Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Raiders Just Miss the Upset

The Raiders outplayed their Southern California nemeses for most of the game on Monday night, but they couldn't buckle down on defense when it mattered the most.

When JaMarcus Russel hit Louis Murphy on that 57 yard connection for a go-ahead TD with just over 2 minutes left in the game, I think Raiders fans were feeling pretty good about their teams' odds of pulling out the game. However, Phillip Rivers and the Charger offense (minus Ladanian Tomlinson) got the ball back and marched down the field with ease, with Darren Sproles breaking off a 5 yard TD run with just 18 seconds left to give the Chargers back the lead and ultimately the game. There were plenty of positives to take from this game for the Silver and Black, especially defensively, but it was a little disturbing to see Rivers attack the Raiders with such ease when the game was in the balance. Rivers went 6-7 for 79 yards in the final 2 minutes of play while leading the Chargers back from a near defeat. When Darren Sprolles failed to give the Chargers very good field position on the kick return, I thought the Raiders could actually pull this thing off, but Rivers just had his way with their secondary in those final minutes and that's what cost the Raiders this ballgame.

Again though, there were plenty of positives to take from this contest for coach Cable and the Raiders. Before that final drive, the Raiders held Rivers in check for most the night, as he was just 18-29 with 179 yards before that drive. The Raiders put pretty good pressure on him throughout the night, sacking him 3 times, including 2 by the newest Raider, Richard Seymour. They also held the Charger running attack in check, something that they've struggled mightily to do over the last couple of years. The Chargers impressive duo of LT and Darren Sproles manages just 78 yards on 22 carries and that's what almost won them the game. I said in the preview post that the Raiders had to control the ball and they did end up winning the time of possession battle. Offensively, the Raiders had a nice balanced running attack going led by Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Those two backs rushed for 123 yards combined and a score while McFadden also contributed 25 receiving yards. Russel didn't have his best game, going just 12 for 30 with 208 yards, but he stepped up and made the throw when he absolutely needed to, and played a little better than his box score showed. His receivers didn't do a great job getting open, as Louis Murphy was the only wideout to catch a pass from Russel ( the rest were to running backs and tight-ends) and that is something that needs to improve asap if the Raiders are going to get a consistent passing attack going.

All in all, I'd have to give Oakland a B- for the game. Their defense did enough, despite the meltdown at the end of the game, for the Raiders to pull-out the win, and Russel did his part late in the game in order to give the Raiders the chance to win. Their key for improving for next week will be to get the receivers involved some more, and maybe get Russel going with some more intermediate and short routes in order to get his completion percentage and confidence up a bit. One area which I really like for Oakland going forward though is that rushing duo of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Those guys are a perfect blend of speed and power and should keep the Raiders rushing attack solid all year long.

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