The Oakland Raiders’ 17-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers did as much to demoralize the fan base as it did to wipe away any sort of momentum the team appeared to be building in recent weeks.
While players and coaches alike will often say things like, “It’s just one game in a long season,” or, “You have to take one game at a time,” or even, “Our goal is to be 1-0 after every game,” losing eventually begins to wear on the psyche of the entire organization.
Raider fans might remember the last winning season the team had. After the Raiders made the Super Bowl in 2002, many pointed to a week nine Interception by Rod Woodson that turned the entire season around. The 98-yard pick for a touchdown lifted the Raiders to a 10-0 score over the Broncos in Denver in just the first quarter of the game. Raider Nation has seen many a team turn their season around against the Silver and Black in recent years, and should the 49ers somehow get on track and make the playoffs, they’ll never hear the end of it from the yokels they work and live with that don the red and gold.
In the spirit of season-turning plays and games, Raider Rants will now grade the last game the Raiders either won or lost. The hope is to come away with some clear understanding of the events that took place, but it’s a good bet it will end up being nothing more than a reiteration of what you probably already know.
A look at the GAMEBOOK shows that JaMarcus…Jason Campbell was sacked twice and hit three other times, but Campbell was also hurried repeatedly in the first half — when he was still being given the opportunity to drop back and pass. Some of Campbell’s best plays of the game came because he was running for his life. While this line is nowhere near as bad as it was pre-Tom Cable joining the Raiders, they are still unable to protect the passer with any consistency — which is probably why they are about to start their sixth quarterback in the last 14 games.
Not only was the line very poor on passing downs, but they weren’t all that good when it was time to run either. The Raiders gained 110 yards rushing on 30 running plays, but when you take out Campbell’s seven scrambles for 21 yards and Louis Murphy’s end around for 43, you are left with a horrid rushing attack. 22 rushes for 46 yards and an average of just 2.1 yards per carry. Even if you were to give them a nudge for the terrible play calling for most of the game, you’d still have to wonder why a big, strong runner like Michael Bush was only able to get a couple yards per carry.
For some, this grade may be a little too high when you factor in that Frank Gore rushed for 149 yards and an average of 6.0 yards per carry. For some, it may be a little low. When you take away Gore’s 64 yard run, he carried the ball 24 times for just 85 yards. That’s an average-per carry of 3.54 — not bad, considering Gore is an elite rusher.
Why not hold that 64 yarder against the defensive line? We did. The play itself wasn’t the result of a defensive line not doing their job, as much as it was the result of a rookie middle linebacker taking the wrong seam and getting pummeled at the line. On that play, the defensive line is supposed to eat up the blockers and the linebackers are supposed to shoot through and get to the running back. That didn’t happen. On the 49ers next series, they ran the same play, but this time it resulted in a McClain tackle for a loss of two yards.
As far as the passing game, the defensive line held their own. Two sacks, seven quarterback hits, and plenty of hurries on the day pestered Alex Smith for much of the game.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
So how do you give a group of wideouts with half as many catches as receptions a passing grade? You include Zach Miller into the group.
The wide receivers need to get better. The game was sealed when Jacoby Ford let a simple slant pass bounce off of his chest and into the hands of 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes. The short to intermediate routes are the bane of the Raiders’ offense this season. Both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have struggled getting open and finding the soft spots of the defense this season and opposing teams know it.
On at least two plays, Heyward-Bey streaked past the cover-two defense of the 49ers to get wide open 40+ yards down the field, but that was mostly due to the 49ers defenders releasing from him after 20. Why? They know he’s just a decoy and that the pass isn’t going his way. There’s no other explanation other than the Raiders never saw that breakdown in the defense. Chances are, if we saw it up in the press box, the Raiders coaches also identified it after the game.
Zach Miller only caught two passes, but it was because he was being doubled and tripled by the 49ers. Often, he’d have a defender in front and behind him, and on the play where Manny Lawson picked off Campbell in front of Miller, there was another defender roaming in the area.
Why is it that a group of players that can lock down their men with the best of them is always raped while they are in zone? There’s no doubt that playing a zone requires a higher football IQ, because you have to cover an area and recognize when someone is entering and leaving said area. So does that mean that they are one of the dumbest secondaries in America a la Bill Callahan? I’m not buying it — and the Raiders’ secondary isn’t buying into the zone defense.
Up until the Raiders game, Alex Smith had thrown two interceptions in 4 of the 49ers losses and one pick in the other loss. Against the Raiders, Smith threw zero picks and had a quarterback rating of 87.4 — his second highest of the season. The only reason, I suspect, that his quarterback rating was only his second highest, was because he was able to rack up plenty of yards and two touchdown passes in the garbage time of the Philadelphia loss the week before.
On the Frank Gore 64 yard run, there should have been a safety or a corner to take the runner down within 10 or 20 yards. Because Michael Huff was able to track him down from the other side of the field, I couldn’t hold the run against the secondary as much as I would have had the run gone for a touchdown.
Before you say anything about the high grade, take these things into consideration. The Raiders had only Bush, Rock Cartwright, and fullback Marcel Reece to carry the load on the ground. How many yards do you expect to get when your offensive line can’t open any holes up the middle? How many rushing yards would you expect to get when you’re running up the middle on first and second down of every possession?
The 49ers defense isn’t that good, but when your playcalling becomes so mundane and predictable, you can’t blame that on the running backs. Bush did have two receptions to rank second on the team in receiving and he was sturdy enough to carry the load for 20 carries. One big play by any of the running backs and this grade would have been a B+.
I’m still not sold on revisiting the Mad Stork idea — especially in a 4-3 alignment. Trevor Scott, while he’s a player on the defensive line, is far too slow to handle running backs out of the backfield. Can anyone say Brian Westbrook for 19 yards on second and five? Lucky for the Raiders, the 49ers didn’t want to exploit this matchup.
Going back to the aforementioned run by Gore, and the fact that the group of Scott, McClain, and Kamerion Wimbley combined for just eight tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hurry, and one pass defensed, and that’s much of why you have this grade. The pass defensed? That was a pass right in the hands of McClain, who dropped it.
10.7 QB Rating — the lowest by a Raiders quarterback since Kenny Stabler in 1975. Need I say more? Never in his entire pro career has Kyle Boller been wanted more.
Campbell had plenty of opportunities to find receivers, very little time to find those receivers, and had the game ended after the second quarter, he would have had a decent grade here…but the game went two more quarters. Campbell didn’t look anywhere near the quarterback he did against San Diego, and after finding out that he may have torn his meniscus during the game, we might finally know why. An injury doesn’t change the grade — especially since the Raiders still had one healthy quarterback on the sidelines.
This is not a bad coaching staff, but when you get out coached by Mike Singletary and his happy bunch of misfits, it’s time for you to take a long, hard look in the proverbial mirror. I’m not condemning Tom Cable and his staff, but there is much to be said about the very weak gameplan they brought to Candlestick Park on Sunday.
The ‘+’ signifies that the overall grade was nearly a ‘D’. That’s nowhere near what a winning team should be. This isn’t a winning team, and taking a look at the schedule for this coming game, they are in jeopardy of falling to 2-5 and out of consideration for anything more than a 6-10 season.
Then again, the last time the Raiders turned a season around into a winning campaign, it all started in Denver. Let’s see if they can add a leg to this one-legged ‘A’ next week.