Raiders 13 - Chiefs 10
Last week the Raiders lost to the Chargers yet the game was a buoy line to the Raider faithful. In a loss, there was a feeling of hope and better days to come. The next step in climbing the competitive ladder was for the team and coaching staff to learn how to close out a game.
Today the Raiders earned an ugly win vs. the Chiefs yet the game was a beautiful sight for the Raider Nation. In a win, and in spite of a dismal showing by the offensive unit, the team learned how to close out a game.
This game demonstrated why professional football is the ultimate team sport. The Raiders special teams unit playing a near flawless game. Kicker SeaBass nailed both of his long field goals attempts (48 yards; 54 yards). His long kickoffs prevented the Chiefs from netting a single yard on their returns for the entire game. Punter Lechler had an exceptional day (7 punts; 56.9 average) which was pivotal in the field position battle.
The Raiders defense gave up 409 net yards to the Chiefs. This might seem like a big chunk of yardage to the naked eye. However, if you watched the game, you realize that the D made big plays at critical junctures (2 pivotal sacks + 2 game altering interceptions). The defense also showed resiliency by minimizing the Chiefs to only 10 points in spite of a time of possession deficit of 38:39 to 21:21.
It is also clear that FS Michael Huff has taken a BIG step in his career progression. Huff has 3 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery in the 1st 2 games. His tackling and field awareness is leaps and bounds ahead of his previous 2 years in the league.
With the Raiders down 10-6 and 2:30 left on the clock, it was time for Russell to put the previous 57:30 behind him and find a way to elevate his game. This game deciding series is where ugliness gets a much needed face lift. During the course of the game, the Raiders offense only got in rhythm on 1 series. Russell was in the midst of his worst game in his young career. Somehow, some way, Russell blocked out the ugliness of his performance and the unit's performance and focused on winning time.
Thanks to a superior job by the special teams and an admirable job by the defense, the Raiders had an opportunity to win this game. 2:30 on the clock and 2 timeouts, the Raiders needed to march 69 yards to paydirt. On a key 2nd and 15, Russell connected with WR Murphy for 19 yards. On the play of the day, facing 3rd and 15, Russell found WR Watkins for 28 yards. McFadden closed out the drive with a 5 yard scamper after a fake to the upback and a pitch from Russell.
After 2 games, I'm sure many Raider fans are worried or upset about the performance of QB Russell. He has struggled with his accuracy and getting into rhythm. I'm looking at the Russell struggles with a silver lining. In both games he showed his ability to raise his game when the team needed him most. In spite of these struggles, I am confident that Russell will overcome the upcoming 2009 challenges. In my mind, Russell has showed his true leadership by fighting through his adverse times and keeping his eye on the prize.