Oakland Raiders 2011 Season Recap: 5 Games that Let the Raider Nation Down
– Jan 17, 2012Now that the 2011 NFL regular season is in the books, it's time to analyze what went wrong for an Oakland Raiders team that finished 8-8 after a promising 7-4 start.
On review of the Raiders' season, only two losses stand-out as understandable: New England and at Green Bay. Otherwise, the RaidersÂ "should" have finished 14-2 or 13-3.
Thus far, the Raiders have hired the promising Reggie McKenzie to be general manager. McKenzie's first order of business was to release head coach Hue Jackson.
Jackson had a lot on his plate in 2011, such as injuries to starters and the organization-shaking event of Al Davis' passing.
Anytime I dissect information, I identify what I think are obvious conclusions first, so that I can look beyond the obvious, if necessary.
The first conclusion that seems obvious is that the Raiders set the record for penalties in 2011. Who really cares? These days, I'm surprised that the refs don't call roughing the passer for crossing the quarterback's shadow.
As far as penalties go, the only kind that concern me are pre-snap penalties and penalties that negate touchdowns or give the opponents free first downs. Both indicate a lack of awareness and teamwork by the players.
The second conclusion that seems obvious is that Carson Palmer threw too many interceptions. While true, that problem is likely to be corrected with a receiving corp that will be healthy and more experienced in 2012. The disturbing problem of pick-sixes can be attributed to a lack of preparation by the offense to react to such situations.
I'd rather identify that problem that is unlikely to be fixed simply by experience or health.
Kansas City @ Oakland (28-0):
Though this game was only close at the opening kickoff, and granted, both quarterback Jason Campbell and running-back Darren McFadden were hurt, yet Hue Jackson insisted on a game-plan that wasn't working by continuing to call pass-plays that resulted in six interceptions by two quarterbacks, most of which were returned for touchdowns or led to points.
Backup running-back Michael Bush ran effectively, yet Jackson continued to throw the ball. Football is like a game of chess, but also like poker because sometimes, a team can't insist on a hand that it doesn't have.
Lesson to Be Learned: Stick with what is working rather than insist on a game-plan that isn't working. Moreover, the returns for touchdowns on picks showed lack of awareness and preparation by the offense.
Oakland @ Miami (34-14):
Early in the game, Miami quarterback Matt Moore was mostly ineffective. Yet, running-back Reggie Bush gashed the Raiders for big gains that led to field goals, which in effect, set up the passing game for Matt Moore.
Stopping the run would have gone a long way to defeating the Dolphins, yet the Raiders seemed more concerned with Moore and likely overlooked Bush in film-study.
This loss affected the postseason fate for the Raiders, because the Denver Broncos won the tiebreaker of common opponents by defeating Miami earlier in the season.
Lesson to Be Learned: More unawareness by the offense in allowing a touchdown on a pick. These days in the NFL, a defense should be less concerned with stopping the pass and more concerned stopping the run, because NFL rules have all but made pass-defense obsolete, (see the 49ers). Defenses may as well stipulate that a passer will put up 230-300 yards. Stopping the run however, will make life difficult for the offense in the red-zone and short-yardage situations.
Denver @ Oakland (34-28):
Again, the Raiders were gutted by the run, which setup quarterback Tim Tebow to make big plays to lead the Broncos to win, after having been down 17-7 at half-time.
Lesson to Be Learned: Stop the run!
San Diego @ Oakland (38-26)
Despite all the injuries and turmoil in 2011, the Raiders were in position to win the division in the season finale. A win and they would have been in. Yet, the defense could not force a punt all day, while the offense could not score touchdowns in the red-zone. The game was more evidence that Jackson wanted to pass the ball, rather than commit to an effective running-game.
Lesson to Be Learned: A defense doesn't need to be flawless, but it still needs to make timely stops.
Detroit @ Oakland (28-27)
I think this game sealed Hue Jackson's fate. The Raiders had several opportunities to win this game, but Jackson blew it. The Raiders did not attempt a 2 point conversion to go up by 7 rather than 6. Later, the Raiders could have iced the game with a first-down but choose to pass on 3rd and 4. Jackson called for a deep pass that missed.
Two things wrong with that: the incomplete pass stopped the clock, while running the ball could have put the Raiders in better position to go for it on 4th down. Instead the Raiders punted. The punt pinned the Lions on the two yard line, yet the defense allowed the Lions to march down the field for the go-ahead touchdown.
Lesson to Be Learned: Hue Jackson played it safe when he should have been aggressive and was aggressive when he should have played it safe. That's a lesson that is hard to correct.
The offense in 2011 was sketchy, but much of that should be corrected and explained by health and experience.
The defense on the other hand, was not the same as it was in 2010. In 2010, the defense was aggressive and could make critical stops. In 2011 however, the defense could not cover fundamental aspects of defense, such as stopping the run, or make timely stops.
It's always easier said than done, but the Raiders need to shore-up the run defense and not over-analyze or nit-pick the aspects of this team that did work.
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