Wanted: The Closer
This game caused the full range of emotions for the Raider Nation. There was some serious frustration with the 1st half offensive ineptitude. Bewilderment was brought on by the 2nd quarter suspension of the game due to lightning storms. Elation and sense of pride were felt for a stirring 2nd half 17 to 3 comeback. Ultimately the game ended with shear dejection for failing in overtime.
The offensive, defensive, and special teams units each did enough good things in parts of the game to put the Raiders in a position to win a divisional game on the road. However, each unit also failed when given the opportunity to accomplish the most important aspect of a winning team ... to close out a game.
Offense: The Raiders offense followed the formula of the Lions game; start slow, turn the ball over (2 INTs), make some half time adjustments, and get into gear in the 3rd quarter. Although the passing attack was futile throughout most of the game (53 net yards), a robust rushing attack (200 net yards) and a big TD pass play to Jerry Porter for 46 yards had the Raiders on the cusp of another victory.
Offense's Time To Close: With the game tied at 20 to 20 with 2:18 on the clock, the Raiders offensive unit had a golden opportunity to march down the field, score the go ahead points, and get on a plane victorious. With :32 left in the game from the Raiders 41 yard line, McCown overthrew a WIDE open Jerry Porter streaking down the sideline for a certain game winning play.
Defense: After allowing the Denver offense to score a touchdown in the 1st and 2nd quarters, the D played inspired football in the 2nd half. Not only did the D hold the Broncos to a mere 3 points the entire half, it also accounted for a safety (Gerrard Warren) and a touchdown (INT grab by LB Thomas Howard). Rob Ryan's D led the charge in getting the Raiders back into the game in the 3rd quarter.
Defense's Time To Close: Immediately following the Raiders taking a 20 to 17 lead midway through the 4th quarter, the defense allowed the Broncos to sustain a drive which led to a tying field goal. It was very important from a psychological standpoint after the Raiders took the lead for the D to shut down the Broncos offense.
Special Teams: The Raiders special teams played their best overall game in a long time. The Broncos had a total of 6 return yards for the entire game as SeaBass blasted kickoffs out of the end zone in the mile high air and Lechler pinned the Broncos inside the 20 on 3 of 4 punts. SeaBass also made a 38 yard FG in the 2nd quarter. In the 3rd quarter the Special Teams unit successfully executed a key onside kick recovery.
Special Teams' Time To Close: In overtime, the kicking unit had the chance to ice the victory with a 52 yard field goal attempt. Instead SeaBass was iced by Shanahan. The 1st attempt by SeaBass was pure money. Unfortunately, this attempt did not count since Head Coach Shananhan had called a timeout a few seconds before the snap. The on field officiating crew (unaware of the timeout) let the play continue since Shanahan called the timeout with one of the side judges. The 2nd attempt was a low snap, a botched hold by Lechler, and a kick by SeaBass that hit the upper left upright.
Although this loss definitely stings BIG TIME, there are some very positive traits to this Raiders team that will eventually pay off. The half time and in game adjustments made by Head Coach Lane Kiffin and executed by the players is very encouraging. This team’s ability to overcome adversity and fight their way back into the games shows the will to win. In game 1, the Raiders overcame a 17 to 0 3rd quarter deficit to take a short lived 21 to 20 lead late into the 4th quarter. In game 2, the Raiders overcame a 17 to 3 3rd quarter deficit to storm back to a 20 to 17 lead only to fall short in overtime.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
QB Controversy Brewing: Lane Kiffin has given the nod to McCown to start again in game #3. Although I have admired McCown's fighting spirit & effort to help lead the Raiders to 2 short lived comebacks, Culpepper deserves to start. McCown has been a poor game manager which was suppose to be his strong suit. In 2 games he has 5 INTs and 1 fumble. His mobility and passing style is best suited for short routes while on the move but not for longer patterns from within the pocket. This limits what the offense can do and the ability to use the entire field. Culpepper gives the Raiders the best chance to win. He has a far superior skill set in comparison with McCown. Culpepper's combination of experience, leadership skills, arm strength, passing prowess, accuracy, and mobility should make him the #1 signal caller.