Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Skimpy Playbook

Denver 17 – Oakland 13

My first trek to Mecca in the 06 season was a wonderful day. Everything was set up for nirvana. It started off with some interesting conversations on the plane from L.A. to Oaktown with some die hard loyalists. Next on the agenda was meeting up with an old college buddy at the Safeway Tailgate Zone. The pre-game festivities were rockin’ with a DJ, Raider legends signing autographs, tents set up with big screen televisions showing the morning games, the Raiderettes in all their glory, and free sandwiches, soup, and steak samples. The weather was ideal with a clear, sunny sky and 60 degree temperature at game time. My buddy (aka “Raider Mike”) and I had awesome seats in Section 141, Row 26 which are on the 40 yard line behind the Denver bench. McAfee was packed with a capacity Raider Nation crowd.

Early in the game, the Raiders pinned Denver on the 8 yard line with a beautifully placed punt by Shane Lechler. On the 1st snap after this change of possession, Jake the Fake was intercepted by Nnamdi Asomugha (4th interception for the season) who returned it to the Denver 15 yard line. The faithful went nuts.













On 3-9, Walter hit TE Williams for an 11 yard completion and 1st down. The Raiders eventually punched it in on a Jordan blast up the middle. Raider 7 – Donkeys 0















(photo caption) “Hey Shana-Rat...how bout’ a piece of cheese!”

Everything was set up for a glorious victory against our hated rival Donkeys. In a typical game, there are usually key moments, pivotal plays, dubious officiating, and plenty of “what ifs” to contemplate. This game was no exception. The difference between a “W” and a dreaded “L” can be marked by the following key moments.

Play to Win: In the 1st half, leading 7-0, the Raiders faced a 4-1 on the Denver 49 yard line and decided to punt which led to a touchback. Isn't this the type of situation where you play to win, show some confidence in the offense to pick up 1 yard? Worst case scenario is the Donkeys take over on downs at midfield facing a tough Raider D.

Again, near the end of the 1st half, tied 7-7 and facing a 4-1 at the Denver 2 yard line, the Raider elect to kick a field goal. Why not go for it? For starters, the Raiders have had so few opportunities on the goal line. 2 good things could happen by going for it… either pick up 1 yard for the 1st down or punch it all the way in for a TD. The difference between a potential 14-7 lead and 10-7 lead is HUGE going into half time. As the final score indicates, this 4 point swing is the difference between a 17-17 OT game and a 17-13 loss.

It is also a telling difference in strategy that when Shanahan had a similar situation (4-1 on the goal line in the 4th quarter) he played to win by going for it. Down 13-7 with over 11:00 minutes to go, he very easily could have kicked a field goal to make the game score tighten at 13-10.

Golden Opportunities: On 4 occasions the Raiders offense started off beyond the Oakland 40 yard line. 3 of these possessions resulted in punts and the other ended with a 55 yard FG by Sea-Bass.

Defensive Stand: On 2 occasions, Lechler pinned the Broncos down on the 2 yard line but the Raiders D left the Donkeys off the hook by allowing Plummer to gain multiple 1st downs to impact the field position battle.

Ticky Tack Officiating: Late in the 3rd Quarter, the Raiders Kirk Morrison caused a fumble on a punt return with Schweigert recovering at the Denver 20 yard line. However, a questionable “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” penalty was called on gunner Chris Carr. It is an obscure, rarely called penalty infraction when a cover man gets knocked out of bounds but doesn’t make a “good faith” effort to return to the playing field right away. This is one of those discretionary calls by the officials where you would hope that the official would use some latitude and good sense before pulling out the flag.

In this particular case, the reason Carr was unable to get back into the field of play right away was because 2 Denver special teams guys were obstructing him from getting in bounds. This play alone was a major momentum changer. The Raiders had the lead 13-7 and with the ball on the 20 yard line would come away with at least 3 (if not 7) points to cushion their lead. As right as rain, the Donkeys took the ensuing possession down the field for a 14-13 lead

2 Feet Down: Late in the 4th quarter, Fabian Washington intercepted an intended pass for Javon Walker but the ruling on the field was that he only had 1 foot in bounds. Shell challenged (and lost) the ruling which burned up the Raiders remaining time-out. This play was shown a few times on the Jumbo-tron and it looked to be a clean interception by Washington. Although the change of field possession was only a (-3) net from where the Raiders took over after the punt vice the interception, it seemed to deflate some much needed momentum.

