Monday, October 30, 2006

Raiders Rock'Em, Sock'Em Defense

The defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers offensive juggernaut rolled into Oaktown in a "must win" game. The Steelers offense scored 38 points last week against Atlanta by ringing up 5 TD passes and 0 interceptions for a total of 473 yards. The previous week, the Steelers stomped on the Chiefs for 45 points, 457 yards, and 0 interceptions. In this "must win" game for the Steelers, the Raiders defense delivered countless body blows, stiff jabs, game altering upper hooks, and a final knockout.

Here is the anatomy and breakdown of the Raiders Rock'Em, Sock'Em defense:

The Steelers offense had 13 possessions. On 12 of the 13 possessions, the Raiders defense made at least 1 big play each series that altered and impacted the final result.

Series 1: Punt/3 and out. On 3-9, LB Howard makes a solid, open field tackle on RB Hayes well short of the 1st down marker.

Series 2: Interception by Fabian Washington. On 3-7, Washington picked off Roethlisberger on a deep pass intended for WR Washington.

Series 3: Interception by Nnamdi Asomugha ran back for 24 yard TD. Oakland 7 - Steelers 0.

Series 4: Punt. On 3-12, Roethlisberger is sacked for a 6 yard loss by DE Burgess.

Series 5: Held to a FG. On 3-7 from the Oakland 16 yard line, the D holds Pittsburgh to 5 yard gain. Oakland 7 - Steelers 3

Series 6: Held to a FG. On 3-1 from the Oakland 19 yard line, LB Morrison tackles RB Davenport behind the line of scrimmage for a 2 yard loss. Oakland 7 - Steelers 6.

(1st series of 2nd half; Raiders 10 - Steelers 6)
Series 7: Punt/3 and out. On 3-4, Roethlisberger is sacked for a 9 yard loss by DT Kelly

Series 8: Punt/3 and out. On 3-12, Roethlisberger is sacked for a 3 yard loss by Kelly and Burgess.

Series 9: Interception by LB Morrison. On 4-1, Morrison picks off a short pass intended for Hines Ward.

Series 10: Interception by DB Carr. On 3-7 from the Oakland 7 yard line, Chris Carr made the play of the game intercepting Roethlisberger at the goal line and taking it 100 yards for a TD. Oakland 20 - Steelers 6

Series 11: Steelers TD Drive. 25 yard TD pass to RB W.Parker.

Series 12: Goal line stand/Take over on downs. One of the unsung heroes of this game was situational LB Robert Thomas. The Steelers had the ball on the Oakland 1 yard line, 1st down. 1st play was a run by RB Parker for no gain (tackle Thomas). On 2-1, RB Davenport ran off of right guard. Thomas shot through the backfield and tackled Davenport for a 4 yard loss. On 3rd down, the Steelers were called for a false start backing them out to the 10 yard line. On 3-10, Roethlisberger completed a short pass to WR Ward for 7 yards. On 4-3 from the goal line, Morrison breaks up a pass intended for WR Holmes.

Series 13: Pittsburgh's last gasp. On 2-10 from the Oakland 44 yard line with 20 seconds remaining in the game, DT Sapp sacks Roethlisberger for a 9 yard loss.

Summary: The Raiders defense accounted for 5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 2 successful goal line stands. A fierce pass rush, sticky pass coverage, and rock solid tackling were the recipe for a dominating, lights out defensive performance. Take a bow Caveman. Your young and hungry troops are on the cusp of greatness.

"We're in the making of something great," Raiders linebacker Robert Thomas said. "The dangerous thing is, we can get better. I've played on some great defenses. This one, talent-wise, it's all there."

S&B Forever Readers: If you have any suggestions for a nickname for the Raiders defensive unit or any particular defensive player, please send your ideas via the comment box or to Some possible nicknames to consider: "Ryan's Renegades",
"Rob's Robbers".

