Sunday, November 25, 2007

Huggy Bear Jr Is Superfly

Raiders 20 - Chiefs 17

Calico Jack's Six Pack:

1. Huggy Bear Jr. is Superfly!
Justin Fargas was simply a man possessed today (22 carries, 139 yards, 1 TD, 6.3 yards per carry). What I love and admire about Huggy Bear Jr. is that he is completely fearless on the football field. The guy runs with such a reckless abandon and fights for every yard like his life depended on it. In today's contest, Fargas was very decisive in his reads and ran with complete authority. Fargas was responsible for 12 rushing 1st downs. It was fitting that Huggy Bear Jr. iced the game. Facing a critical 3rd down and 11, Raiders up 20 to 17 with 1:54 to go, Fargas found a seam on the right side of the line and burst for a game ending 21 yard run.

2. Raiders Run Defense Is Broken
The Raiders run defense was gashed ... again. KC rookie running back Kolby Smith ran the ball 31 times for 151 yards. It is perplexing to try to figure out why our run defense consistently plays so poorly. There is no question that in the off season there will be a strong need to upgrade the talent level of our defensive front 7. Drafting Glenn Dorsey (DT, LSU) or Chris Long (DE, UVA) would be enticing to shore up this weakness. Signing a veteran SS in free agency and moving Huff to FS would also be worth considering. Clearly the Raiders miss the presence of DT/DE Tommy Kelly. The Raiders were adversely affected by having SS Michael Huff focusing on covering TE Tony Gonzalez instead of being in the box supporting the run defense.

3. Efficient QB Play = Good Game Manager
Culpepper had a solid, mistake free game. This is the type of QB play that Kiffin has wanted since day 1. In this game, Culpepper was highly efficient (15 for 22, 170 yards, 0 Ints, 0 fumbles) in managing the game. He was decisive in his reads and accurate with his passes. When the team needed a few big plays, Culpepper connected with Porter (3 receptions, 75 yards), Miller (4 receptions, 38 yards), and Curry (6 receptions, 39 yards). When the team was down 17 to 13 late in the 4th quarter, Culpepper showed the poise that you would expect of a veteran by leading his unit to a go ahead touchdown drive.

4. Brave Heart McNasty rises to the occasion.
Paul McQuistan got the start today at RT in place of injured Cornell Green. Excluding a holding call and a sack allowed, McNasty played very well. Some of Fargas' biggest (and most important) runs were behind McNasty & OG Carlisle. McNasty did a good job allowing Fargas to get to the 2nd level of KC's defense by sealing of KC's DE Hali.

5. A Nice Flight Home
The Raiders seemed very well prepared for this game and played fundamentally sound football. There were very few major breakdowns (1 fumble, 2 sacks, a few missed tackles). The offense showed a more diverse set of playcalls. There was a desirable balance to the offense (run 153 yards, pass 159 yards). The running plays had a nice mix of inside & outside; left, middle, right. A tell tale sign of how well the Raiders offense is executed is the number of 3rd and longs. For this game, the Raiders only faced four 3rd and longs. This game vs. KC was a good overall effort by all 3 units for all 4 quarters. In my book, that is the definition of a TEAM win.

6. Play of the Day
KC was facing a 4th and 1 at the Oakland 23 yard line, down 20 to 17 with 4:26 left in the game. Instead of attempting a tying field goal, Herm Edwards elected to go for it on 4th down. The Raiders defense came up HUGE. Both LBs Howard and Morrison penetrated the interior line and stopped RB Smith for a 1 yard loss.
Up Next: ShanaRat brings his Donkeys to the House of Thrills.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Too Much SeaBass Is Not Healthy

Vikings 29 - Raiders 22
In another "close but no cigar" game played by the Raiders, this one can be explained very succinctly. The difference in this game is that the Raiders had ample opportunities deep inside Minnesota territory but failed to capitalize. On 5 of 6 scoring drives, the Raiders settled for field goals instead of touchdowns. Raiders kicker SeaBass trotted out on to the field to convert field goals of 42, 30, 42, 49,and 52 yards.

