Sunday, September 28, 2008

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

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

CJ,

I was at the game. You are right that turnover was at least a 10 point swing. But no worse than the next one when the Raiders were up 15-10 and Russell fumbles inside the 20. The Chargers got the ball back scored almost right away, got a 2 point conversion and it was 18-15.

At that point I swear it was surreal it seemed like every person in the stadium knew the Raiders were going to lose.
There are some good things to take away from the game. The D was more or less solid. LT was held in check till that last meaningless touchdown, 2 picks, a safety and lots of pressure. The Raiders lost because of the offense principally it was lack of red zone execution and two turnovers.

Kiffin? I am so sick of that topic. If they get rid of him, yes it hurts stability but bottom line the guy is 5-15.

What really bothered me what I found saddest of all today is the collective malaise that seems to have overtaken Raider nation, myself included. I have been a dire hard fan since 76, when I was eight years old. I have also made a yearly pilgrimage to see a game every since 88—L.A. through Oakland.

Today things did not feel right: The tail gating scene was quasi-mellow, the few Charger fans I saw were not being terribly abused and after the game, crossing that hated bridge to the BART fans seems dejected but not passionately angry.

Funny when I got back to my hotel I realized my own emotional state was not so dissimilar to the other fans. Perhaps with my 40th birth day coming up soon, I am maturing and I am learning to put my love for the Raiders in proper perspective?

No, that is not the case what is going on is far worse I think we are all getting used to the loosing----now that is truly sad.

CJ, apologies for such a long email, you write the finest blog around, please some advice has it really become this bleak?

Regards
Florida Raider

(At least you do not have to take a 6 hour flight back to Miami tomorrow with nothing to do but relive the nightmare)

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

At what point do we start playing to win, and quit playing not-to-lose?

At what point does the media start asking Kiffin about what he can control, like vanilla play calling, not using Bush more, not calling a time out to rally the troops, etc? Instead of patting him on the back saying, "Nice try, it must be difficult to work for such a nasty owner. If you get rid of him, you'll start winning."
(Yes, Al is part of the problem, but he is not the only problem.)

I'm tired of this nonsense. I can coach better than what has been displayed this season. I'm tired of losing games we are totally blowing out. We had the Chargers in the death grip, and when they cried "Uncle" we let them out, and they punch us in the face. This was another deplorable loss, and unacceptable to me. I can't take much more of this.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Tooz 72 said...

A tough one, for sure. Let's talk about JaMRuss. I watched him close every play. On the positive side he has one hell of an arm. He's also young and may yet mature into something special. On the negative side, the guy couldn't play action my dead grandma and still very much looks like the untested rookie QB that he is. I believe the guy is our best shot at a good future. But we're going to have to grow with him a bit. Keep Kiffin around (we all could coach better than him -- IF Big Al would let us, but he wouldn't) so JaMRuss can at least get some good development time in one system.

He cracks me up, sending missles to receivers running short crossing routes. The balls nearly burn holes in the receivers' jerseys, or burn off the fingers on the near misses.

I'm content to watch this guy develop as long as the D keeps us in games and the O-line protects him a little better.

As for the malaise, dudes, it's normal. The Raiders are the worst team in football over the last five years. The team has become the Chicago Cubs: plenty of loyalty across the generations, but with no great expectations. It's sickening. Those of us that really know will keep the real Silver and Black fire burning, but our numbers are decreasing. Until Al either eats it or sells the team, we will have to hold on tight to memories old. The really sad ones are those that think Al still has it.

CJ, keep up the good work.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

FL: It is surreal at times following our beloved Raiders and I definitely understand your point about the malaise hangin over the fans. Back to back heartbreakers is never easy to swallow especially when you consider we should be 3 and 1 at the quarter pole. With 5 years running of finding ways to lose it is only natural to think the worst and hope for the best. I have found some very encouraging things to hand my hat on the past 3 weeks.

(1) For 3 consecutive weeks we have had double digit leads going into the 4th quarter.

(2) Some of our young players are either stepping up (JLH, Branch, Bush) are developing (Russell, Miller, Brown) or can be game changers when healthy (McFadden).

(3) Our D is playing aggressively, getting good QB pressure/sacks, and forcing turnovers. If we only didn't hit "empty" on our gas tank in the 4th quarter.

As far as firing Kiffin, it looks like a foregone conclusion with Al interviewing 3 assistants tonight. I believe that although Kiffin is 5 and 15, this team has played with heart and passion and is on the verge or cusp of turning the corner. Stability is paramount for further development (especially Russell) and allowing continuity to guide us to traction. Making a change after 4 games is destructive in so many ways. Allowing Kiffin to at least finish the 2008 season is in the best interest of the team. If the team wins 6 or fewer games, go ahead and make a change at the conclusion of the year. Going 6 and 6 or 7 and 5 the rest of the year is very obtainable. That would be 7 or 8 total wins and continued progress. Why flush it all down the toilet before this team even has a chance to blossom? I would agree to fire Kiffin if the team wasn't so united behind him. I would also agree to fire Kiffin if we weren't competitve the last 3 games. I realize in our bottom line society that it is a "what have you done for me lately" mindset and that winning 25% of the games is piss poor results but the option of promoting Fassell, Lofton, or Ryan makes the situation worse not better, IMO. Keep your chin up FL and continue to stiff arm the malaise infecting other fans. CJ ;)

RaiderNate: I thought both Kiffin and Ryan called an aggressive "play to win" game. It was execution that failed us. 3 plays largely determined the outcome;

(1) The tipped INT screen pass to McFadden.
(2) The whiffed block by Henderson that led to a blindside sack/fumble of Russell.
(3) Miller slipping in the end zone that looked like a TD.

Kiffin opened up the playbook as evident with the 37 to 22 pass/run ratio. Ryan blitzed and played mostly man to man coverage. All of this took place in spite of a serverly dinged up roster.

Tooz: I'm with you 100% on Russell. The kid has started 5 NFL games and he shows flashes of brilliance (TD to JLH vs Buff, TD to Miller vs. SD) and also rookie mistakes.

He career development is on track. His has the ability to be a franchise QB. It is vital to keep continuity and stability in the coaching ranks to give Russell every opportunity to blossom sooner rather than later.

If you are a Raider fan this period of time (last 5+ years) has been disheartening, soul wrecking, and difficult to say the least. If I ever get to the point where I don't anxiously await each Sunday's game and enjoy being a fan, then I will dial it down a notch. I don't see that day coming since in spite of this 5+ year malaise, I'm following the teams ups and mostly downs more avidly than ever.

Have a good bye week everyone and I hope you continue to visit SBF.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CJ,

Thanks for the uplifting words. BTW, you know I am huge Al Davis supporter and tend to turn a blind eye to his transgressions.

However, you not what got me thinkin he does not care about the fans----it is the fact that they have not done anything to improve that bridge situation when you make your way to the BART after the game. Talk about the walk of shame after a loss.

I took my father with me to the last game and he has been to stadiums all over North America and Europe and he could not believe how terrible, pain in the ass unsafe that is.

Regards

Florida Raider

6:51 AM  

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