Nickname Update: Here is a list of some of the nicknames submitted for our defensive unit: "Nation of Doom", "Jail Break Defense", "Black Death Defense", "Skull Patrol", "Darkside's Finest", "Nation of Domination", "Deadly Squadron", "Silver Hammer", "Blackstop", "Black Reign", "Show Stoppers", "11 Angry Men", "Sack Pack", "Pilfer & Sack", and "The Cavemen". Keep the nickmanes coming Raider Nation! Calico Jack

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Coffee Is For Closers

Blake: “We're adding a little something to this month's sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired.” (quote from the movie Glenngary Glen Ross)

The Raiders were finally able to close the deal. Below are a few observations and notes from the Raiders 22-9 victory over the Cardinals.

Sigh of Relief: Prior to Sunday's victory, the last time the Silver and Black squad was able to finish off an opponent dates back to November 20th of 2005 against the Washington Redskins. After enduring an agonizing 11 game losing streak, this “W” couldn't come any sooner.

"Oh No. Here we go again": On the Raiders opening drive, Zach Crockett fumbled a pitch play. With Cardinals Kicker Neil Rackers missing a 49 yard field goal on the ensuing drive, the Raiders started the next drive on the 39 yard line. The key play to this eventual TD drive was a play where QB Walter scrambled to his left to avoid the pass rush and fired a 32 yard strike to Randy Moss. RB Lee finished off the drive with a 1 yard leap over the pile. Fumble, missed FG, TD. Oh no, yes, YES! The whole vibe of the game seemed to switch on a dime.

Rumbling, Stumbling Sands: On the Cardinals 2nd series, DE Derrick Burgess tipped Leinart’s pass at the line of scrimmage and the ball somehow found its way into the very large arms of DT Terdell Sands. On the 1st play after the turnover, Walter hooked up with Moss for a 33 yard TD pass. Walter made a nice throw where he allowed Moss to use his height and jumping ability to make a play. I had that warm, fuzzy feeling today was our day. The defense created a turnover and BOOM the offense capitalized for a quick strike TD. Raiders 14, Cards 0

Give Credit Where Credit is Due: Offensive Coordinator Tom Walsh called a much better game against the Cardinals. He had a much better mix of plays and the Raiders offense wasn’t as predictable as evidenced by the first 20 1st down calls (13 run, 7 pass). What I really liked about the Raiders first 4 drives was the variety of short and long passes. On 5 of the 7 1st down pass plays, short pass plays were called for Whitted, Anderson, Curry, and Moss.

#16, One Step Forward: Andrew Walter took a big step in his development. In particular, A-Dub was outstanding on 3rd downs. Check out these stats:

8-11 for 137 yards on 3rd down plays ... all of his completions were for 1st downs. What makes these statistics remarkable is the fact that most of these came on 3rd and long situations. Here is a breakdown on A-Dub's 3rd down and long completions:

3-11: Walter completes a 19 yard pass to Curry
3-21: Walter completes a 32 yard pass to Moss
3-13: Walter hits Curry for 16 yards
3-11: Walter passes to Moss for 14 yards
3-9: Walter hits Moss for 10 yards
3-17: Walter completes a 19 yard pass to Moss

For the game, the Raiders converted 13 of 20 on 3rd downs.

Walter was 17-30 (56.6%), 1 TD, 1 Interception for a QB Rating of 83.1. His number would have been significantly better when you factor in the 6 dropped passes. There were 2 TD passes that were dropped (Whitted & Moss). Give this kid good pass protection and he will only get better.

Tough Guy: RB Justin Fargas is one tough hombre. Last week he suffered a separated shoulder and was doubtful for the game against the Cardinals. With starting RB Lamont Jordan out with an ailing back, Fargas sucked it up to the tune of 23 carries for 66 hard earned yards. Out of necessity, Head Coach Art Shell used a running back by committee approach. Fargas, Zach Crockett, and ReShard Lee combined for 31 carries and 131 yards. Crockett had a robust 5.5 average on 8 carries while Lee was used as a lead blocker, tailback, and goal line back.

Dogs of War:
The Raiders defense played exceptionally well the entire game. With the Raiders building up a 17-0 lead, the defenders were in full attack mode. Ryan definitely cranked up the Defensive pressure! The Tyrone Poole corner blitz was a beautifully designed and executed play. He blitzed behind Burgess to Leinart's blind spot. The defense made plays all day. 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 safety, and making plays on 3rd downs (Cards 1-11 on 3rd downs for a 9% conversion rate). The Raiders rush defense was stout in holding the Cards to a meager 50 total yards.

