A Step Back
Jon York – Oct 24, 2012
A step back... Not to represent what many fans viewed as a step back by the Raiders but more reflective of the step back that I took. The step back that many fans should take after last weeks game.
In case you missed it, the Raiders squeaked by the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime. Those same Jaguars that have one win so far this season. Even worse, a Jaguars team that did not finish the game with the same quarterback/running back combination that started the day.
Reaction was immediate, impassioned, and negative. It honestly felt as though people were happier with the loss to the Falcons than they were for this week's win. It makes me wonder if the past decade has numbed Raider Nation to what really matters, if maybe at times a "moral victory" can be sweeter than an actual victory. Al Davis would glare at that statement. In the vein of "Just win, baby" Carson Palmer said it best: "An ugly win is better than a pretty loss."
Don't get me wrong - this game will not make my list of favorite Raider moments. I too was excited at the potential exhibited by theOakland squad in Atlanta. I too wondered where that team was this past Sunday - because it sure felt like the guys that did show up stunk up the joint before a late, lucky rally.
After the obligatory cooling off period a question occurred to me: how bad was it?
They barely beat a poor team playing with key starters out? Are you sure?
What unit failed then? Not the defense. The Jaguars had the ball 17 times. Four of those drives finished with negative yards. Only five of them finished with double digit yardage totals - the three longest drives were 80, 37, and 32 yards. Only once on fifteen attempts did the Jags convert a third down. Jacksonville was only able to muster ten first downs. That is a good showing by the defense.
Oh wait - Gabbert and Jones-Drew were injured... True, and who knows what MJD would have done if healthy for more than 2 carries for 6 yards, but Gabbert "led"Jacksonville to drives of 0, 7, 80, 37, 16, and 8 yards.
Yes, we knew the defense showed up. They had to or the Raiders would have been out of the game early. So the offense had to fail...
It depends on how you want to classify failure - and what you think of the Jaguars defense. Much has been made of how many yards per carry they had been giving up against what the Raiders managed - but I think the Jaguars defense is better than what we expected. Many players and coaches returned from the 2011 squad. That team was ranked in the top ten for rushing yards allowed, rushing yards per attempt, total yardage allowed, first downs allowed, passing yards allowed, passing TDs allowed, fumble recoveries, and overall turnover differential.
Those players and coaches did not just forget how to play, and they had an extra week to game plan the Raiders.
Which leads me back to failure. The running game still is not on track. Carson Palmer is getting credit for the turnaround the no huddle brought. Not getting credit - rightfully so or not - is Greg Knapp. Players have said he lit into the offense at halftime. Maybe that helped, maybe not. It's hard to tell how much credit/blame Knapp deserves - it wasn't him missing blocking assignment after blocking assignment.
Plus, at the end of the day the offense didn't fail. Only twice so far have they finished with more total yards. Only once have they scored more points.
As stated before the defense certainly didn't fail. Sunday saw the lowest yardage and second fewest points Oakland has allowed all year.
What made the game closer than it should have been were all of the self inflicted wounds. Nine penalties did not help their cause. The Raiders turned the ball over three times to the Jaguars one. The Jaguars had scoring "drives" of 16, 4, 17, and -3 yards as a result of these turnovers and kick coverage.
I'm not suggesting the Raiders are close to perfection. The running game is still an embarrassment. The play-calling is inconsistent. At the end of the day yes, the Raiders had a close victory over a seemingly inferior opponent. That's one way to look at it.
Try taking a step back... Look at the game as a whole. I think it's more important to note that Oakland had a bad game and still pulled it out. The Raiders repeatedly shot themselves in the foot yet overcame it in the end. They took all a rested team had to offer and found a way to win on a day where they were far from perfect.
This was the kind of game the Raiders would have lost in recent years. That is just as big a building block as a narrow loss to a good Falcon team.
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