Fumble-itis: On the 1st snap at the 4:03 mark, Walter was sacked and fumbled the ball which lead to a Denver field goal and 17-13 lead.

On the last drive of the game, with all marbles at stake, Walter botched the center exchange, fumbled, game over. To add salt to the wounds, the intended play call was for Walter to be in the shotgun formation which would have eliminated the botched snap.

Here are some additional observations from the game and general commentary regarding the state of the Raider Union:

After the game, a dejected, battered and frustrated Andrew Walter had the following quote in regards to the offenses struggles in the 2nd half: “One of the reasons is we don’t have a lot of depth as far as our playbook goes. I would like to see more quick stuff, more swing routes, flat routes, short stuff. We need to make it more complex.”

This comment would seem to be very relevant in regards to making adjustments in the play calling at halftime. The Raiders 2nd half output for the season: A TOTAL of ONLY 19 points in 9 games. To put this ghastly number in perspective, here is a comparison that should make any Raider fan sick to his/her stomach. The Chargers on Sunday scored more points (21) in the 4th quarter than the Raiders have scored (19) in all of the 2nd halfs combined (18 quarters of play). In 4 games the Raiders were shut out in the 2nd half. The average offensive output in the 2nd half for the 9 games is 2.1 points. It should be also noted that Walter took responsibility for his poor performance. In the Denver game he lost 2 fumbles and was inaccurate with his passing.

It is my belief that OC Walsh needs to open his mind (and playbook) to accommodate Walter and a leaky O-line. Whether it is the Gilliam offensive system or a variation of this system, Walsh needs to modify the game plan to fit his personnel. His strict devotion to the Gilliam offense makes no sense under the current circumstances. When your QB is getting killed (47 sacks and countless knockdowns), you have the #32 ranked offense, you average less than a FG per 2nd half, there needs to be some flexibility and changes in the offensive schemes from a common sense standpoint. More 3 step drops, shorter passes, slants, crosses, screens, draws, quick come-back routes, etc. These are basic plays that every NFL team runs. The lack of 2nd half adjustments is killing the Raiders as evidenced by the Cleveland, SF, and Denver games where the Raiders had the lead at half and eventually lost the games.

It will be very interesting to see how Shell, Walsh, and the offensive unit reacts to Walter’s quote. Will Walter be JP’s bunkmate in the doghouse? Will Shell take a larger role in the play call input? Will the playbook be opened up to include a bigger mix of short passes? Is Brooks going to start vs. KC? This could very well be the defining moment in Shell’s return as Head Coach. Ultimately, what it boils down to for me is whether Shell is more loyal to his friend Tom Walsh who happens to be the Raiders Offensive Coordinator or to the Raiders organization and the Raider Nation? 9 games into the season, the Raiders offense is horrendous. I would hope that the players and coaching staff are more than willing to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

9 Comments:

Blogger Raider Take said...

Great analysis. The "Play to Win" take echoes my thoughts, and I think it hearkens back to last week, when we punted at the Seattle 49 yard line with less than a yard to go for a first down.

It was nice to see an offensive game plan that didn't look like it was cooked up in a loony bin (ie: the Seattle game), but as you say, the lack of adjustments, as reflected in your statistical analysis, is telling.

Some will say that it's not Walter's place to mouth off to the media, but he's held his tongue pretty well while taking a big beating over the past seven games, so maybe it's truly a legitimate cry for help.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

I think that Walter is in career crisis/survival mode. The cry for help is an attempt to effect change. He realizes that under the current circumstances he is either going to get seriously injured and/or his career we go down in flames. I also believe that with the mounting losses and severe beating Walter has taken that he reached his breaking point.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with calico jack. walter is trying to survive the ineptitude and lack of competant game planning that he is in charge to execute. how many of us would feel good about going into a work situation knowing the orders you were given were not only going to result in failure, but also possibly get you injured. do you think you and fellow employees would start to lose motivation knowing your plan is futile? there's a word futile.the new raider slogan for 2006 season.

