Sour Ending to 2011 Season
Raiders 26 - Chargers 38
The Raiders season ended with disappointment, unfulfilled expectations, and on a sour note at the hands of the Chargers. With a playoff berth and AFC West Divisional title on the line, the game started brightly. In front of the 8th consecutive sell-out crowd at O.com, Safety Giordano picked off Philip Rivers on the opening possession on the 5 yard line. The Raiders offensive unit promptly and efficiently marched 95 yards culminating in a Palmer to DHB TD in the corner of the end zone.
With the fans jacked up, an early 7-0 lead, the air was let out of the balloon by a porous Raiders D. For the rest of the entire game, the Raiders defense kept the Chargers punter parked on the bench idle. The fact that the opponent's punter didn't have 1 single attempt in a 60:00 minute game, is a colossal failure. In essence, the Raiders D failed to make a single drive stopping play in nearly 53 minutes of the remaining action and the Chargers final 7 possessions.
The defensive ineptitude demonstrated in this game wasn't anything new for the 2011 Raiders. After the win over the Bears, the Raiders were 7-4 and in control of the AFC West. The Raiders laid an egg by going 1-4 in the remaining 5 games. In the 4 losses, the opponent averaged 38 points (34 to Mia; 46 to GBay; 28 to Det; and 38 to SD). The Raiders finished the season as the #29 ranked defense in points allowed (27.1).
The Chargers were able to ring up 38 points, 25 first downs, and 463 total yards very easily. The Raiders defense was unable to pressure Rivers through the front 4 or by blitzing. Rivers wasn't sacked and was hit only 1 time the entire game. On the back end, the Raiders pass coverage was atrocious. Blown coverages, bad schemes (Wimbley covering Gates; McClain on Jackson), and an inability to make a game changing defensive play was on full display.
In spite of the poor defensive performance throughout the game, the unit still had a golden opportunity to FINALLY make 1 important stop mid way through the fourth quarter. With the Raiders closing the gap to 26-31 on a TD pass to Boss and more than 9:00 left in the game, the Raiders D had the Chargers backed up on the 1/2 yard line. With a Chargers defender drawing a 15 yard personal foul on Boss in the end zone, SeaBass kicked off from the 50 and popped it up near the goal line. The Charger return man (Goodman) struggled to avoid a safety and barely crossed the end line.
Just like the beginning of the game, the crowd was pumped up in anticipation of an opportunity to turn the tide. The Chargers offense ended the season and all hope by marching 99 yards to paydirt. This 99 yard drive was very similar and equally disturbing as the Lions game winning drive at the end of the game from the 2 yard line. Instead of the defensive leaders of the Raiders rising up to a game defining challenge, it came up small and broken.
Judging from Hue Jackson's "pissed off" comments in the post-game press conference, this bitter ending to a season that had so much promise will be the cause for big changes in 2012. It is very evident that the defense needs to be overhauled from top to bottom. A proven Defensive Coordinator with strong leadership and a clear vision on how to get the defensive ship off the rocks is paramount.