Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Baby Steps First

After our 2 big blow-out victories (Den, Sea) and an inspiring 3 game winning streak, I honestly thought we had turned the corner. I'm not so sure anymore. As I mentioned on quite a few prior posts, the key is establishing a level of consistency.

Consistency in every sense of the word. We are more like Sybil. It is difficult and elusive to put your finger on our team in regards to performance and identity. From week to week it is any one's guess which team will show up.

QB play --- Who knows from one week to the next?

Playcalling --- Sometimes creative yet other times quite predictable and rudimentary.

Running Game --- At times dominant, persistent, and the team's identity ... other times MIA for no reason whatsoever. How does a player like McFadden go from a 20+ carry work-horse stud to a secondary feature in the running attack?

Run D --- It looked like an improvement only a few short weeks ago. In 2 successive weeks, a sieve.

From a 59-14 thrashing of the Donkeys to a 3-35 beatdown by the Steelers ... there simply is no rhyme or reason for the MAJOR roller coasters of this season.

This is an odd, exciting, surprising, and perplexing season all rolled into one.

On the bright side of things ...

There has been a noticeable uptick in terms of sustained effort by the team. No one is throwing in the towel at the end of games.

The team and individual players seem to have good chemistry, accountability, and a lack of negative, distracting, me-first behavior. No one that I know of on the team is making lame excuses or throwing anyone under the bus.

There seems to be a fairly good handle and realistic view of what it will take to truly turn the corner. In my judgment, it will be solid, reliable QB play, an upgraded and improved OLine, depth at WR, and a play-making,dynamic LB.

2010 is looking like the year we will take 1 necessary baby step forward towards climbing the competitive ladder. There is still a glimmer of hope if we can run the table vs. our divisional rivals and catch a few breaks. The min. magic number is 9 victories which would require an unlikely, Herculean 4 of 5 win effort.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Star Is Born

Raiders 23 - Condiments 20 (OT)

Rookie WR/KR Jacoby Ford had a breakthrough, star making performance yesterday. He became just the second player in NFL history to have at least 140 receiving yards and 150 kick return yards in a game during the Raiders 23-20 OT win over the Ketchup and Mustard men.

In this critical, bitter rivalry game, Ford had 6 receptions for 148 yards (24.7 avg.) and 158 kick return yards. More importantly, Ford made 4 pivotal, high impact plays.

Play 1 - "Take it to the House"
Setting: Raiders down 0-10 at the half and receive the kickoff to open 2nd half.
Play: 94 yard kickoff return TD
Impact: This play flipped the momentum and energy switch instantaneously.
Score Differential: From 0-10 to 7-10

Play 2 - "Creeping and Crawling"
Setting: Raiders up 14-13 at the beginning of the 4th quarter
Play: 37 yard reception where Ford came back for the ball, crawled, turned and made the catch.
Impact: This play set the Raiders up for an important lead stretching FG. Ford showed his determination and improvisational skills.
Score Differential: From 14-13 to 17-13

Play 3 - "Kleptomania"
Setting: Raiders down 17-20 with :25 left in the game
Play: 19 yard reception where Ford stole the ball from DB Flowers and made an acrobatic game saving catch.
Impact: This play put the Raiders in FG range to send the game into OT.
Score Differential: From 17-20 to 20-20

Play 4 - "Speed Kills!"
Setting: Raiders 1st offensive play in OT after forcing the Condiments into a 3 & out
Play: 47 yard reception where Ford tracked the deep strike from Campbell and made a final burst of acceleration to secure the ball.
Impact: This play put the Raiders in FG range to win in OT.
Score Differential: From 20-20 to 23-20 victory

Monday, November 01, 2010

Sea Chickens Wings Torn Apart

Raiders 33 - Sea Chickens 3

For me, believe it or not, this destruction of the Sea Chickens somehow was more gratifying and fulfilling than the record setting Donkey beat down last week.

Why? Because it showed the team has finally turned the proverbial corner by playing solid, winning football in all 3 phases of the game for 4 full quarters IMMEDIATELY after a big win.

There was no let-down. The players didn't rest on their laurels. The coaching staff did an excellent job preparing the team. By executing the game plan and minimizing mistakes, the team established a much needed level of consistency. For the Raiders to become a playoff caliber team, it will need to continue to perform at a high level on a week to week basis.

The D was "lights-out" from the opening snap to the very end. This was without question, the best defensive effort in a VERY long time. In particular, an aggressive and effective pass rush was the key to disrupting the Sea Chickens pass offense and QB Hasselback's rhythm. Here are some of the more revealing defensive stats which indicates total domination:

* Seattle had a meager 162 total net yards (47 rushing, 115 passing)
* 8 sacks; Seymour (2); Wimbley (2); Branch; Shaughnessy; Houston; Kelly
* The Sea Chickens converted only 1 of 16 3rd down attempts (6% conversion rate)
* The average gain per play for Seattle was a microscopic 2.7 yards
* In the 1st half, the Sea Chickens make only 2 total first downs

Although the Raiders offense started slowly, it ended up with more total net yards (545) than in the Bronco annihilation. For the second straight week, the Raiders offense was very balanced (239 yards rushing; 306 yards passing) and opportunistic. 4 players accounted for plays of 40+ yards (McFadden 49 yard run; Reece 51 yard reception; Bush 53 yard reception; DHB 69 yards TD reception). Also for the second straight week, the offense had zero turnovers. With QB Campbell managing the game well and McFadden running for another 100+ yards day (21 carries, 111 yards, 5.28 avg), the offensive unit had a solid platform to insure the game was firmly in hand.

Up Next Week:
A huge divisional game at home vs. the 5-2 Condiments. What's interesting about this upcoming game with the Ketchup and Mustard men is that the teams are almost a mirror image of each other.

Rebuild R Us: 2 teams in the midst of rebuilding after many years of ineptitude finally turning the corner.

Game Managers: Campbell & Cassell

Youthful Explosion: Both teams are littered with young, key starters from the past 3 years' drafts.

Run, Run, Run: The strength of both teams is clearly the rushing attack with a multi-pronged, committee approach (McFadden & Charles; Bush & Jones)

Surprise Ds: Both in top 10

I give the Chefs the edge in their WR corps/depth (Bowe over our new #1 DHB).

I give the Raiders a noticeable edge in pass rush D.

Both teams want to establish the run, play action pass off the run, stop the other team's run at all costs.

The Raiders have played inspiring football in 3 of their last 4 games and have more momentum plus the home crowd. This game has the feel of a playoff game. It is the "Who is for real?" game. Ultimately, I believe it will come down to which team's run defense is more effective and does a better job limiting the big 15+ yard carries.