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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

Week 3 Final: Raiders 17, Titans 10

When the Raiders visited Tennessee last year, they needed a lucky break in the final minutes of the game to secure a win. Today was the same, except even more down to the wire, with TJ Carrie perhaps getting away with pressure on the Titans’ final play, getting a hand on Harry Douglas in the end zone, and preventing him from catching a tying (or winning touchdown).

The defense definitely improved, forcing three turnovers and holding the Titans to just 10 points. They seemed to get gassed in the second half, however, allowing Tennessee back in the game and getting picked apart at will by Marcus Mariota in the final drive.

Whatever the case, they got the job done, and showed real improvement in a critical area. Coming out of next week’s showdown in Baltimore with a 3-1 record would go a long way to establishing themselves as legitimate playoff contenders.

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

Week 2 Final: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

Say what you will, this year’s team does not lack in pure entertainment value so far. We got a little bit of everything today, but ultimately lost what should have been a very winnable game.

After Atlanta’s first two possessions, the Raiders’ defense simply couldn’t stop the Falcons, who passed and ran seemingly at will. Free-agent CB Sean Smith continues to be a liability in coverage. Even with a bum wheel, WR Julio Jones had Smith in his back pocket all afternoon, burning him time and again with quick and obvious inside breaks. Even the fluke defection caught by Atlanta WR Justin Hardy was within Smith’s power to prevent.

He’s not DeAngelo Hall cat-chasing-a-laser-pointer bad, but Smith was signed specifically to be the key player in the defensive backfield. He’s made a couple of decent tackles, but is getting burned quite a bit already.

Signs of life late in the game were extinguished when Amari Cooper had a fantastic 50-yard catch-and-run TD called back because he had stepped out of bounds prior to the reception. After the loss of down put the Raiders at 4th-and-2 at midfield, Jack Del Rio went for one more gutsy call, this time to no avail.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Del Rio’s guts in making these play calls. But it’s difficult already to shake the feeling that he’s making them at least in part because he feels like he can’t trust his defense to hold the opponent. And he really can’t so far.

The offense continues to click, and show the ability to play catch-up in the 4th quarter, something it was not very effective at previously. But the defense has got to step up and get it done, and stop leaving the offense in a late-game hole.

The expectations might have been a little high. It’s not that the Raiders can’t or won’t reach the playoffs this year — they can and should. But good teams, solid playoff teams, don’t keep letting mediocre teams build two-touchdown leads on them, and have to scramble back frantically in the fourth quarter.

They can’t all be nail-biters; good teams have their share of methodical, plodding games, almost boring in their relentless efficiency. That was definitely not the case today. This should have been like the Jets game last season, and instead it was a rerun of last week’s Saints game, without all the lucky breaks.

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Falcons

This early in the season it’s tough to do much in the way of previews, as there aren’t yet enough trends to spot anything really predictable.  The good news is that Oakland currently is #1 in offensive rushing; the bad news is that they’re dead last in passing and total yards defensively. Obviously, both rankings will probably change after the next game.

Coming off a wild finish in New Orleans last week, the Raiders should put up a solid home opener against an Atlanta team that got tuned up for 281 yards and 4 TDs by Jameis Winston and the Bucs.

The Falcons’ main weakness — pass defense — mirrors the Raiders’ own. New CB Sean Smith got torched repeatedly by Drew Brees, so Matt Ryan will be itching to test Smith out with Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and Tevin Coleman. Jones and Sanu each had aTD in Tampa Bay last week, and Coleman racked up 95 yards on 5 receptions.

Atlanta only managed 52 rushing yards (including 10 from Ryan), so they may be vulnerable in the running game, as well as their pass defense.

Already the Raiders’ offensive line is in trouble. Right tackles Menelik Watson (groin) and Matt McCants (knee) are both doubtful, and center Rodney Hudson (knee) and RG Gabe Jackson (knee) are both listed as questionable. RB and special teams ace Taiwan Jones (concussion) is also listed as questionable.

With a victory, Oakland would start 2-0 for the first time since 2002, and beat Atlanta for the first time since 2000.

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-

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.

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!

Week 14 Final: Raiders 15, Broncos 12

Full game stats here.

Another wild and woolly division rumble, another tale of two halves. On the one hand, the Raiders ended up with -12 offensive yards for the first half; on the other hand, they rebounded well in the second half, thanks to some much-needed help from special teams and Khalil Mack.

Mack has already established himself as a force to be reckoned with, and paired up perfectly with Aldon Smith earlier in the season. But Mack proved he can do it by himself just fine, sacking Brock Osweiler five times, plowing through Denver’s offensive line with ease.

This matchup turned out to be another one of those where one side of the team — in this case, the defense — performed well, while the offense mucked it up most of the day. In this case, that’s understandable, as Denver’s top-rated defense is turning out to be one of the all-time great lineups. And Amari Cooper’s mini-slump continues, in the midst of a season where he is still a legitimate contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year. But the bottom line is that this team is finally on the right track, that they’re not letting a lousy first half undermine them in the second half, that they can compete with any other team and play a full 60.

Each of the final three games (Green Bay, San Diego, and Kansas City) presents opportunities for the Raiders to show up in all facets, and prove that they can be an elite team in the coming seasons. They still need another solid free agency period and draft in the coming off-season, but Oakland continues to show that they’re moving in the right direction.