Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins Postgame Wrap: Fish Food
Justin Smith – Sep 17, 2012
What a steaming pile that second half was. The Oakland Raiders typically struggle in Miami, but with a rookie quarterback who looked lost last week, no receivers to speak of, a weak secondary and a new coaching staff, this time it was supposed to be different.
Instead, it was "Welcome to Miami - here we go again."
Raider fans entered the season with reasonable optimism that the team could be better than last year. Carson Palmer had a full offseason with his players, the distractions of Al Davis' passing and Hue Jackson's lame-duck status were gone, a new general manager and head coach were going to carry them forward, and life was going to be good for the Silver & Black.
The Raiders, as a franchise, have become experts at selling that snake oil to the Nation for years now. And it's eaten up, because every fan base needs hope, faith that things will get better. And with all the changes off the field it looked like a real possibility.
After yesterday's laughable second half against a team widely considered the worst in the NFL - prior to Oakland possibly taking that mantle from them midway through the third quarter - it's tough to see how, or where.
Darren McFadden struggled in his first two seasons in the league under former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone blocking scheme. When Hue Jackson was hired first as o-coordinator and then as head coach, he implemented a power running scheme in which McFadden thrived, to the point where many considered him a top five NFL back.
So what did the Raiders do? Bring back Knapp, of course. What has happened?
56 yards on 24 carries. 2.3 ypc. Before he was injured last season McFadden had over 600 yards in six games and averaged over five yards per carry. He's a power runner - he excels at it.
The zone blocking scheme has failed to open any holes in this offense, causing teams from day one in preseason to key on McFadden and stifle the running game. That has led to some nice between the 20's numbers for Carson Palmer but a stagnant overall offense that cannot score touchdowns or make any plays in the red zone. It's tough to pass effectively for meaningful yards if you can't run the ball.
Hey Greg, guess what? You actually have what looks to be a good pass catching TE in Brandon Myers. He's really playing well. How about, um, him in the red zone? Just a thought.
Against the Chargers in the opener there were encouraging signs that the decade-long lack of run defense was over. Yesterday, though, Reggie Bush looked like he was still running for the Heisman at USC against the likes of a Savannah State.
Bush had 172 yards and two touchdowns, both on runs where the Raiders missed numerous tackles and simply looked awful. Poor angles. Poor tackling. It was supposed to be different. It's always supposed to be different.
The pass defense, expected to have a bit of a time against rookie Ryan Tannehill - who threw three picks against Houston the previous week and looked lost at times - instead made he and Brian Hartline look like Montana & Rice. Or at least Elway & Rod Smith.
The Raiders did play a decent first half, holding the Dolphins down on the ground and leading 10-7 at halftime. The sun was behind the clouds for the first half, and when Spanarkel said "the Raiders seemed to wilt in the second half last season; let's see if they can battle through it today" I thought "let's not have deja vu."
Well, it's no excuse but an explanation: the Raiders cannot play in Miami in September, and it was irresponsible scheduling by the NFL in this particular circumstance after they played the final game of Week 1 late Monday night. Let's just say the next time these two teams play it better be in Oakland.
But there is no reason for a team to lead 10-7 at halftime, physically dominate the line of scrimmage on defense - Matt Shaughnessy turned into Sho-Nasty in the second quarter and single-handedly mauled Jake Long and stopped two consecutive drives - and cause five straight three and outs, and then suddenly wilt like a hothouse flower because of two big plays.
In the middle of the third quarter Bush burst up the middle, shrugged off four "tackles" - if you can call them that - and went in for a 23 yard score. 14-10 Miami.
The Raiders promptly gave the ball back, and Bush burst around end for a 65 yard score. 21-10 Miami. With plenty of time for the Raiders to get back in the game.
However anyone who knows the Raiders knows that they were done after that play. They simply seem to cash in their chips when things like that happen, and yesterday was no exception, despite the preachings of McKenzie and Allen that this team has a new vision and focus. Sure didn't look any different yesterday.
The rest of the game was a debacle. The Raiders still couldn't run the ball, the Dolphins could and did whenever they wanted, and when the Raiders needed a stop the unbeatable duo of Tannehill and Hartline came up big every time. It was just a matter of how ugly the score was going to get. Turns out the answer was 35-13.
Knapp's playcalling is lacking in imagination, and he is not taking advantage of the strengths of this team. I know "Rome wasn't built in a day" but when yout hire the same architecht who helped it fall down in the first place why expect different results?
Knapp's scheme didn't work for two solid years the first time he was here - why on Earth assume it would now with much of the same personnel? Unfortunately, coach Dennis Allen - who I am not that impressed with thus far in regard to his grip on this team - and Knapp seem to strongly believe in the ZBS. So we get to watch the most talented Raider back since Bo Jackson run into walls repeatedly as our line fails to open even a crack.
I thought so many times yesteday "just get him past the line of scrimmage and he can do damage." They couldn't even get him past the line of scrimmage. I believe McFadden's longest run was four yards. From a player lauded before the season by many experts as one of the top five backs in the game. That is inexcusable. McFadden looks tentative and unsure; that's not him.
Believe all you want that the ZBS works. It does - in other places. McFadden has already stagnated in this offense once. Why do that do him, and Raider Nation, again? Admit your mistake and start to try and fix it before it's far too late.
Coaches will simply not do that. They'd rather lose their way than win by adapting to something outside their comfort zone. It's a business of egos, and those egos are hurting the Raiders.
Like Reggie McKenzie releasing DeMarcus Van Dyke in favour of Pat Lee, who was roasted so often yesterday you can order a Pat Lee special from Swiss Chalet. By the way, you know who's roster Van Dyke is on? And he plays special teams? The Pittsburgh Steelers. So yeah, he's not an NFL player. He was only picked up immediately by one of the most respected defensive organizations in the NFL.
The "mad chemist," defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, has been calling some good plays, bringing pressure from different points and generally looking as advertised. But the defense - especially that vaunted line and front seven that experts were lauding all week - got pushed around and needs to toughen up. Watching how tough and physical the 49ers defense is, you hope Tarver can instill some of that evil in this group who has talent but needs aggression.
There was one positive sign from the game yesterday. Oakland seems to have found a viable punt returner in Philip Adams, who had three big returns, two of which were negated by penalties, but he showed creativity and vision.
Other than that? There is little else positive to glean from going into Miami and losing to a team widely considered to be the worst in the NFL.
This fanbase deserves better. After a decade of futility during which we saw the literal definition of insanity - trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results, like drafting flash over substance or paying faded superstars - we have seen it return.
Knapp's offense is insanity. It's the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Except we've seen the results - and they ruin this offense.
After a huge chest-puffing offseason in which McKenzie and Allen preached this was a new era, that the defense would be creative and fun to watch, that the offense would be explosive and take advantage of the speed all over the field, it's even more painful to watch the same old product trotted out. This team was being mentioned in the same breath as the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars on the NFL network last night - and the experts all thought the other two teams were in less trouble.
Yesterday's game was stomach churning, and it's tough to see the forest for the trees at the moment. There is talent on this team - to the point where if they played well they could beat just about anyone - but that's been the mantra for years. Talent but no focus. Allen, McKenzie and co. were supposed to change that.
Thus far, not so much. It's been one case of deja vu after another until hope starts to fade after two measly games.
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