Head Coach Art Shell has been preaching all season long that the team needs to continue to work hard, play as a team, and learn how to finish an opponent off.
“I’m most happy for the guys in the locker room. It’s not about me. It’s about those guys in the locker room. They’ve worked very hard to get some taste of success.” Art Shell


1st Downs921
3rd Down Conversion1-11 (9%)13-20 (65%)
Time of Possession22:5937:01
Total Net Yards224395
Total Plays5577
Net Yards Rushing50137
Net Yards Passing174258
Sacks-Yards Lost5-213-29

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dogs of War

Going into the 2006 season, one of my biggest concerns was the Raiders defense. The Raiders starting unit is comprised primarily of young, inexperienced players. 9 of the 11 starters have 3 or less years of experience. The only veterans with more than 3 years of experience are Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess.


Warren SappDT11
Derrick BurgessDE5
Tyler BraytonDE3
Nnamdi AsomughaCB3
Sam WilliamsOLB3
Tommy KellyDT2
Stuart SchweigertFS2
Kirk MorrisonMLB1
Fabian WashingtonCB1
Michael HuffSSR
Thomas HowardOLBR

In a season with very few bright spots, I have been very proud of our Defensive unit's performance. I like the character of this unit which plays hard the entire game and continues to fight regardless of the score or circumstances. Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan has done an excellent job teaching and inspiring this group. It has been quite remarkable how this unit has gelled in such a short period of time.

The only real knock I have on Ryan is that his unit has become a "bend don't break" type of defense. Ryan needs to unshackle these Dogs of War. Below are some stats that shows a lack of aggression and killer instinct which I will explain later:

Defensive Category

Oak (Rank)NFL Leader
Scoring25.2 / (27)7.4 / Denver
Yards per Game282.8 / (8)218.4 / San Diego
Rushing yards per game149.0/ (30)67.0 / Dallas
Passing yards per game133.8 / (1)133.8 / Oakland
Turnovers Created5 / (32)16 / St. Louis
Sacks6 / (32)23 / Philadelphia
3rd Down Conversion

43.7% (26)

23.2% / Chicago

- The Sacks and Turnovers Created statistics go hand in hand and shows a true lack of aggression, blitzing, taking chances, and dictating tempo. The Raiders are last in both of these categories.

- The 3rd Down Conversion rate statistic demonstrates that the team is struggling to make a play to get off the field. Is there any logical reason that Ryan doesn't blitz more on 3rd down or 2nd and long situations? What I'm really hoping is that come Sunday, Ryan says "Screw it. We are 0-5. I'm going to turn my Dogs of War loose! Hey Huff, Howard. Get ready to light up the QB because I'm calling your numbers on a bunch of wild ass blitzs. Go get Leinart and put him on his back, men!"

- The Rushing Defense statistic shows that other teams are running it right down our throat. This can be partly attibuted to teams playing with the lead against us. Is it just me or does it seem that the Raiders LBs need to start the play a step or 2 towards the line? Why isn't Ryan putting Huff inside the box more often?

Sunday is as good a day as any to cut the Dogs of War loose.

"The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on. " - Ulysses S. Grant

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Offense Needs A Transplant

The Raiders offense is quite frankly, offensive. Both the offensive coaching staff and offensive players need to get their act together. There will be no easy, quick fix solutions although I have one idea that might be able to staunch the bleeding. (more on that later)

It will take a concentrated effort, plan, and vision for the staff to coach and sell to the players how the offense should be run. The players need to be willing to learn and buy what the coaches are selling through dedication and commitment.

One of the more glaring shortcomings of the Raiders offense has been the play calling of Offensive Coordinator Tom Walsh. He just doesn't seem to have a real grasp of the basic elements of good play calling. I could give countless examples from each game where his play calling caused me to either (a) scratch my head in disbelief (b) predict the play before it happened (c) scream at my television set in total disgust.

What offensive coordinator calls 15 consecutive 1st down running plays and still has a job in the NFL? Who calls for an off-tackle run play on 4th down and inches? What OC calls 7 step drop passing plays when your QBs are getting continuously mauled? Name an OC who called ZERO pass plays to his running backs in 2 consecutive games? Who calls sweep running plays against an opponent with the fastest set of linebackers in the league? Walsh's play calling shows a lack of imagination and common sense. Now, what is my idea for a remedy?

