Oakland Raiders Squeak by Cleveland Browns: What Went Right and Wrong
John Doublin – Oct 17, 2011As the Oakland Raiders left the field after defeating the Cleveland Browns 24-17 at O.co Coliseum, they had a lot to think about.
Why hasn't Darren McFadden been over 100 yards since Marcel Reece was injured? Can Kyle Boller lead us to the playoffs now that Jason Campbell is likely out for the year with a broken collar bone? Why can't the defense seem to tackle with any consistency late in games?
So many questions, so little time.
Let's have a look at some of the things that went right for Oakland, some things that went wrong, and how the Raiders can move forward from here.
What went right:
The Raider wonâ€”that part went right. The offense played fairly decent and was moving the ball well even after Campbell left the game in the second quarter. For the most part, the offensive line pass protected decently, the running game was above average and the receivers made some plays.
Jared Veldheer kept pass rushing specialist Jayme Mitchell at bey most of the day and there were some decent running lanes for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush to run through.
Darren McFadden gained 91 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown. Once again, the Raiders relied on the running game and McFadden came throughâ€”even though the Browns clearly had a plan to stop him.
Darrius Heyward-Bey had another solid performance with six catches for 82 yards to lead the team for a second week in a row. It appears the game has finally slowed down for the former seventh overall draft pick.
The defense did enoughâ€”barely. For the second straight week, the Raiders' defense held a premier running back under 100 yards. The Oakland defense followed up their great performance against the run in Houston by holding Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty and the Browns to just 65 yards rushing on 21 carries. 16 of those yards were gained by quarterback Colt McCoy having to scramble for his life.
The Raider defensive line was in the backfield more than Hillis was! Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston and Jarvis Moss pressured McCoy all day and it resulted in McCoy completing less than half of his passes. There's bound to be a long soak in the ice-tub and a large quantity of Flexall-454 in McCoy's future!
Special teams made the difference and carried the team. To borrow a baseball term, Jacoby Ford "went yard" on a kick return, taking it 101 yards for the score.
Shane Lechler averaged over 50 yards per punt once again, including two that were downed inside the 20.
Sebastian Janikowski did what he doesâ€”drilled every kick he was given the opportunity to execute.
There were however, two kicks Janikowski wasn't allowed to attempt. On one, a brilliant fake field goal was called by special teams coordinator John Fassel and head coach Hue Jackson. The play was executed perfectly by punter Shane Lechler, tight end Kevin Boss and resulted in a 35 yard touchdown pass and catch. Janikowski even attempted to pass block for Lechler. That is teamwork!
The other non-kick will be covered in the next section.
What went wrong:
Jason Campbell was injured and is likely out for the rest of the year. Raider fans will be glad to know it wasn't due to poor offensive line playâ€”is was just an unfortunate "football injury" caused by Campbell trying to make a play for his team. Earlier in the game, Campbell coughed up the only turnover of the game by doing the exact same thingâ€”diving head first, rather than "giving himself up" by using the quarterback slide. Lesson learned.
Although the linebackers' tackling looks better, the tackling by the Raiders' secondary is still pretty bad. McCoy threw for 215 yards. Had the Raiders' secondary made the tackles professional football players are supposed to make, that number would have been less that 140. Wide receivers Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi were breaking tackles and even dragging Raider defensive backs for extra yards all day long.
As time ran down, the Browns moved the ball virtually at will due to missed and poorly attempted tackles. It's time for Oakland to spend some of their 14 full-pad practices to re-visit the fundamentals of footballâ€”beginning with "form tackling."
The aforementioned "non-kick" came late in the game with the Raiders holding a 14 point lead. Faced with a fourth-and-one inside the Browns' 10 yard line, Jackson and the coaching staff failed to bring in the best kicker in the league to ice the game by taking a 17 point lead with under three minutes to go, choosing to go for it with a very uncreative dive play to Bush. Every coaching book and expert will say the same thing, "Take the three points and put the game out of reach."
It almost came back to haunt the Raiders as the Browns marched right down field and scored to move within a touchdownâ€”then executed an on-side kick to put themselves in position to tie the game. Taking the points there would have forced the Browns to complete two on-side kicks to have a chance, rather than just the one. This falls on the coaching staff.
Honestly, this game should have been a blowout, with or without Jason Campbell. The running game started out fairly well, but the Browns did a good job of stopping it after the first quarter. This can't happen in the future because, as witnessed last week, Campbell can win it for the Raiders with stellar playâ€”Boller has proven throughout his career that he cannot.
To get the running game back up to speed, one of two things needs to happen: 1. Reece needs to get healthy and stay that way, or 2. Manase Tonga needs to play better.
Hearkening back to the "Greatest Show On Turf" after starting quarterback Trent Green went down in the pre-season, head coach of the Rams, Dick Vermeil was quoted saying, "We will rally around Kurt Warner, and we will play good football."
Now is the time for the Raiders to do just thatâ€”rally around Boller. All year long, coach Jackson has been preaching "Next man up." Going out and signing a veteran like David Gerrard or executing a trade for Carson Palmer now would only send the wrong message and diminish the respect the team has for the head coach and the confidence the team has in the back up quarterback. That would be counter-productive.
Raiders' offensive coordinator Al Saunders was a part of that 1999 Rams coaching staff, and he can impart some of Vermeil's wisdom onto the Raiders.
Follow us on Twitter: @CoachJayDee and @RNTimes. And on Facebook, Raider Nation Times.
Like Raider Nation Times
How Would You Grade the Raiders Live Mock Draft?