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CJ,

Walter has been a good solidier up until now, but after watching Sunday's game on TV with the benefit of replays I have to pin this loss on Walter more than anyone. He missed Alvis Whitted wide open in the end zone when we were inside the ten and he missed Lee wide open in the flat for a critical thrd down. Walter on the move is very inaccurate. I have said it to you before I will say it again Walter is not the answer he is Marc Wilson Redux

At least the D is awesome.

Regards

Florida Raider

7:29 AM  
Anonymous scorpio said...

oh come on florida. you have to understand that this guy's basically in his rookie year. we gotta cut the kid some slack. we all know that these are the kind of mistakes a rookie makes and it'll take a while until he becaomes a seasoned quarterback. he's a third rounder not a first so he needs time and patience.

and here's art shell pissed off because walter spoke the truth. of course he's got his boy walsh's back by starting brooks. this is not the answer.

is he gonna bench walter for mouthing off? what kind of message does that send to the rest of the team? ummm, coach.... what about randy? what about jordan mouthing off about the offense the week before?

art shell is in WAY over his head. i'm surprised - very surprised tome walsh is still around. bottom ,ine is - walter is right!

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our offense is so horrible, that it takes Walter five seconds before he even see's the front of his WR's numbers. Its pathetic. IF you were standing in a small pocket for 7 seconds with every WR's back turned, how much would you get sacked? A lot.

It sucks because I really have no idea what we have in Walter. No one can play in this offense, so we have no idea if it is Walter not performing or this horrible OC that was bad the FIRST time we hired this dumbass.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scorpio,

Perhaps I am being too hard on Walter, my point being I just dont' think he has the upside. They would be much better bringing in someone like Chris Simms who will be a free agent next year. I take your point maybe Walter can learn to read defenses and put some touch on the ball, however he is a statue. Imobile quarterbacks do not make it in today's NFL.---do not reference Payton because he is one of a kind.

Florida
Raider

12:45 PM  
Anonymous raider00 said...

We've got to see something from Walter, and we've got to see it soon.

I like Walter. I think he has talent. But these fumbles, and overthrows, and holding the ball forever, are getting old now.

Look, we are going to have a top 5 draft pick.
Can we really pass up a blue chip QB based on what we've seen from Walter thus far ?

Walter seems to be giving up any hope that he can succeed in Walsh's offense. That's what I'm reading into his recent comments.
So what does this mean for next year ??

I know the Raiders still have many holes, but what if ?

What if the Raiders are on the board in April, and Quinn, & Brohm, are still available.
What should they do ???

What would you do ?????????

9:48 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

The big "what if" hinges on whether or not Walsh is back in 07.

Any blue chip QB coming out of the draft would have next to no chance to succeed in this system with Walsh calling the plays.

If a new OC comes on board prior to the draft, it would increase the likelihood of a QB being drafted although historically it has not been the Raiders MO.

Will we need to take another crack at a vet in free agency like Leftwich or Simms? Are either Brooks or Walter viable starters or just #2 QBs? With 7 games to go, I think we will be able to have a slightly better, fuller evaluation of Brooks and Walter at the end of the season.

Me personally, I'm on the fence with Walter. I feel like he could flourish, develop, grow, and improve under better cirucmstance. Consider the following
(1) Walsh's playcalling has been dubious at best
(2) The O-Line can't protect him
(3) The running game has never been established.
(4) His best reciever (Moss) has dropped too many ball and taken too many plays off
(5) His best 2 route runner and possession receivers (Porter and Curry) are chained to the sideline
(6) The TEs and RBs are used infrequently in the passing game
(7) Lastly, Walter is a 1st year starter who has been thrown into the fire.

With this lack of support, it is truly difficult to fully and fairly evaluate Walter.

11:08 PM  

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