Oakland Raiders vs Detroit Lions Postgame Wrap: Offense Shows Up
Justin Smith – Aug 26, 2012
If it's the third that is the most important game of the preseason, then the Oakland Raiders sure picked a good time to wake up on offense.
Carson Palmer was sharp at times but not consistent enough, Darren McFadden showed his trademark playmaking, the Raiders first unit got their first touchdown and moved the ball with ease, and the Raiders, behind the legs and arm of Terrelle Pryor in the second half racked up over 500 yards of offense en route to a 31-20 win.
The Raiders got the ball to open the game and in what is becoming a recurring concern could get nothing on the initial return. Palmer was sacked on the first play from scrimmage and things looked grim. Then, the Raiders began mixing up playcalling and hitting runs and passes before stalling once again in the red zone and settling for an easy 30 yard field goal.
Or so you would think. But Sebastian (Seabass) Janikowski, he of the golden leg, shanked it left and the Raiders had nothing to show for what was mostly an impressive opening drive.
The Lions got the ball and one of the main concerns coming into this game was the outside coverage by newly acquired Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell. In fact, coming into this game the Raiders had showed the ability to run the ball and stop the run; it was the ability to pass the ball and stop the pass that was the problem.
Palmer connected on three passes on the initial drive and the passing game on offense was moving. Bartell and Spencer began this drive blanketing Calvin Johnson - and continued to do so all half.
So Matt Stafford instead looked down the middle of the field and found his tight end Tony Scheffler, (familiar to Raider fans from his days with the hated Broncos) twice, and the Lions put together a decent drive of their own and Jason Hanson did NOT miss a field goal, and they led 3-0.
The Raiders first team defense was solid but not great on the first drive, but one thing stands out thus far; if this is any real indication, the days of easy running on this team are over.
After an uneventful series for both teams, the Raiders got the ball again in the second quarter and began a very nice drive. McFadden was out at the beginning, and Palmer first found David Ausberry - in a battle for tight end snaps with Brent Myers and Richard Gordon - and then Darrius Heyward-Bey down the left sideline for a big gain.
DHB showed how far he has come all in one catch. He beat his man clean with his straight-line speed, then adjusted to a slightly underthrown ball, used one hand to corral it and pin it to the back of the defensive back, and then secured it with his off hand. It was a spectacular catch, one that showed fight, concentration, adjustment, and hands, four things DHB has been thought to be lacking in one capacity or another throughout his career.
That set up another goalline stand, and after a PI call in the end zone, the Raiders invoked deja vu of the Arizona game with 1st and goal at the one yard line. They almost invoked deja vu of the disappointing result as well - but McFadden's second effort on fourth down enabled him to push the ball over the goalline and the Raiders and Raider Nation alike celebrated their first offensive touchdown. In the Black Hole, there was much rejoicing.
Unfortunately, they followed up that great drive by allowing a huge kickoff return to former Raider Justin Miller, a growing issue of kick returns and kick coverage that was the only real black eye of the game. Except, of course, for Palmer's one "I'm an idiot" moment that he has every game and must cease quickly.
The kick return was bad for two reasons: Seabass pulled up lame with a groin injury while trying to catch Miller and had to leave the game.
The defense held after good field position on the Miller return and Detroit once again settled for a field goal, making it 7-6 Raiders. Matt Stafford left the game earlier than expected with a left hand injury - xrays negative - so Shaun Hill led this drive for the Lions.
The Raiders once again could barely get anything on the ensuing return, and a few plays later Palmer made the aforementioned idiotic decision. Pressured on a 3rd down, he tried to force a screen pass to Taiwan Jones - who was being held, incidentally, but still - that simply wasn't there and Detroit lineman Willie Young tipped the ball to himself for an interception and the Lions had a 1st and goal from the nine.
Palmer simply must stop making those types of throws. There was no need and nothing to gain by this particular attempt whatsoever. It marred what was otherwise a needed decent showing by the veteran.
The Raiders, though, made a spectacular goalline stand after Calvin Johnson caught his only pass for eight yards and got to the one. The Lions tried twice to stuff it in, and were turned back on third and fourth downs by a Raider defense led all evening by standouts Lamarr Houston and Philip Wheeler.
Houston has been phenomenal this preseason, virtually unblockable in all situations, and Wheeler was simply all over the field tonight, both in coverage and run support. This unit looks solid, as Rolando McClain, Desmond Bryant, Tyvon Branch, Bartell and Spencer all played above board as well.
Palmer, whether by his own decisions or by bad luck, just seems to throw interceptions. On the next Raider possesion, Eddie McGee had a series to forget. He dropped a pass, commited a false start, and then almost made a fantastic leaping grab that was jarred loose and into the hands of Stephen Tulloch for Palmer's second - albeit just unfortunate and not ugly - interception of the night.
That's now five INT's in three games for Palmer, and whether they are all his fault or not his interception percentage with the Raiders is now in the astonishingly atrocious ballpark of some six percent of his attempts. That's incredibly high; and worrisome.
Palmer did some good things but until he stops turning the ball over it's tough to trust him.
He did bounce back on the next possesion and lead the Raiders into field goal range. With Seabass out, youngster Eddie Carmona was brought on for a 56 yarder from the infield dirt.
Can we pause a moment to discuss the dirt? This is an NFL team; it's an absolute embarrasment that they have to have a literal baseball diamond in the middle of their frickin field. This stadium situation needs to be ratified, and soon. Don't even get me started on O.co coliseum; I digress.