Cut Walsh loose or demote him ASAP. We know that Art Shell selected Walsh to be his OC. Shell is too loyal and stubborn to pink slip his friend. Al Davis needs to handle this in the most dignified manner as possible. Keep Walsh as a paid offensive consultant if necessary but he shouldn't be kept on board as an offensive coordinator.

I think Tight Ends Coach John Shoop (see bio) should be promoted as an "interim" Offensive Coordinator. He is a young, bright, energetic guy who was the OC for the Bears for 3 years prior to joining the Raiders staff. He was a QB for a small college, has been a QB coach, offensive quality control coach, an OC, and a Tight Ends coach. As interim OC, if Shoops gets the offense on track by the end of the season, than you take away the interim tag. If he doesn't turn things around, the Raiders actively look for another OC out on the open market.

Promoting Shoop in-season would be the most practical solution. It allows the Raiders to make a change and have a relatively smooth transition.

I'm 100% behind Art Shell to remain Head Coach. Give him the time to develop the players, install the offense, weed out the dead wood plus acquire the players needed in next year's draft and free agency. This season is going to be very rough sailing. I am totally confident that Shell will get the ship off the rocks and back out to sea.

If you are squeamish, don't look below. These stats are U-G-L-Y.

Offensive Category

Oak (Rank)NFL Leader
Scoring10.0 / (32)30.2 / San Diego
Yards per Game229.0 / (32)402.3 / Philadelphia
Rushing yards per game111.8 / (12)232.0 / Atlanta
Passing yards per game117.2 / (32)290.8 / Philadelphia
Turnovers Allowed15 / (32)2 / San Diego
Sacks Allowed24 / (32)5 / San Diego
Time of Possession26:18 / (32)35:33 / San Diego
Penalties-Yards Lost37-276 yds / (20)15-131 / Pittsburgh
3rd Down Conversion

25.9% (32)

58.5% / Indianapolis

Another key element to improving the offensive unit's problems is by making the proper half-time adjustments. During the half-time intermission, the offensive coaching staff needs to discuss and evaluate what changes should be made in the play calling, schemes, and personnel groupings. What was working well in the 1st half? What is the strategy for the 2nd half? What plays run in the 1st half can set up plays for the 2nd half? What are some key points and insight that the coaching staff gained from the 1st half that needs to be shared with QB Walter? The stat summary below does not paint a very pretty picture in terms of half time adjustments. In the 5 games played so far, the Raiders have scored a GRAND total of 13 points. 13 points! When your team is averaging a pedestrian 2.6 points per 2nd half, the coaches are not coaching and the players are not executing.


1st HalfFinal Score / 2nd Half Pts.
vs. San DiegoDown 13-027-0 / 0 points
at BaltimoreDown 16-328-6 / 3 points
vs. ClevelandUp 21-321-24 / 0 points
at San FranciscoUp 13-720-34 / 7 points
at Denver

Down 13-0

13-3 / 3 points

"Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better." - King Whitney Jr.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Raiders Offense False Starts

Calico Jack's Post-Game Observations:
In a low scoring game kept close by the Raiders defense, the Raiders offense sputtered it's way to a mere 3 points. Offensive possessions were stalled by undisciplined penalties, poorly designed 1st down plays, and an ineffective rushing attack. 2 key potential scoring drives came up empty due to costly turnovers.

- 3 Cheers for the Defense:
The Defense played a solid game for 4 quarters holding Denver to 13 points. The Raiders edge in Time of possession (31:36 to 28:24) and the fact that the Broncos didn't start 1 possession inside Raiders' territory helped the D's cause. Plummer only passed for 102 yards and no TDs. RB Bell was held to 83 yards on 23 carries (3.9 avg). Bell's longest gain for the evening was 10 yards. The D played the run very effectively due to their disciplined gap control and improved tackling. Excluding a 54 yard pass completion to Javon Walker, the Raiders secondary did a nice overall job covering the Broncos' receivers. Kudos to the D for pitching a shutout in the 2nd half.