The Raiders defense created 4 turnovers in the 1st half alone which led to only 9 points. During the game, the Raiders offense stalled at the Minnesota 24, 12, 24, 31, and 35 yard lines. Within striking range of paydirt, mental errors and poor execution led to each drive dissolving.

FG Drive #1: Raiders begin drive at Oak 47 off of fumble. On 2nd and 6, and 3rd and 16, Culpepper is sacked. Drive stalls at Minn 24 yard line.

FG Drive #2: Raiders begin drive at Minn 14 off of fumble. On 1st and 10, Gallery is penalized for Illegal Man Downfield. 1st and 15, short run by Fargas. 2nd and 12, incomplete pass. 3rd and 12, short Fargas run. Drive stalls at Minn 12 yard line.

FG Drive #3: Raiders begin drive at Oak 32. 2nd and 4, incomplete pass. 3rd and 4, incomplete pass. Drive stalls at Minn 24 yard line.

FG Drive #4: Raiders begin drive at Minn 46 off of fumble. This drive started with only :46 left on the clock. 1st and 10, run by Fargas for -1. 2nd and 11, incomplete pass. 3rd and 11, 15 yard complete to Fargas. Drive stalls at Minn 31 with :03 left on the clock before half time.

FG Drive #5: Raiders begin drive at Oak 8. 1st and 10, incomplete pass. 2nd and 10, 8 yard completion to Miller. 3rd and 2, Penalty on Carlisle, False Start. 3rd and 7, Culpepper scrambles for 4 yards. Drive stalls at Minn 38.

5 drives inside the Minn 35 yard line. 5 Field Goals. Convert 2 of these 5 drives into TDs and the net difference is 8 points. The Raiders lost by 7. Would any Raider fan honestly care about Chester Taylor racking up 164 yards on the ground if the Raiders win 30 to 29? The point is that if the Raiders offense capitalizes on the 4 turnovers created by the defense in the 1st half then we are celebrating a robust offense and aggressive defense. Instead of a 19 to 19 half time score, how does 27 to 19 sound? Until this offense learns to take advantage of these scoring opportunities when they present themselves, this will continue to be a fruitless 'if, would, could, should' exercise.

Play of the Day: An amazing, acrobatic 49 yard leaping grab by Ronald Curry between 2 defenders. Curry wrestled the ball away from FS Sharper.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Time is Now for #2

Bears 17 - Raiders 6
As I watched the Raiders struggle on offense throughout the entire game vs. Da Bears, a feeling of hopelessness washed over me that was undeniable. With Josh McCown at QB, the possibility for big, explosive, down the field type plays seemed next to impossible. McCown's pop gun arm does not allow for the type of plays where big chunks of yardage can be covered. On a simple 3rd and 3 play, McCown had a difficult time getting enough mustard on the ball to reach Jerry Porter. When you factor in sacks, McCown's average net pass play was 2.6 yards. The total net yards passing was 80 yards. The dink & dunk passing offense's chances for success (read as TD drive) is like pitching a perfect game. There is little to no margin for error. It requires a time consuming drive with 100% efficiency. As soon as there is a mistake (read as an incomplete pass, sack or penalty) the offensive drive is DOA.

In spite of a putrid offense that could only score 2 field goals, the Raiders held a 6 to 3 lead with only 4:03 left in the game. Time for the D to shut down Da Bears, right? Wrong. On the 3rd play of the drive (1st and 10 from the Bears 41 yard line), QB Grossman hits WR Berrian with a 59 yard bomb for a go ahead 10 to 6 lead. Chris Carr was called into duty today because of the injury to Nnamdi Asomugha. Lined up in man to man coverage on the speedy Berrian, where on earth was FS Stuart Schweigert? (just look at the picture above). The reason I'm pinning the blame on Stu and not Carr are for the following reasons:

(1) Stu should have been shading Berrian's side of the field knowing full well that the Bears have been targeting Carr's side of the field throughout the day.

