point to as the start of the turnaround.

Full game stats here.

Khalil Mack is proving to be a beast already. Teams are already double- and even triple-teaming him, and the Bills were no exception. Mack recorded one sack and two tackles and three assists, but he is a much more disruptive force than the numbers reflect. All day, Buffalo had to account for him, and Mack played a huge part in holding them Bills to 13 yards on 13 carries total.

The season ends on December 28 in Denver, always a tough but memorable game. In the meantime, despite some serious bumps in between (which the coaching staff will likely pay for), the team has managed to put together three impressive wins, against teams with winning records and were in fact vying for playoff spots. It may be too-little-too-late for 2014, but it’s definitely something to build on.

Week 15 Final: Chiefs 31, Raiders 13

The Raiders seem jinxed when it comes to visiting the state of Missouri. Two games in three weeks, lost 83-13 total. Maybe it’s something in the water. Maybe the Rams and Chiefs just wanted it more.

Well, Oakland kept it respectable in the first half today, anyway. But several serious miscues — starting with an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown by De’Anthony Thomas — simply put the Raiders in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.

Full game stats here.

While Thomas’ return gave Kansas City a 10-3 halftime lead, it was a disastrous third quarter that put the game out of reach. Oddly, it was a turnover to the Raiders — specifically, Travis Kelce’s fumble directly into the arms of C.J. Wilson, who returned it 21 yards almost to the red zone — that made it clear what the ultimate outcome would be. The offense was unable to capitalize on prime field position and seize momentum, settling for a short field goal.

After Derek Carr fumbled a snap deep in his own territory, setting up an easy Chiefs touchdown, an easy 70-yard touchdown pass to backup running back Knile Davis sealed the Raiders’ fate.

Questionable coaching decisions didn’t help; Latavius Murray had 12 carries for a respectable 59 yards, but once the game got away from them they abandoned the run game, forcing Carr (who was clearly having an off day) to throw 56 times. A 56-16 pass-run ratio, with a perfect 50-50 time of possession split, shows just how badly Kansas City’s defensive line owned Oakland’s offense throughout the game.

Week 14 Final: Raiders 24, 49ers 13

All season long, when the Raiders have gotten beaten up, there have been times when the go-to phrase has been “and it wasn’t even that close”. It is incredibly satisfying to say that this time around, with the Raiders on the winning side.

Full game stats here

Given the deep regional rivalry between these two teams and their fan bases, it was great to see how the game ended — with the Raiders content to run out the clock instead of an easy final score, turning the ball over on downs deep in the Niners’ end zone with just a couple minutes remaining. It was great to see San Francisco’s fading playoff hopes dashed on a final attempt by Kaepernick to scramble, trying to make something happen where nothing had once again, only to get unceremoniously dumped right in front of his own goal line, time running out

 

In a lost season, with players trying to find hope and coaches trying to retain their jobs, every little bit counts, and while a dominating victory like this may not save anyone’s job, it at least supports an argument for continuity somewhere along the line. And it was just fun to watch, where obviously very little of this season has even been watchable.

Week 13 Final: Rams 52, Raiders 0

Holy crap. Did that just happen? That just happened.

Whatever hopes that last game’s comeback drive and win against the Chiefs would translate into positive momentum for the Raiders were dashed on the field at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. I said that the Rams were the best 4-7 team in the league, given the elite opponents they had beaten. And one of the key differences between good teams and bad teams is that while bad teams might win one once in a while, it doesn’t matter whether the team they beat is good or bad, they’ll just squeak by on luck or circumstance, a good drive at the right time. But a good team will punish bad teams.

And that’s what happened here; the Raiders were historically awful today, in all phases of the game. The offense is a dead fish, unable to get a first down until they were already down 21-0. They barely got across the 50-yard line, forget the red zone. McFadden and Jones-Drew ran hard, as usual, but mostly got stuffed (as usual), and once the score got out of hand the running game was abandoned (as usual). Matt Schaub finally got in the game in the fourth quarter, just long enough to fumble the ball away, and then throw a pick-six. That was $8.5M well spent.

