1 Game Through The Keyhole of 1 Play
Before I get to "1 game through the keyhole of 1 play", I wanted to touch on a few trends. This home game vs. San Diego followed some of the patterns established by the Raiders the past few weeks.
Good Trend: Defensive prowess ... for 3 quarters. The Raiders defense had 4 sacks, countless QB hurries, 2 interceptions, and a safety.
Bad Trend: The D ran out of gas in the 4th quarter. SD scored 25 points in the last quarter after scoring 3 points in the first 3 quarters.
Good Trend: The Raider team, under the leadership of Head Coach Lane Kiffin, played with passion, spirit, and heart in spite of the negative stories swirling around Alameda.
Bad Trend: With the Raiders collapse from a 15-0 3rd quarter lead, you can count on (a) more "Kiffin Will Be Fired on XX day" headlines or (b) an actual confirmed artile that reads "Kiffin is Fired."
Good Trend: The offensive unit driving the ball into the red zone for 3 scoring opportunities.
Bad Trend: The offensive unit sputtering in the red zone (0 for 3) resulting in field goals (3) instead of touchdowns (0).
Good Trend: WR Javon Walker catching 2 passes for 29+ yards in the 1st series of both the Buffalo game and SD game.
Bad Trend: WR Javon Walker pulling a houdini act for the rest of game by completely disappearing from the action on the field.
Good Trend: 3 consecutive weeks of double digit leads going into the 4th quarter.
Bad Trend: 2 back to back weeks of 4th quarter collapses where the D was running on fumes.
The Raiders Special Teams unit was exceptional. JLH had another great opening kick return. SeaBass converted all 3 of his real FG attempts and missed from 76. Yes 76. With :01 left in the 1st half, SeaBass attempted a ridiculous 76 yard FG attempt. With Russell being able to easily launch a ball 70+ yards, why didn't Kiffin go to max protection, Lelie and Higgins at WR, and go for a more realistic "Hail Mary" pass attempt to end the 1st half? The coverage units played well throughout the game but ... with the game on the line and 2:00+ minutes to go in a 18-18 tie game, the coverage units allowed Sproles to spring loose for a huge, 67 yard back breaking return setting up SD in Oakland territory.
1 Game Through The Keyhole of 1 Play ...
In most NFL games there are a few big plays that have a direct effect on momentum shifts and eventual outcome of a game. I know this is a bit of a stretch but this game which consisted of 133 total plays, pivoted on 1 play. In my humble opinion, this play alone was the difference from a W and an L. It dramatically altered the landscape of the entire game.
The play leading up to the play ...
The Raiders were leading the Chargers 15-3 with 4:00+ minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. San Diego has the ball with a 3rd and long. The Raiders DLine got in Rivers face with good QB pressure which resulted in Rivers errant pass getting intercepted by DeAngelo Hall. Hall returned the interception 21 yards to San Diego's 38 yard line.
The Play ...
3:57 on the clock and the Raiders driving to deliver a knock out blow. After a 1st down, the Raiders are on the SD 27 yard line which is well within SeaBass range. Anything less than an 18-3 lead would be criminal. A TD drive would put the Raiders firmly in command with a 22-3 lead. Russell attempts a screen pass to McFadden that was tipped at the line by a SD Dlineman and intercepted by another SD defender. Instead of delivering a KO blow, this turnover gave SD new life. On the ensuing drive, SD goes 66 yards for a TD. Oaland 15 - San Diego 10. A potential 3 score lead in 1 pivotal play evaporates to a 1 score lead. 1 game through the keyhole of 1 play.
One Final Note:
Even if it was one of Kiffin's last attempts to stamp his "team first" approach to Raider football, I sincerly appreciate his symbolic move of having the Raiders introduced to the home crowd by position groups vice individual players.
"That whole individual introduction, with everybody dancing around, we're not doing that any more. That's not who we are. We're going to play together as a team, and that's why we did it." Lane Kiffin