It’s Thanksgiving, and I refused to be sad over a tough 31-24 Raiders loss to the Cowboys, so I’m not going to! In true American fashion (see: revisionist history) I’m going to rewrite the rules of reality to turn today into a pleasant memory!
Everyone hates that thoughtful guy in the shoes with toes who insists on telling “the true story of Thanksgiving”, and I refuse to be that guy today.
Matt McGloin showed more promise that he just might be the quarterback of the future, and Andre Holmes joined Rod Streater as a receiver of today as the Raiders took game one of a Thanksgiving Day doubleheader with the Cowboys 21-14. Rashad Jennings scored two touchdowns after McGloin set the table with great drives built on solid passes to Holmes and Streater.
McGloin was surgical in game one and seemed to be sharing thoughts with his receivers, who were bending over backwards, frontwards, and sideways to haul in anything he got near them. The offense controlled the clock just as well, keeping Tony Romo off the field for most of the contest.
The second game wouldn’t work out nearly as well for the Raiders.
Okay. The novelty has worn off, but it was fun while it lasted, which is just about how I feel regarding the game as a whole.
The first and second halves were really two different events. The Raiders controlled the ball and consistently moved the markers in first half, even though Dallas managed to contain Jennings who was starting over the allegedly healthy Darren McFadden. McGloin was making passes that only his receivers could catch, and the law firm of Holmes and Streater did not disappoint on their end of things.
But … the wheels fell off in the second half. And I think the blame lands on the coaches. I don’t know what’s happening in the locker room at halftime, but if I had to guess, I’d say massages and mai tais, because it certainly isn’t adjustments. This problem has plagued the team all season; nobody scores in the first quarter like the Raiders, and nobody dies in the second half like the Raiders.
I would never accuse the Raiders coaching staff of bad game preparation because they come out of the gates like nobody else. But that second half fall-off can’t be ignored. Are the Raiders gimmicky? Are they so transparent that other teams allow them to dominate first halves so they will reveal all their tricks in the process and be absolutely solved by the third quarter? It’s making me a little crazy.
And I’ve got as big a man crush on McGloin as Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have on Tony Romo and anyone in a Cowboys uniform, but he needs to break himself of his Jacoby Ford habit, and stat.
For the second week in a row, McGloin insisted on using Ford as a third down target, and he paid dearly in the fourth quarter as the oft-targeted Brandon Carr boxed the little guy out and killed the Raiders Thanksgiving hopes on possibly the most critical drive of the game. Granted, McGloin underthrew the ball slightly, but Ford is … NOT THE GUY! Holmes finished the day with 136 yards on seven catches, and Streater hauled in three passes for 57 yards, yet McGloin threw the most critical pass of the game to a guy who … sucks. He’s fast, but he’s an Al Davis scholarship guy who has a reputation for not making big catches. Or any catches, really.
Why he doesn’t choose the hot hand is beyond me. But it’s been a season of miracles and surprises, and McGloin will someday be a Pennsylvania senator partially on redemption-heavy, vote for the underdog rhetoric, and maybe he believed Jacoby’s potential was finally going to mature tonight.
Sebastian Janikowski may have matured a little in the past four days. He allegedly told Nantz, Simms, or one of their fifty producers that he watched lots of videos of his kicks this season and realized he’s been having issues because he’s been wide with his plant foot. He absolutely drilled a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter, so maybe Marquette King is out of the doghouse with the big fella. (But he should be in the doghouse with the team; he’s got a great leg, but he’s got to stop kicking the ball out of the back of the end zone! King of the Touchback, yo!)
But the guy had three chances to successfully complete an onside kick in the closing minutes of the game, and he didn’t get any of them right. The officials gave him every opportunity to do so because the Cowboys called a timeout on the first attempt which stunk, then the refs claimed they hadn’t blown the game whistle on the second one, which Jano placed on its side on top of the kicking tee — and that one stunk and was easily recovered by the Cowboys, then he laid the ball on it’s side on the ground next to the tee and that one traveled about seven easy yards and was recovered by the Cowboys with no issue from the Raiders. Marquette King was nowhere near the play, but perhaps he said something distracting to SeaBass as he headed for the field.
For the second week in a row, the Raiders lost a key piece of their offense to a careless play. Mychael Rivera was almost killed by Michael Griffin who was later suspended for the hit, which East Bay Sports Guy convinced me was inadvertent, and may well have been.
This week it was Jennings. A Cowboys defender was running toward him when he was tackled, and the defender made no attempt to hurdle Jennings’ prone body, and instead kneed him right in the head as he moved over him. It was a sick blow, and an instant KO. Jennings was clearly woozy, and looked disabled as he was led back to the Raiders’ sideline.
I watched and rewatched the play, and was surprised at how sneaky the Cowboys defender — who’s name escapes me now — after the play. He literally did the “I never saw anything, I wasn’t there” routine after he dusted himself off and Jennings laid on his own arm motionless. It was actually the first time I’ve seen Jennings show that he can be harmed. He almost certainly suffered some manner of brain injury on the play, and I hope he is okay as a human first, and okay for football second.
Make your own judgement, but I thought the Cowboys defender was careless at best, and malicious at worst.
The Raiders weren’t supposed to be in the playoff conversation, and several writers and experts (I fall in the former category…or the one that isn’t “experts”), felt this team was in the early stages of a top-down rebuilding process that would net about four wins per season for the next two or three years, and they have met that expectation on paper already, but they’ve far exceeded it in my heart and mind.
Pryor has been entertaining and exciting thusfar, McGloin has provided some sparks of his own and has shown plenty of promise, and I can’t say enough good things about the emerging stars in the receiving corps. Jennings is now one of my favorite all-time Raiders because he has been The Exorcist when it comes to McFadden (who played just like a career backup, which ultimately is what he is), using brute force to finally bench the Porcelain Illusion once and for all…and the defense. The defense. If only Jason Tarver could learn a halftime speech, they’d be perfect. They have been gutty, exciting, and scrappy.
All in all, Raider fans have plenty to be thankful for.
After all, our team split a doubleheader with the Cowboys today!
And if you believed everything Nantz and Simms said about Romo and the Cowboys, they are a collection of Pigskin Gods and the greatest team in the league right now, if not football history, and the Raiders were lucky to share a field with their immortal spirits.
I’m thankful because these Raiders seem committed to excellence for the first time in many years.
Four games left, and still plenty of reasons to watch. I’m thankful, indeed.