Raiders Offense Stuck In Neutral
Titans 13 - Raiders 9
So far this has been a VERY frustrating season for Raider fans. The 1st quarter of the season was marked by great progress. In particular, the offensive line showed vast improvement. The running attack was #1 in the entire league. The Raiders split the 1st 4 games and at 2-2 were in 1st place.
The last 3 weeks have been a return to the futile, mistake filled offense that stunk up the place in 2006. 14 points at San Diego (1 offensive TD). 10 points vs. KC (1 offensive TD). 9 points at Tennessee (0 offensive TDs). This downward trend in offensive productivity needs to be corrected pronto.
The big factors in this offensive ineptitude the last 3 games has been poor QB play (Culpepper has been very shaky), an inability to run the ball effectively (2.7 avg per carry), poor pass protection (13 sacks in the last 3 games), losing the turnover battle (4 fumbles + 4 interceptions; -6 turnover ratio), an upward spike in costly penalties (avg. of 9 penalties), and above all, a failure to make a play at critical, game deciding junctures in the game.
In this game vs. Tennessee, the Raiders offense created the perfect storm of mistakes. 14 penalties for 100 yards. 11 penalties called on the offensive line alone. The average 3rd down distance that the Raiders faced in this game was 11.6 yards. With the defense unable to create any turnovers, the Raiders stared all 12 possessions in their own territory. The long down & distances set up the Titans to exploit the Raiders shoddy pass protection. Culpepper was sacked 5 times. One of these sacks caused a fumble on the Raiders own 9 yard line.
When you boil it all down, the penalties, turnovers, and sacks laid the foundation for the ultimate deathbed of the Raiders offense. At this point in time, the Raiders can ill afford to play an undisciplined and unsound brand of football if the team is to be victorious. 1st and 15, 2nd and 20, 3rd and 12 ... these type of down & distances stack the deck against a team that has yet to show the wherewithal to unleash a consistent passing attack.
The frustration and disappointment in this closely fought game is that the Raiders found a way to lose. In spite of the offense continually shooting itself in the foot, the Raiders were in a position to win. Down 13 to 9, the Raiders had moved the ball to the Tennnesse 26 yard line with 2:00 to go. 1st down on the 26. What do you do in this important situation? 1st play: LT Barry Sims false start. 2nd play: Culpepper sacked. Next play: A short completion. 3rd down: incompletion. 4th down: BMW fails to secure the ball on a key reception. Game over.
As I pointed out in one of my earlier posts "Wanted: The Closer", good teams find a way to execute at key points in the game. When you have the lead in the 2nd half, the mindset needs to be to put your collective foot on the windpipe of your opponent.
An interesting and sad fact: The Raiders have had the lead in the 2nd half in 6 of 7 games this season. On the sunny side of things, this shows that the team is doing enough good things to be competitive and be in the position to win. Unfortunately, this is also an indicator of a team that has come up short when victory is within their grasp.
Up Next: The Texans (3-5) visit Oaktown (2-5). If Culpepper doesn't perform well, you can expect the chants for JaMarcus to get louder and louder each week.