The defense was slow and listless, looking like they were running uphill, underwater, through snow. Tre Mason ran through multiple tacklers, over and over again, racking up yards and touchdowns, looking like Jamaal Charles last year, as the D looked like they had never seen a screen before. While the defense did play tighter and better in the second half, by then the Rams were up 38-0. Too little, too late. By that point Shaun Hill, a career scrub, looked like Kurt Warner. Rookie WR Stedman Bailey rolled up nearly 100 yards receiving in the first quarter.

Special teams was a big fail also; George Atkinson III returned kicks as if he had never done it before, running indecisively, fumbling the ball away deep in their own territory. T.J. Carrie almost broke off a nice punt return, only to be flattened by Ray-Ray Armstrong. This is how teams end up 1-11 (or 1-15, at the rate they’re going); this is how they get pounded 52-0.

Full game stats here, if you have the stomach for it.

There’s no way to sugar-coat this one, no way to put a positive spin on it. This is literally the worst loss for the team since 1961, just three points off their record 55-0 loss to Houston over half a century ago.

Three years into the Great Rebuild, this is the team we have — listless, indifferent, undisciplined, incompetent. On the one hand, successful teams are built on continuity and stability and consistency, which would seem to indicate that it might be best to stay the course on management and coaching, or at least not replace anyone until someone better is available. On the other hand, 52-0. And like so many of their blowout losses this season and the previous two seasons, it wasn’t even that close; the Rams just let off the gas in the second half. Amazingly, it could have been even worse.

But the contrast was stark right from the beginning. St. Louis played tight, focused ball on offense and defense, taking their game right to the Raiders, daring them to punch back. And the Raiders were having none of it.

One of the more disheartening moments was seeing Carr and Schaub on the sidelines, down 45-0, chatting and smiling and laughing. News reports from the locker room afterward said the locker room demeanor wasn’t “angry” or “disgusted,” but rather “disappointment” and “surprise”. Frankly, I want them to be angry and disgusted. They embarrassed themselves and their fans, once again. It’s becoming a habit with this team and these players. They played like shit, ineptly, without passion or purpose. It’s unbelievable that they had ten days — after their first win in an entire year — to prepare for this game, and came out so flat and incompetent in every single phase. It’s unacceptable to fans, and it should be unacceptable to players and coaches.

So we’ll see what happens next — the Niners, reeling from their own embarrassing Thanksgiving loss to their arch-rival Seahawks, come to Oakland next Sunday. Speculation about Jim Harbaugh coming to coach the Raiders next season has been rampant all weekend, and there are pros and cons to that (like anything else). San Francisco’s visit across the Bay Bridge comes sandwiched between their Seahawk games; they have to travel to Seattle the following week, for a must-win game if they are to make the post-season.

Will the Raiders step up, use this humiliating experience to take their jobs seriously and play hard and well, against a team that may be looking ahead to a game they desperately need to win? Or will the Niners use an incompetent Raiders team as a punching bag for their own frustrations, as a warm-up and an easy win before they have to play a division rival? It’s up to the Raiders players and coaches to decide which way they want to go, to start fighting back and playing like the team that shocked the Chefs, or continue to be the team that other teams’ fans don’t even hate or laugh at any more, because they feel sorry for them.

Three years (with 9 wins and 25 losses) into the rebuild, and they are basically an expansion team at this point. If the NFL had English Premier League rules, the Raiders would be relegated. Losing but being able to see tangible progress is one thing, but there has been no progress — they get blown out every few weeks, just suffered their worst beatdown in 53 years, are on pace to have the worst running game in 70 years, have no kick/punt return game at all. How many times this season have you seen receivers bumble into each other on crossing routes, struggle to get separation, drop easy passes, how many times have they failed to get a simple push for a single yard on 3rd down?

Reggie McKenzie refuses to talk to media at this point (which will probably have to change after this most recent embarrassment), but the only question for him is where is the progress? There are glimmers of hope here and there in the potential of rookies like Mack and Carr, but not nearly enough to overcome the chronic dysfunction that seems to plague this team and organization. So many areas need change and improvement, it’s hard to know where to start. But after three years and regular blowout losses, it doesn’t even seem like it’s been started yet.

Al Davis built this team’s greatness and legacy on the premise that “we’d rather be feared than respected,” but at this point, the team and fans have been relegated to where they’d just rather be hated — or even ridiculed — than merely pitied.