Oakland Raiders Week 8 : Pressures, Hurries and Knockdowns
Justin Smith – Oct 26, 2012
Two weeks ago against the Atlanta Falcons, the Oakland Raiders snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and blew a game they should have won.
Last week the Raiders snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and walked away with a win they had no business walking away with.
Good thing too; the rest of the AFC West was on a bye, and the win brought the Raiders within one game of division co-leaders Denver and San Diego.
But it also showed how sloppy and inconsistent the Raiders can be. Despite losing their star running back Maurice Jones-Drew early on and their starting QB Blaine Gabbert a little while later, the Jaguards nonetheless ran up a 17-6 lead at halftime mainly on Raider mistakes and sloppy play.
The Raiders rallied, but they are under pressure to play a more complete game. The Chiefs look bad on paper - whenever Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel are battling for the starting QB position you have problems - but this rivalry always leads to close games and intense battles.
Couple that with the Chiefs being at home and having a dynamic rushing attack, and you have the Raiders under a ton of pressure to perform from the opening whistle in this game.
Ugliness such as they exhibited in the first half last week will not fly this week against a division rival desperate to save their season and cultivating a hostile environment.
Who's under the most pressure? What have we learned about this team? Let's find out.
The Raider run defense, traditionally a glaring weakness, has actually been quite good this season with the exception of the Miami game. They are yielding less than four yards per carry while almost holding opponents under 100 yards per game (102.2). It's the best run defense we've seen in years from the Raiders.
Good thing, because the only thing the Chiefs do well on offense is run the ball. Jamaal Charles is all the way back from an ACL injury and was leading the NFL in rushing prior to their bye week. He's a shifty, speedy runner who has given the Raiders fits in his career and who is their sole offense at this point.
With Quinn under center, it is imperative the Raiders maintain gap and scheme discipline and not allow Charles to get to the outside. To that end, Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston will be invaluable in edge contain, and Phillip Wheeler and Miles Burris must key on Charles and not allow him outside the hash marks. With his speed he can break it in a heartbeat.
The Raider run defense is under pressure to stifle Charles and make the Chiefs one dimensional with Quinn. That Quinn is starting in the NFL again tells you just how bad Cassel is - and how bad Romeo Crennel's memory must be.
Allen has done some good things this season - until recently instilling discipline; winning all his challenges. He's also done some silly things - wasting time outs; poor clock management; not kicking a 58 yarder early against Atlanta.
But he's learning; and he's getting better.
Allen is putting his mark on this team, and it’s showing weekly as they improve in various areas. The defense is better now than it was three weeks ago; the special teams have cleaned up.
But Allen is under pressure to have this team ready to play a must-win game, because he had them anything but last week and it almost cost them dearly.
With a victory in this game the Raiders stay in the playoff hunt in the mediocre AFC; with a loss, they fall to 2-5 and the chances of making anything positive happen as a whole go out the window.
Nothing like a must-win game against your most hated rival on the road when they’re coming off their bye, are desperate and they themselves in season-saving mode.
No pressure, Dennis.
Rod Streater, welcome back buddy! Great snag on that key drive in the fourth quarter for a first down; the kid has hands and attacks the ball.
You too, Lamarr Houston! I expected big things from him this season, but for a 300+ pound man he’s been surprisingly hard to notice. Not last week. He was an animal, harassing Gabbert and then Chad Henne all day, holding the edge in the run game and making the key play in overtime to force the fumble that led to the game-winning field goal. Let’s hope this is a sign of the Pro Bowl season we thought he’d have – and it continues.
Miles Burris is awesome. Phenomenal run stuffer – shoots gaps with reckless abandon. Improving in the passing game – his first INT can’t be far behind. But his first NFL sack last week? Pure beauty. Timed the snap perfectly and snarled through the hole looking to kill someone. The kid is a keeper; and a future star.
Watching Streater, Darrius Heyward-Bey play well, Denarius Moore do his thing, Brandon Myers becoming Mr. Reliable and the dynamics of Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece out of the backfield it is no surprise the passing game is the strength of this team.
That doesn’t mean the struggles of the running game make sense, but at this point McFadden has to take his share of the blame. He’s tip-toing to the line, not reading blocks properly, and not getting upfield, even when there is a hole to be found. He always runs where he’s supposed to; he doesn’t improvise, cut back, or make things happen. It’s getting frustrating because he’s so talented it’s kind of boggling that he can’t figure it out.
The Raiders Fold Under Pressure
This is a reputation that has been earned fairly over time, as the Raiders would either give games away that they were leading, blow it when the game got close, or make some kind of catastrophic mistake at the most inopportune time.
We saw this two weeks ago when Palmer threw a late fourth quarter pick six to the Falcons’ Assante Samuel with the Raiders in field goal range and the game tied. Touchdown, Atlanta. Two minutes to go. Game over right?
Wrong. The team that folds faster than Superman on laundry day decided they’d had enough. They picked up their socks, puffed out their chest and marched downfield for a game-tying touchdown that simply wasn’t in this team’s makeup as recently as even a year ago.
Whatever you want to say about Palmer and Allen, they have brought an attitude of resiliency and fight to this team that hasn’t been present in a while. That was never more prevalent than last week against the Jags.
Despite bone-headed decisions, terrible execution, bad bounces and all around football ugliness throughout the game, the Raiders kept rallying after mistakes. They’d turn it over, and the defense – who played amazing – would hold the Jags to nothing, or a field goal. The offense would promptly go back out and screw up; and the defense would hold. This pattern went on into the third quarter.
That resiliency on defense paid off as the offense began to wake up in the fourth quarter – stay with the no huddle please! – after Palmer switched to the no-huddle out of necessity. The Raiders rallied time and again, and forced the game into overtime, where they won.
Teams of Raider past, turning the ball over three times in the first half and falling behind to an inferior team, would have lost this game by about 30 points and packed it in halfway through the second quarter.
This Raider team doesn’t do that. They don’t quit; they don’t fold under pressure. They look it in the eye and battle back. It’s a good omen for the future that the team has a new word previously not in their vocabulary : resilience.
This is a must-win game, no bones about it. 3-4 is far better than 2-5, and with the suddenly hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town next week losing this game would be devastating.
The Broncos and Chargers are only 3-3 right now and a game up on the Raiders. The rest of the AFC stinks. The Raiders have realistic playoff hopes – but those go by the boards if they lose this one.
It’s time the Raiders running game gets on track. McFadden had the first big game of his career in Arrowhead and always runs well there – though that is the team against which he hurt himself last year. Expect the running game to get going.
If the Raiders can run the ball and stop the run, this should be cake. If not – a major headache.
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