(2) It was Stu's responsibility to give Carr help by providing deep, bracket coverage.

What is really sad & pathetic is that once Da Bears scored this TD and went up by 4 points, I never had the feeling that McCown could march the Raiders offense down the field for a go ahead TD. McCown's longest completion for the entire game was a 14 yard pass to Porter in the 1st quarter.

What is really a shame is that the Raiders Defense & Special Teams units played exceptionally well. The Raiders run defense tightened up the screws and held Da Bears to a measly 78 yards on 34 carries for a paltry 2.3 yards per carry. The Raiders pass rush accounted for 3 sacks. Excluding the one big TD play to Berryman, the Raiders defense played inspired football. The Special Teams had by far their best performance of the 2007 season. Devin Hester is arguably the best return man EVER. The Raiders coverage units played disciplined, sound football and effectively boxed in Hester. For the game, Hester had 6 punt returns for 14 yards and 3 kick off returns for 35 yards. SeaBass hit both of his FG attempts including the go ahead 52 yarder late in the 4th quarter.

Sitting at 2-7 with an offense that has scored only 4 TDs in the last 5 games, the only ray of hope seems to be that Kiffin's hand will be forced to take the training wheels off of JaMarcus Russell. To build hope & optimism for the remainder of this year and lay a foundation for 2008, Russell needs to be inserted on to the field. I will gladly take the hope that the flicker of Russell's wrist provides for big offensive plays than sit idly by while McCown misfires his squirt gun.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Run Over Again

Once again, the Raiders Defense has tread marks soiling their uniform from being run over by an opponent. The Texans were one of the worst teams in the NFL (ranked #30) going into this game in terms of their ability to run the ball. It was clear as day that after the Texans coaching staff reviewed film of the Raiders 1st 7 games that the offensive game plan was to run up, down, and through the Raiders defensive front 7. When Ron Dayne racks up 122 yards on 21 carries for almost 6 yards per carry, you know this defense has some major problems to rectify.

As a team, the Texans used a heavy dosage of run plays (39 attempts) to accrue 178 yards for 4.6 yards per carry. In the last 5 games, the Raiders defense has allowed an opponent's feature back to tally 100+ yards.

Game 8 vs. Texans: Ron Dayne (21 carries, 122 yards, long of 39)
Game 7 at Titans: Lendale White (25 carries, 133 yards, long of 27)
Game 6 vs. Chiefs: Larry Johnson (24 carries, 112 yards, long of 54)
Game 5 at Chargers: LT (24 carries, 198 yards, long of 41)
Game 4 at Dolphins: Ron Brown (15 carries, 134 yards, long of 60)

The Raiders are currently the 30th ranked team in defense against the run. The numbers are pitiful. Average yards allowed per game = 152.5; Average yards per carry = 5.1. Yikes!

The lack of depth on the DLine has reared it's ugly with DT Gerrard Warren missing his 4th consecutive game and Tommy Kelly out for the season. In this game vs. the Texans, DT Josh Shaw (#95 in your program) and DT/DE Tyler Brayton were used as the primary subs for Sapp and Sands. The fact that Josh Shaw was unable to make the 53 man roster during training camp is not a comforting thought for the remaining 8 games of the season. I had issues with Tyler Brayton even making this year's final squad based on his lack of production the last 3 years. The Raiders experimented (once again) with Brayton playing a new position, DT. At DT, Brayton is not big enough or strong enough at the point of attack.

It is quite obvious that one of the main priorities in the off season will be to bolster the run defense. It is absolutely paramount for the organization to identify & acquire a true SS for run support (slide Huff to FS), upgrade the SLB position, and most importantly, add quality talent on the DLine via the draft and free agency.