- Careless and Undisciplined Football:
The Raiders committed 13 penalties for 95 yards. Of the 13 penalties, 9 were committed pre-snap (8 false starts; 1 encroachment). Chad Slaughter committed 4 false start penalties just by himself.

- North and South, not East and West:
Why on earth were the Raiders calling for so many outside running sweep plays on 1st down against the Broncos? Jordan isn't fast enough to get around the corner against the Broncos D which is known for having the fastest set of linebackers in the entire league. Every run play should have been power running between the tackles going North and South not East or West especially when Justin Fargas was injured early in the game. Most of the outside running plays by Jordan off tackle resulted in negative yardage which created 2 and long situations.

- Drive Killers:
The 2 turnovers that the Raiders committed in the game were both on drives inside Denver territory.

- Turnover #1:
With 3:54 left in the 2nd quarter, the Raiders had the ball, 2-10 at the Denver 28 yard line. QB Walter threw a deep out to Moss. It looked like Walter was throwing to a spot on the sideline and Champ Bailey beat Moss to the spot. Bailey's interception was on the 2 yard line. Instead of going into halftime down 13-6 or 13-10, the Raiders were down 13-3. When your team gets inside the opponent's 30 yard line, it is imperative to come away with points.

- Turnover #2:
With 4:35 left in the 4th quarter, the Raiders had the ball, 2-8 on the 27 yard line. Walter threw a short swing pass to Jordan who turned it up field. Jordan fumbled the ball when hit by a Bronco defender. This was an inexcusable fumble by Jordan since he saw the defender approaching and had time to not only secure the ball but to put the ball in his left arm away from the defender.

Walter's Performance:
A-Dub showed a nice touch on some of the short and intermediate passes. He had a 51 yard bomb hook-up with Moss in the 2nd quarter. Overall, he was ok (13/26, 189 yards, 1 int) but I think the deck was stacked against him because of the numerous offensive penalties and ineffective run game (Jordan 23 carries for 60 yards). His biggest mistake of the game was forcing the pass to Moss that was picked off by Bailey.

Dubious Distinction:
The Raiders are the only winless team in the NFL. Ugh.

Up Next:
Arizona Cardinals at Oakland
John Madden will receive his Hall of Fame ring at this game. A big game against the Raiders by Cardinal QB Leinart will be pouring more salt into the wounds.

"I'm sorry to see you here, but if you'd have fought like a man you needn't hang like a dog." -Anne Bonny

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Raiders Odds N Ends

"We made more mistakes than we could overcome" - Barry Sims

The Raiders continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Critical mistakes at inopportune times was the formula for defeat. Here is a list of some of the more costly, game changing errors in the Raiders 20-34 loss to the Niners.

- Mistake #1: (Oak 3 - SF 7) - Dropped TD Pass
QB Walter passes to Moss in the back of the end zone. Moss dropped the ball. Instead of going up 10-7, the Raiders settled for a FG.

- Mistake #2: (Oak 13 - SF 7) - Blocked punt
Shane Lechler's punt is blocked by Manny Lawson. Raider Reshard Lee allowed Lawson a clean release to the inside. SF takes over on the 9 yard line and punches it into the end zone.

- Mistake #3: (Oak 13 - SF 14) - Interception
QB Walter's pass to WR Whitted is intercepted by Walt Harris in the end zone for a touch back. Walter made a bad read by throwing into double coverage. At the very minimum, the Raiders should have come away with a FG.

- Mistake #4: (Oak 13 - SF 21) - Interception
QB Walter is intercepted by CB Williams. Walter threw an inaccurate pass that was a few feet behind WR Curry.

- Mistake #5: (Oak 13 - SF 24) - Fumble
Walter's lateral pass to RB Jordan is picked up by DT Oliver who runs 12 yards for a TD. Walter's pass was off the mark. Jordan didn't make the catch and then quit on the ball after dropping it. A totally inexcusable "brain freeze" by Jordan.

At this point in the game, Shell made the biggest mistake of the game by benching Walter and bringing in Tui. Walter had played well in the 1st half and is being groomed to be the franchise QB. It is important at this stage in Walter's career to continue to develop, work through his mistakes, and gain valuable experience ... Both good and bad experience. Bringing in Tui didn't serve any short or long term purpose.

