Category Archives: Oakland Raiders

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 Preview: Raiders vs. Chargers

Lots of things in play for this Christmas Eve matchup — did the Chargers play their final home game in San Diego last Sunday? Will the Raiders be playing their final home game in Oakland on Thursday? Will this be the final division game between the two teams (since if the Raiders and Chargers both move to the same Los Angeles stadium, one of the teams would have to change divisions)?

The short week, the holiday, and the weather certainly won’t help either team. The four-touchdown performance by Danny Woodhead against the Dolphins on Sunday leaves him either exhausted or invigorated, and with the Raiders luck, probably the latter. But aside from their performance against Miami, the Chargers just seem worn out, beaten down, ready for the season to end. If the defense continues doing what they’ve been doing, and the offense can generate just a little bit of consistency and luck, this should be a smackdown similar to the one the Raiders inflicted on the Chargers a couple months ago.

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

Week 15 Final: Packers 30, Raiders 20

Full game stats here.

Two consecutive passes, two interceptions leading to 14 points for the opposition. Today we learned that the Raiders can fight their way back from self-inflicted damage pretty darned well, and that the banged-up defense still puts up a pretty good fight against an elite QB. Missing the playoffs was not really an issue; with the Jets and Steelers both winning, it would have taken some minor miracles the next couple weeks for the Raiders to have been in the hunt even if they had won today.

The last two games will be about identifying which pieces to take forward into next season, where playoff expectations will be very real, and seeing where there will be holes to be filled by free agency and draft in the off-season. The defensive backfield is a mess of injuries and botched assignments — the blown coverage on James Jones was bad enough, but the replay showed that all the deep receivers were pretty wide open, Rodgers just happened to pick Jones. But for the most part the D continued to play well. Again, it was the offense that seemed strangely inert, and at the worst possible times.

Just a heads-up, we’ll do another live-blog for the final game of the season in Kansas City on 1/3/2016. Drop in for a cold brew and chime in!

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Packers

I’ve been waiting for this one all year, and not just because my wife is a lifelong Packers fan who literally helped pull Aaron Rodgers’ wisdom teeth. Interconference matchups don’t typically mean much, but hopefully the Raiders take seriously the head-to-head history against the Packers. Oakland is 5-6 in regular season against Green Bay, winning the first five matchups and losing the last six. In other words, the Raiders haven’t beaten the Packers since 1987. Only one of those losses has been by fewer than 13 points, and four of them were by at least four touchdowns.

The last time the teams played each other, just over four years ago, could be summed up in a single play: leading 31-0 with 4:22 in the 2nd quarter, the Raiders forced a fumble on Rodgers and returned it to the Packers’ 10-yard line. Rodgers whined to the refs about the tuck rule (remember that turd of a rule?), and not only got the fumble overturned to an incomplete pass, but got a clipping penalty on Lamarr Houston. So there’s a well-deserved ass-kicking due here, and hopefully the team looks at this as an opportunity to take a playoff contender down a couple notches.

Oakland’s o-line is banged-up, with right tackle Austin Howard out for the rest of the season, and center Rodney Hudson questionable. But the Packers’ entire line is wounded, leaving them ripe for Khalil Mack to repeat his all-world performance from last week. Rodgers’ Lambeau crybaby routine won’t work in Oakland, and if Mack can get into the backfield enough, look for David Amerson and C-Wood to make some serious plays in the defensive secondary. Amari Cooper had a nice bounce-back week in Tennessee, after his lousy performance in Detroit, so maybe he can replicate that tomorrow against an 11th-ranked (but again, banged-up) pass defense.

Game Grades: Raiders at Broncos

Pass Offense: Derek Carr had 12 completions in 25 attempts for just 139 yards. But he also had two touchdown passes, to Seth Roberts and Mike Rivera, and both plays were excellent. The fake screen that culminated into the TD pass to Rivera in particular showed how inventive the offense can be with all the tools at their disposal. Despite being targeted six times, Amari Cooper had no catches, but was double-covered most of the time.
Grade: C+

Rush Offense: Almost completely nonexistent, only 31 yards of rushing offense were generated on just 19 carries. Part of this happens to be due to the Raiders ending up with just 24:02(!) time of possession, part of it is that Denver’s defense is just that good. But the fact is that Latavius Murray came into this game as the leading rusher in the AFC, and you wouldn’t have known it today.
Grade: D+

Pass Defense: If you look at the numbers, you might not get the full picture: Brock Osweiler finished 35-51-308 with no interceptions. But he also had no touchdowns. Khalil Mack had all the sacks for the Raiders, five in all, reminding viewers of Derrick Thomas and Lawrence Taylor at times, bursting through Denver’s offensive line like a force of nature. Only Demaryious Thomas and Vernon Davis had over 50 yards receiving for the Broncos. Considering Denver had over 36 minutes of possession time, the Raiders’ defense did a very respectable job.
Grade: A-

Rush Defense: The rushing defense had a field day, allowing just 34 yards on 21 carries. Dan Williams in particular did an excellent job of stuffing ball carriers Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson. This was the kind of defense where you wonder where they are on the “off” weeks.
Grade: A-

Special Teams: Marquette King, never much of a “coffin corner” kicker, landed five of his ten punts inside Denver’s 20, making all the difference in the game. One of those punts led to the Broncos starting within their 5, leading to the safety, while another led to Emmanuel Sanders’ fumble and Jon Condo’s recovery at the 10-yard line. Maybe King has caught on to Shane Lechler’s method of kicking high-flying, hard-to-catch knuckleballs. Whatever the case, those two plays are why the Raiders won this game, pure and simple. Jeremy Ross had one nice punt return for 22 yards, otherwise the return game in general is still a groaner.
Grade: A-

Coaching: Count this one as a coup by the coaching staff. Ken Norton, Jr.’s defense continues to gather momentum and consistency, while Bill Musgrave, whose offense was inert in the first half, deserves credit for changing up his approach in the second half, and capitalizing nicely on the opportunities created by special teams. The fake screen leading to the go-ahead touchdown pass to Mike Rivera was fantastic, and showed the potential that this offense has, even when Amari Cooper is having an off day. Head coach Jack Del Rio continues to keep the team prepared, focused, and resilient, even after a phenomenally bad offensive first half. A very respectable outing against the likely #2 playoff seed.
Grade: B+