Carmona nailed it and the Raiders took a 10-6 lead into halftime. The Raider starters dominated the Lions on the stat sheet, with 19 first downs to 5 and outgaining them 2-1. It was, as usual, Palmer's turnovers that kept the score as close as it was. But still, he moved the offense and looked good for the most part, going 17/26 for 181 yards but those two INTs.
The Lions got the ball in the second half and the first units for both teams, minus an injured Stafford, were on the field still. The Lions methodically marched down the field until a beautiful interception by Matt Giordano, in which he literally ripped the ball from tight end Brandon Pettigrew's hands, was overturned when big Tommy Kelly got a club up on Hill at the very moment Giordano was picking Pettigrew's pocket.
The penalty gave the Lions good position and they capitalized quickly, with Pettigrew redeeming himself and snatching a TD to make it 13-10 Lions.
Terrelle Pryor came in the game, and though he's struggled he's slowly and steadily improved each time he's been on the field. This drive stalled, but the Raiders defense stiffened and Pryor got the ball back.
After a couple of "meh" plays, Pryor was flushed on third down. He took off like a rocket, and 59 yards later only a shoelace tackle stopped him from the end zone. First down Raiders, Lions 14 yard line.
Three plays later Pryor took off again and beat everyone to the corner for his first NFL touchdown. It was reviewed but upheld, and it was now 17-13 Raiders.
The Raiders defense, led by second unit standouts Carl Ihenacho and Mike Mitchell, held again and the Raiders got the ball back.
Pryor threw a couple nice passes on this drive, but made one really bad decision. He threw into tight double coverage, and the ball was picked by Alphonso Smith - who had a ROUGH evening.
However, there was a penalty on the Lions - one of many - and the play was called back. Two plays later, Pryor showed something you have to love. After throwing a bad pick, he shrugged it off and had the confidence to lay out a rainbow down the right sideline for Juron Criner into tight single coverage.
Criner showed the skills everyone has been raving about all offseason by climbing the ladder and snatching the ball from Smith, who also mugged Criner and would've been called for interference had Criner not beaten him like a rented mule for the touchdown. 24-13 Raiders.
Pryor was ear-to-ear smiles after this one. It must've felt great for the kid, who just wants to succeed and wants to validate Mr. Davis' faith in him so badly that he works his tail off, to see the fruits of his labor paying off.
After yet another stop by the Raiders D during which Raider lineman Jamie Cumbie was Lions' third-string QB Kellen Moore's personal boogie man, Pryor took over again with good field position.
After a couple ho hum plays, Pryor used the success in the run game to his advantage, throwing a nice play-action fake and then rolling out on a naked bootleg. He didn't keep running, though, something he's done too often thus far. Instead, he saw Criner breaking open down the field and threw a pass on the run that was breathtaking. It was high, soft, and right in the basket, and Criner snared it, shrugged off his defender - who interefered with him yet again on this touchdown catch - and was off to the end zone for touchdown number two for the young and dynamic duo.
Criner isn't fast, at least that's the book. Yeah, okay. Sure.
The Raiders must be ecstatic to see Criner and fellow rookie Rod Streater - who had another excellent performance in first team action tonight and will not only make the roster but likely be a top three receiver - stepping up as Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford continue to nurse injuries. The receiving corps looks to be just fine - and with the age of the guys, that's for years to come.
Speaking of ecstatic, Taiwan Jones finally got to show off that mystical quickness we've only heard about in legends. Well, it's true. There was more than one play where he was dead to rights for a loss but his sheer speed to the edge actually allowed him to outrun the defense for first downs. His burst and vision, combined with Goodson's fumblitis, should cement his stature as McFadden's backup. Goodson played much better this game but still has a lot to prove.
That made it 31-13 for the Raiders and after a garbage-time touchdown for Moore and the Lions and a beautiful and athletic diving interception by Raiders rookie DT Christo Bilukidi on a tipped pass by Cumbie - his amazing fourth tip of the game - this one was in the books at 31-20.
McFadden was excellent again, and it's clear that when he's on the field the Raiders offense can be a well-oiled machine. Palmer, as mentioned, did some nice things but simply needs to stop turning the ball over to be trusted.
Terrelle Pryor took off this game, showing the speed and arm strength he's vaunted for, but sprinkling in better decision making and accuracy to go along with it. All you can ask from a young player is that they show improvement, and Pryor is simply a different animal than he was at the beginning of the preseason. We may have witnessed a glimpse of the future tonight.
Taiwan Jones impressed, Lamarr Houston was a standout yet again and Philip Wheeler looks to be a star in the making, Juron Criner was outstanding, Rod Streater reliable once again, and the offensive line, with Alex Parsons admirably filling in for the injured Stefan Wisniewski, kept the quarterbacks clean and the running lanes open.
Combine that with DHB's spectacular catch, McFadden's toughness and burst, and great play from the backup defense as well and this team impressed more than not this evening.
The third preseason game is the one where you want to play well, and the Raiders, especially on the stat sheet, did that in spades. They gained over 500 yards, held the Lions to under 300, injured numerous Lions - though that's not something you want, but shows heart, passion and intensity to be sure - protected their quarterbacks well against an excellent front line, shut down an excellent passing game for the most part, got good yardage on the ground, stopped the run, and basically dominated in every phase. Except special teams, which needs a ton of work.
Once again the turnovers need to stop, but other than that, this was a great way for the Raiders to alleviate most concerns their fans and coaching staff had coming into the game. After a week in which they prepared like it was the regular season and took things seriously, it was important to play well.
That they did; and thank goodness for it.
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