The Oakland Raiders defied the odds … makers who believed they’d lose to the Broncos by only seven points and got shellacked 37-6 at Chump Field in Denver.
Because the local CBS affiliate didn’t show the game, I decided to head over to the NFL-sanctioned Raiders Booster Club gathering at Pizza Bob’s. I’d heard it was the tamest of the three clubs in town, even though Cliff Branch allegedly made an appearance at another local gathering that ironically didn’t have the right cable package to air the game.
The crowd was full of jersey-clad fans, with Bo Jackson jerseys easily being the most popular. There was also a JaMarcus Russell and a Jerry Porter floating around for old time’s sake.
I’m not usually into watching games in a public venue, and a couple of sauced up Rams fans reminded me why.
“Bring back the college refs, your team sucks, QUE NO?”
It was a hoot for about the first quarter, and despite some fun raffles and a cast of characters straight out of the Black Hole, the wheels came off the wagon and the Autumn Wind turned into a stale fart.
The Raiders went into halftime down 10-6, after showing some flashes of the brilliance that made us think they would make some locker room adjustments like last week, and come out with the fire in the second half.
Before the game, I felt that Peyton Manning would surely hang four touchdowns on the Raiders defense, but I also believed that guys like Phillip Wheeler would ballhawk and create some turnovers that would be the deciding factor. Until the second half, it looked like that just might happen. Tyvon Branch refused to give up on a play and forced Demayrius Thomas to fumble as he sprinted to what looked like a sure touchdown. But they failed to move the ball and gave it right back to the Broncos.
The Problem with Rolando
Manning completed 10 passes in a row at one point, many of them over the middle to the part of the field that Rolando McClain should own. McClain owns the middle of the field in the same way that a season ticket holder owns their seats at the o.co. They both behave in the same way as well. They love watching Raider football.
McClain was just a bad draft pick as JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders thought they were getting Patrick Willis of the 49ers, but they actually got Willis of Diffrn’t Strokes instead. The reason he isn’t regarded a bust of the same proportions as Russell is because there are a million different ways to measure a quarterback’s successes and failures, but McClain plays a postion that measures far more successes than failures.
Rolando racked up some impressive tackle totals last season, but I know what I see. You’d need someone smarter like Bay Area Stats Guy or East Bay Sports Guy to explain the finer flaws in Rolando’s game. For the meantime, I’ll tell you what I see on the television.
Any time the camera finds Rolando, he’s usually half-assing it after a ballcarrier who blew by him, throwing his hands up for a tip about two seconds after the ball has flown over his head, or doing his favorite thing; standing around and watching football unfold around him.
He clearly loves the game … as a spectator. As far as spectators go, he’s having the greatest fan experience of all time! He gets to actually be on the field while a football game is happening!
I’m beating up on McClain specifically because of the complete lack of passion and hustle he displays on the field. While guys like Matt Giordano and Phillip Wheeler aren’t All-Pros, they seem to show up around the ball a lot, and you don’t see them giving up on plays like McClain.
If anyone can sell me on McClain’s value to the team, I’m all ears. I just expect more from a guy who’s supposed to be the quarterback of the defense, and I just don’t understand why the mainstream media isn’t harder on this guy.
Glass half full
1. Phillip is a Wheeler dealer: This guy continues to develop into a real asset. He finished the day with six solo tackles and three assists, and he kept showing up near the ball even when he wasn’t in on the tackle.
2. Tyvon Branch has a motor: I already said it, but watching him force the fumble was especially awesome because he did not quit on the play. Hint hint, Rolando.
3. Denarius proves Moore Is better: And would’ve made a couple more if he hadn’t been overthrown on two plays where he’d beat the coverage deep.
4. Carson Palmer brought his dancing shoes: Broncos pass rushers hassled Palmer all day, and he moved his feet well and stepped away from a couple of sacks. Unfortunately, it didn’t always equal big gains down the field.
5. Taiwan Jones is in your room, Rollie: Shane Lechler has the kind of leg that inspired the phrase “outkicking the coverage”. But Jones turned on the speed a couple of times and made nice technical tackles that left the Broncos with no gain on 50+ yard punts.
1. Marcel Reece’s many pieces: This guy is a fullback on paper, but as Phil Simms pointed out, the Raiders use him as more of a hybrid tight end. It seems to me that he’s higher on Carson’s checkdown list than he should be. I love the guy, but I wish that his catches were dessert and not the main course.
2. Mike Goodson averaged over seven yards a carry!: Unfortunately they came on three carries, one of which was straight out of Tecmo Bowl … Goodson got caught in the backfield, changed direction, and eluded half a dozen Broncos before coming up about six inches short of the first down.
3. Carson Palmer didn’t throw any picks: He also didn’t throw any touchdown passes.
4. Oakland dominated Denver in the punting department: That’s because Denver didn’t punt in the game at all. I think it was only the fourth or fifth time it’s happened in the team’s history.
5. Nobody almost got killed: In a fair world … forget it, the world isn’t fair. We lose DHB for possibly the season and beat a decent team. We stay healthy and get hammered by the damn Broncos.
1. Take care of Lechler: The guy had a punt blocked again … he’s one of the most talented punters in the league, and deserves to be mentioned with Ray Guy when the “greatest Raider punter ever” conversation comes up. He deserves better support than he’s gotten this season.
2. The defense is broken: We didn’t get to play with new toy Andre Carter today, but no matter. Manning did whatever he wanted against the Raiders’ secondary, and the middle of the field is anyone’s playground. I just can’t believe how BAD McClain is.
3. Darren McFadden just might be a system back: The guy is healthy, he’s suppposed to be a cornerstone of the offense, but he can’t run in a zone blocking scheme? Really? This was the first bad game he’s ever played in Denver. 34 yards on 13 carries isn’t good enough, and I can’t understand why a guy with so many gifts turns in a crappo performance against a defense that Dennis Allen ran last year. It seems like that should’ve been an advantage for us, and it just wasn’t.
4. Denver couldn’t be stopped in the second half: With exception to running out the clock on their last possession, the Broncos scored every time they had the ball in the second half. Ridiculous.
5. Does no penalties equal no passion?: It’s nice to reverse the long trend of leading the league in penalties, but some of guys are playing like they are on Thorazine. I’ve already ran my mouth off about McClain, but he isn’t alone.
I’d love to hear what you guys think went wrong, and I’m looking forward to hearing a more technical breakdown from East Bay Sports Guy … but right now I’m fighting off a different kind of breakdown of my own.