The Raiders had 8 possessions in the 2nd half (blocked punt, interception, interception, fumble/incomplete lateral, interception, TD, interception, game over).

12 Pack of Notes:
1. Rush Defense is leaking: SF ran for 165 yards on the day. It is never a good sign when your free safety (Schweigert) is your second leading tackler on the team. Schweigert has 32 tackles for the year.

2. 9-6-4-1: The pass protection has been steadily improving from week to week. The numbers 9-6-4-1 is the number of sacks allowed from game 1 through game 4.

3. 100th TD: WR Randy Moss made a spectacular catch to record his 100th career TD reception. No one in the history of the NFL has recorded 100 TD receptions faster than Moss besides Jerry Rice. Moss' 100th TD reception came in his 129th game of his career.

4. D Needs a Breather: Through 4 games, the defense has been on the field an average of 35:02. Both 2nd half collapses against the Browns and Niners can be partly attributed to the defense getting worn down.

5. Huggy Bear Jr: RB Justin Fargas has been running like a man possessed. Against the Niners Fargas had 8 carries for 63 yards. In limited carries, Fargas has shown a great burst of speed and decisive, north south running style. He is doing a good job of fighting through tackles to gain additional yardage. For the season Fargas has 153 yards on 17 carries for a 9.0 average. It will be important for Shell to get Fargas at least 8-10 carries per game (or more if he is hot).

6. Sacks R Not Us: The Raiders D has recorded only 4 sacks in 4 games. Defensive Coordinator Ryan needs to unleash the dogs of war and start aggressively incorporating more bltiz packages into the defensive play calls. Rookies Huff and Howard are prime candidates to be cut loose on the blitz.

7. Jordan on Track: RB Lamont Jordan is starting to get in a better groove. For the year Jordan has 254 yards on 61 carries for a 4.2 average. Unfortunately with the score of the game dictating the play call selections, Jordan's carries have been limited. Ideally Jordan should be getting about 20-25 carries per game and Fargas an additional 8-10 carries.

8. Curry is a QB's best friend: Curry has 10 receptions for 173 yards on the season for a 17.3 average per catch. "He knows how to get open, he knows how to run a good route, he knows how to feel a defender on him," Walter said. "Ron is definitely a QB's best friend"
In my view, it is time to take the shackles off of Curry and put him in the starting lineup. Across the board, Curry is a better, more productive receiver than current starter Alvis Whitted.

9. Good news, Bad news: Currently the Raiders rushing attack is #2 in the league in yards per attempt (5.1) but #29 in the league in attempts per game (232). In other words, we are running the ball well but not enough.

10. Trade Deadline is Lurking: October 17th is the trade deadline. Will Jerry Porter or Randy Moss be packing their bags? Unless Al Davis gets a really juicy package of draft picks and/or players waved in front of him, my best guess is that no trade will be consummated.

11. Turnover Differential - The root of all evil: The Raiders are ranked #31 in TO differential (-8). Takeaways (5); 4 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery. Giveaways (13); 8 interceptions and 5 fumbles.

12. Up Next: Raiders go to blustery Denver to face their hated rivals, affectionately known as the Donkeys. Denver has the #2 ranked defense in the league and has given up only 1 TD in 4 games.

"Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand." - Saint Thomas Aquinas

Monday, October 02, 2006

Raiders Coverage Unit's Stats

1st year Special Team Coach Ted Daisher needs to get his coverage units in gear. As stated in my post yesterday, our special teams coverage units were gouged by the Browns which allowed a commanding 21-3 lead to slip away. The coverage & return units are vital elements in the important field position battle. The Browns starting field position was well inside Raiders territory on 3 occasions due directly to the shoddy play of the special teams. Below is a breakdown of the Raiders coverage unit's statistics through 3 games.

Kick Return CoverageRankingAverage
Atlanta 1/3217.7
League Avgn/a22.9

Punt Return Coverage RankingAverage
New England 1/321.5
League Avgn/a8.7

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not So "Special" Teams

CJ’s Observations: (Cleveland 24 – Oakland 21)
The difference from a joyous “W” and a very disappointing “L” came down to the poor play of the Raiders' Special Teams coverage units. This game was set-up on a silver platter for a very manageable victory.

