Monday, September 26, 2011

Bully In Black

Raiders 34 - Jets 24

The Raiders response in a "bounce-back" game was achieved in a bullying fashion. After squandering a 21-3 lead to the Bills last week, yesterday's contest vs. the Jets was a critical test of the team's character.

Although there were many pivotal plays throughout the game, the crucial juncture to get a true barometer of the Raiders mettle came in the 2nd quarter after falling behind 7-17.

The Raiders answered the bell and scored a touchdown. On the 4th play of the drive, Darren McFadden busted off a 70 yard TD run that electrified the sell-out home crowd and shifted the momentum of the game in the Raiders direction.

McFadden, the #1 back in the NFL, had another monster game (19 carries, 171 yards, 9.0 per carry, 2 TDs). After last season's breakout year (223 carries, 1,157 yards, 5.2 per carry), McFadden is establishing himself as an elite, MVP caliber performer.

In 3 games this season, #20 has totaled 393 rushing yards on 61 carries for a stunning 6.4 yard average. What is truly amazing about these bulging numbers is the fact that every NFL team game plans to stop him by putting 8 men in the box. On top of that, the Raiders have an OLine that is inexperienced and a work in progress.

After closing out the 2nd quarter with a nice drive to put SeaBass in field goal range (54 yards) and knot the game at 17-17, the Raiders turned the screws on the Jets by stonewalling them on their 1st 4 possessions of the 2nd half and building a 31-17 lead.

Misc. Bully Notes:

* The play of the game, in my book, was the 23 yard TD reverse run by rookie WR Denarious Moore. The reason that this play had me giddy wasn't just the spectacular speed, moves, and goal line stretch by Moore but the "de-cleater" block by center Samson Satelle. Satelle's block absolutely destroyed and lifted the Jets safety on to his back. Thank you CBS for showing the play 4 additional times.

* Ring up DE/SLB Wimbley with an eye gouging, head swiveling sack on QB Sanchez. For the day, the Raiders had consistent pressure on Sanchez which resulted in 4 sacks and 1 hurried INT in the end zone by safety Tyvon Brach.

* The Raiders run defense were sound in tackling for the majority of snap which minimized the Jets to 100 total rushing yards on 25 carries. The Raiders run offense mauled the Jets to the tune of 234 yards on 32 carries for an eye popping 7.3 yards per carry. These 2 facets of the game (Run D, rush offense) are the blue print to building a bully with the men in the trenches.

Up Next: The Patsies are stinging after allowing the Bills to storm back to win from 21 points down. New England's spread offense which incorporates 4 WR sets, will be a very stern test for the Raiders defense. However, the flip-side to this coin is how the Patsies will attempt to slow down the robust, bullying rush offense of the Raiders. The key for the Raiders in 2011 will be to establish a certain standard level of consistency from quarter to quarter, half to half, and game to game.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Raiders D As Soft As Charmin

Raiders 35 - Bills 38

The Raiders 3 units played a solid, productive 1st half of team football in Buffalo. It was impressive to see the team get off to a good start especially considering the short week and cross country trip. The first 30:00 included very few penalties, breakdowns, and 3 consecutive TD drives to close the half up by 21-3.

Unfortunately, the Raiders defensive unit and in particular, Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, failed miserably in the 2nd half allowing the Bills 5 TD drives in 5 possessions.

The tissue soft, prevent D orchestrated by Bresnahan and poorly executed by the defensive unit was simply inexcusable. Throughout the 2nd half, in spite of an 18 point lead, 11 point lead, 4 point lead, and again 4 point lead, the defensive unit couldn't make 1 single play to get off the field.

Here are a few areas that stick in my craw;

* The Bills' offense only success in the air was through a short passing game. Did Fitzpatrick even attempt a pass that traveled more than 25 yards in the air? The point being, if you have a commanding lead and know your opponent is executing short timing patterns then the simple adjustment is get aggressive (opposite of soft) with your coverage scheme, mix things up, and go for the knock out blow.

* The Bills go-to receiver was whoever was lined up against Chris Johnson. Stevie Johnson lit up CJ. Did Bresnahan slide a safety over to bracket CJ's man and provide extra support? Why was Breshahan allowing Stevie Johnson a 5+ yard cushion and free release when (a) CJ is better at tight man to man coverage and (b) the Bills are operating a short passing game. Makes no sense and defies logic. Jam the Bills WRs and move the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage and force Fitzpatrick to beat you deep with his pop gun arm.

* The Raiders D was vanilla and predictable in terms of a variety of schemes deployed. The predictability of the coverage schemes and inability to incorporate exotic blitz packages to alter the game's outcome is disheartening. Using a 4 man pass rushing front in obvious passing downs is playing to "not lose". It is double-ply, flowery toilet paper.

* It was a very poor day for the Raiders defense in regards to tackling especially in the open field. McClain, Giordano, and Branch whiffed for the day in this department.

* As the 2nd half unfolded and the Bills offense was clicking on all cylinders, all I could think was "Come on D ... someone make a play". There were numerous opportunities. 40 offensive plays run by the Bills. 0 game altering plays made by the D. 2 plays are hard to swallow.

* The first play occurred with the Raiders up by 28-24 and about 5 minutes left in the game. Safety Tyvon Branch had perfect coverage on TE Chandler in the end zone. He was in front of Chandler when Fitzpatrick threwthe ball right in his hands. Instead of securing the easy pick, Branch somehow allowed the ball to slip through his hand and into the waiting hands of Chandler.
TD Bills.

* The 2nd play occurred on the Bills last TD drive with the Raiders up 35-31. CB Chris Johnson had a golden opportunity to ice the game and go from a goat to a hero when Fitzpatrick threw the ball up for grabs in the corner of the end zone. Johnson caught the ball in the air but failed to secure it allowing the WR to strip him on the way down. Bills live to play another down and end up with the go ahead TD with :14 on the clock.

The shame is that the Raiders offense gave the Raiders countless opportunities to finish the game off but our D was nothing more than a COSTCO sized 24 pack of ultra soft Charmin. It is also unfortunate that rookie WR Denarius Moore's breakout game (5 receptions, 146 yards, 1 jaw dropping TD) is merely a side note due to the loss.

Up Next: A very difficult home opener vs. the 2-0 NY Jets. To say that the D owes the O in this game is to make the ultimate understatement. If Bresnahan doesn't cut the dogs of war on D loose, pass me the vomit bag.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


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.

* Sea-Bass-Tastic!

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.