The Raiders are playing a dangerous game. Well, football is dangerous, but that’s not what I had in mind. The more dangerous game — not to be confused with the most dangerous: Hunting man for sport — is the same one played by subprime mortgage brokers in recent history: The Raiders are betting their future on a player whose past has yielded more injury risk than reward.

Certainly it make sense (and possibly, cents) to feature their best player on offense. But to do so in the way that eschews all other players on the field is confounding. McFadden was on the field for 70 snaps (93% of total), 66 of which did not result in either a sack or a penalty. Of that 66, he was involved in exactly half:  15 runs and 18 passes–McFadden appeared to be the primary option in a strong majority of pass plays.

That McFadden would be involved in more pass plays than runs is troubling, especially given that the Chargers were one of the worst run defenses in the league last season. What’s more, they were without their top run stuffer in Antonio Garay (Garay allowed only 2.8 yards-per-carry on rushes to his zone). Granted, San Diego’s run defense is much improved. There is no denying that. Still, in limiting McFadden to 15 runs, the Raiders severely handicapped their offense. I have to wonder whether or not the team is confident in the new zone blocking scheme.

Interesting note: McFadden’s 13 reception were only one short of the Raiders’ team record set by Tim Brown in 1997. Even more interesting note: Of the 20 running backs to catch 13 or more passes in a single game, only one did so in a winning effort (Only 18 are in the chart below. The other two can be found here). Coincidence?

Player Tm Opp Result Rec Yds TD
Clark Gaines NYJ SFO L 27-37 17 160 0
William Andrews ATL PIT L 20-34 15 124 0
Rickey Young MIN NWE L 23-27 15 116 1
Marshall Faulk* STL DEN L 16-23 14 91 0
Tony Galbreath NOR GNB L 17-28 14 122 0
Roy Helu WAS SFO L 11-19 14 105 0
Brian Westbrook PHI DAL L 17-38 14 90 0
Bobby Anderson DEN CHI L 14-33 13 143 0
William Andrews ATL TAM L 23-24 13 98 0
Tiki Barber NYG DAL L 18-26 13 100 0
Greg Bell BUF SDG L 9-14 13 80 0
Sid Blanks HOU SDG L 21-27 13 131 0
Kelvin Bryant WAS NYG L 14-24 13 130 1
Priest Holmes BAL TEN L 8-12 13 98 0
Steven Jackson STL KAN L 17-31 13 133 0
Darren McFadden OAK SDG L 14-22 13 86 0
Thurman Thomas* BUF NYJ W 23-20 13 112 1
LaDainian Tomlinson SDG ARI L 17-20 13 72 0

Silver Lining

The defensive front seven performed very well, especially against the run. Curtis Brinkley gained just 12 yards on 10 attempts, finding success on just 20% of his runs, 17% less than his 2011 season total. While Rolando McClain deserves credit, the true star was Miles Burris. Burris lead the team in tackles, finishing with nine total tackles and two tackles-for-loss. Burris, more so than middle linebacker McClain, showed great range, as you can see.

Fellow rookie Rod Streater showed great promise as well. The fumble notwithstanding, I thought Streater played well. Football Outsiders game charting disagrees, however. According to FO, Streater was the worst receiver in the NFL last weekend. I’ll reserve judgement, but that’s not necessarily a good way to start a career.

Black Marks

The biggest black mark: the inability of the coaching to not only take advantage of the Chargers’ weaknesses (as mentioned previously) and to prepare their players for the unexpected. Of course, I’m mostly speaking of  long snapper linebacker Travis Goethel. When asked how many practice reps he had received at long snapper, Goethel answered with a concise “Zero.” Across the bay, punter Andy Lee and back-up longsnapper Daniel Kilgore take between four and eight practices reps every practice, according to Eric Branch.

Allen admitted to his role in failing to fully prepare his team, saying “I’ve got to do a better job of making sure we’re prepared for all those different situations.”

To his credit, Allen has curbed some of the penalty issues. The Raiders accrued only 35 yards on six penalties  on Monday — two of which gave the Chargers an automatic first down. For a team that set an NFL record in penalties and penalty yardage in 2011, such progress is encouraging.

The Raiders will look to rebound next week in Miami against the Dolphins, a team that embarrassed the Raiders last year.