STEP 1: Get an early lead on a big play. CHECK. Raiders 7-0 on a Reuben Droughs fumble that was recovered for a 30 yard TD run by LB Sam Williams.

STEP 2: Get a BIG lead by running the ball effectively. CHECK.

- Fargas busts a 48 yard run that sets-up the eventual Walter to Moss 5 yard TD pass and a 14-3 lead.

- Jordan runs for a 59 yard TD run in the 2nd Quarter that puts the Raiders up 21-3.

STEP 3: Make the Browns earn their scores by forcing them to work the entire field. NOPE. Below is a summary of the special teams break-downs which led to 17 points for the Browns.

- Raiders up 14-0; Browns KR Cribbs returns the kick for 65 yards to the Oakland 32. Browns kick a field goal. (14-3)

- Raiders up 21-3; Browns KR Cribbs returns the kick 53 yards to the Oakland 43 yard line. Browns go on to score a TD. (21-10)

- Raiders up 21-17; Browns PR Northcutt retuns the punt 58 yards to the Oakland 17 yard line. Browns go on to score a TD. (21-24)

- The Browns had 217 return yards; Punt returns (3-73; 24.3 avg), Kickoffs returns (4-144; 36 avg)

- The Browns had field position inside the Raiders' territory 4 times. The Raiders had field position inside the Browns' territory 0 times. The best field position that the Raiders had on any one possession was their own 38 yard line.

- So even though the Raiders had a very comfortable lead, good field position caused by poor special teams play allowed the Browns to work from a short field and climb right back into the game.

Other Observations:
- The Raiders run blocking was outstanding. The rushing attack accounted for 194 yards on 24 carries for a robust 8.1 yard per carry average.

- The pass protection also was much better although the passing attack never got on track.

- The play calling by OC Walsh wasn't perfect but for the most part, he gave the offensive squad a good mix of plays to take some of the heat off of the O-line & Walter. The gadget play where Curry attempted to pass to an open receiver after receiving a reverse hand-off was a well designed play. Unfortunately Curry's pass was off-target. The 4th quarter, 4th and inches, off tackle run play for Jordan was a bad play call. Walsh should have called for the big 6'6" Walter to take a QB sneak where Walter could easily lean forward for 1st down yardage.

- It was good to see pass rushing demon DE Derrick Burgess get on track with 2 sacks. Nnamdi Asomugha has had his first 2 interceptions of his career.

- The defense got continually gouged by the Browns screen pass plays on a number of critical down down plays.

- There was a very questionable officiating call with the Raiders down 24-21 at the 11:52 mark in the 4th quarter. The Raiders were driving down the field by picking up 3 1st downs and moving inside Browns' territory. On a critical 3rd down and 16 to go, Andrew Walter hit WR Curry whose catch and run looked to be enough for a 1st down. The t.v. replay of the play showed that the officials gave the Raiders a disadvantageous spot by about a half yard which would have been enough for a 1st down. Faced with a 4th and inches, the Raiders gave the ball to Jordan off right tackle. Langston Walker was beat upfield by DE Roye who stuffed Jordan for a 2 yard loss.

- The Raiders passing game was very ineffective. Walter's statline: 9-23 for a meager 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception. Besides the 5 yard TD pass to Moss, the pair didn't connect on any other pass. Drops by Curry, Moss, and Williams didn't help the cause.

Final Thoughts:
This was a very disheartening loss for the Raiders. A game like today illustrates how important it is for each unit to do their part. In the 1st 2 games of this season, the offensive unit played so poorly that the team had no viable chance for victory. In this game, the special teams unit really let down the entire team. Although Walter had a sub-par game statistically, I would love to see him start for the rest of the season regardless of whether or not Brooks is healthy. There is a greater upside to allowing Walter to gain valuable experience and being able to properly evaluate the QB position for the 2007 season than to see Brooks back in again.

AFC WestRecordNext Opponent
San Diego(2-1)vs. Pittsburgh
Denver(2-1)vs. Baltimore
Kansas City(1-2)at Arizona


at S.F.