Raiders 23 - Donkeys 20
It is too early in the 2011 NFL season to get a proper read on the Raiders. Here are a few observations from the opener on the MNF opener vs. the Donkeys that was highly entertaining sloppy yet fulfilling.
* Building A Bully - Run Game
Darren McFadden picked up where he left off from the 2010 campaign by rushing for 150 yards on 22 carries (6.8 avg.). Run DMC had 2 critical carries that led to 14 points. In the 2nd quarter, McFadden had a 20 yard run on 3rd & 8 that set the Raiders up for their 1st TD and lead of the game. In the 4th quarter, #20 came up huge with a game altering 47 yard run to the Denver 1 yard line. His punishing, aggressive, explosive running style along with RB Michael Bush's downhill style is the foundation for building a bully. By establishing and sticking with the rushing attack, ranked #2 last year, the Raiders imposed their will and physicality upon the Donkos.
* Making An Opponent 1 Dimensional - Rush D
The Raiders front 7 bottled up Denver's running attack, got a lead, and forced Denver to become a 1 dimensional unit. For the game, Denver's RBs produced a paltry 25 total rushing yards on 12 carries (2.1 avg.). Throughout the game, the front 7, with the assistance of DBs in more zone than usual, kept Denver from any big rushing plays with the exception of 1 scramble by Orton. Gap control, lane discipline, and solid tackling by the Raiders' D were a big part of the unit's success.
* Pass Rush, Sacks, and Blitzing
The starting DLine (Houston, Kelly, Seymour, Shaughnessy) had a tremendous night by applying constant pressure on QB Orton. Kelly and Seymour did an excellent job collapsing the pocket and the duo rung up 3 timely sacks. Houston, Shaughnessey, and Wimbley provided consistent pressure from the edge leading to numerous holding penalties and QB pressure. It was also nice to see our DC dial up some effective blitz packages with primarily Giordano and Huff leading the charge.
* Yellow Hankey Parade
It is a broken record that is getting tiresome to re-play. The vast majority of the 15 penalties for 131 yards can be attributed to a lack of discipline. The O-Line (Barnes, Heyer in particular) were the main culprits. Although the Raiders came away with an important divisional, road game, opening "W", the penalties are a major concern that needs to be addressed, cleaned up, and minimized.
Congratulations to SeaBass for tying the NFL record for the longest field goal. As it turned out, this 63 yard polish 2 iron blast was the difference in the game. I get the distinct feeling (read as "hunch") that Jason Elan and Tom Dempsey will be stepping aside in the record book very soon. SeaBass has the leg and a ton of confidence to break the record if the right situation arises.