This game was a tale of one player and the rest of the team. The Raiders had Ballers abound throughout this game but to find the Buster you need only start watching this game with 1:54 left on the clock at the end of the third quarter with the Raiders ahead 16-7. That last 16:54 was when this game was decided. It can sometimes be unfair to blame one player alone for the loss of a game. Afterall, there were plenty of times where a tackle was missed or a catch was given up or a play was not made. But those were isolated plays that were distributed among different players and are to be expected. In this case, however, the blame does indeed fall at the feet of one player. That player, of course, is:
We will start the action on a masterful Shane Lechler punt to pin the Bills on their 4 yard line as we head to the 2 minute warning commercial at the end of the third quarter. Hopefully for Raider fan's sakes, they hadn't eaten too much by this point because this is when the rollercoaster ride could make you vomit.
When we come back from the break, the Bills start their drive with an improbable 96 yards to go for a TD. With the Raiders up by 9 points the Bills are in need of a TD to keep their hopes alive. A TD is something the Bills hadn't had since early in the first half and they needed a turnover and a short field just to get that TD. To start the drive Hall was out of position and would have given up a long catch to Lee Evans but the Bills were called for holding. A few plays later he gives up an 11yd catch to Parrish on 3rd down to give the Bills a first down. He was way out of position on a Jake Reed catch and then misses the tackle for a huge gain. Then he gives up another big catch to Reed to give the Bills 1st and goal. The Bills run it in from there on a play in which Gibril Wilson gets ejected for a personal foul call. The ejection was ludicrous but we will move on.
When the Raiders get the ball it looks like it will be a three and out with the first two calls being predictable runs for a loss of yardage. But the next play is a beautiful slant pass play that Jonnie Lee Higgins takes 84 yards to the house. Hall looks as if he may get a reprieve as the Raiders get their 9 point lead back. Yet again the refs blow a completely bogus taunting call on the TD that offsets a Donte Whitner unnecessary roughness call that would have pinned the Bills deep in their own end again after the kickoff. But it was not to be. Now let's move on.
On the ensuing Bills posession Hall gives up a 22 yard third down catch to Reed. Then a 10 yard catch to Evans for another Bills 1st down. And the Bills march down the field and score another TD to bring it back to a 2 pt game.
The Raiders come in and call two identical, predictable run plays for yet another loss of yards. This time the desperate 3rd and long play is incomplete and they are forced to punt from their own 17 yard line.
Despite a nice punt by Lechler, the Bills still have good field position and this time they need only to get into field goal range to win it. By this point the defense has been on the field for all but 3 minutes of the fourth quarter and they are exhausted. Thomas Howard (who was fantastic the rest of the game) gives up two big 1st down catches and the Bills march down into field goal range, run the clock down, and kick a field goal to win it.
The announcers were saying all game how the Raiders were playing such inspired football. Well, DeAngelo Hall reached into his teammates' chests and ripped out their hearts. He also ripped out mine and every other Raider fan's heart too. In my "Key Matchups" artilce on Saturday, I listed DeAngleo Hall vs. Lee Evans. It turned out to be DeAngelo Hall vs. ANYONE.
In a game like this there is certainly a great deal of "woulda, coulda, shoulda" moments. But to find the biggest of those moments for this game you would need to rewind back a few months. Back to the day the Raiders traded their 2nd round pick to the Falcons to acquire DeAngelo Hall. That is really the moment this game was lost. Let's just ponder this for a moment; what would this team look like if it had not made that deal?
- Stanford Routt would be the starter opposite Asomugha after Routt had a great season last year surpassing Fabian Washington on the depth chart.
- Washington would not have been traded and would be the nickel back which would not be bad at all.
- The Raiders wouldn't have been suckered into getting a 4th rounder in the form of Arman Shields who at this point is a wasted pick as he is out for the season.
- The money given to Hall would have been used to lock up Asomugha long term.
- Because Asomugha's cap number would have been just a couple million more than he is already making, the Raiders would probably have been able to pay Derrick Burgess as well (although AD likely wouldn't have, but who knows?)
- AND to think what the team could have used the 34th pick for! It hurts to think of what kind of holes could have been filled with that pick.
- The combo of Routt and Fabian would have been better than having Hall on that side in both this game and the Broncos game. In this game it certainly would have made the difference between 1-2 and 2-1.
As I said, Hall was not the only player guilty of making some bad plays. For instance; the coaching overall in the fourth quarter was too conservative and was "Not playing to win but rather playing not to lose." But as a team the Raiders looked really good. They looked to have this game in hand until Hall blew it...over and over again. All he needed to do was stop ONE of the many 3rd down catches he gave up and that would have been enough. But he couldn't do that. That Interception he had early in the third quarter became a distant memory. My mom used to say to me "One ‘Oh sh*t' ruins a hundred ‘Attaboys'." And in this case it was "a hundred ‘Oh sh*ts' ruins one ‘Attaboy'."
Gave up a 20 yard catch and run on his missed tackle. Later gave up a 10 yard run and then was offsides on the next play. After that Kalimba Edwards was in for the remainder of the game.
Lane Kiffin and Rob Ryan
They were great through three quarters, especially Ryan, but if the play calls are predictable on offense and soft on defense in crunch time, what difference does it make what they did before that? Al Davis may just use this as his excuse to fire Kiffin. As if he ever really needed one.
Had two good throws all day. One was a nice 22 yard pass that required a great sliding catch from Ashley Lelie to put the Raiders in scoring position. The other was the slant pass to Higgins that he took 84 yards to score. Just about everything else was not so good. He was throwing behind receivers all day and he had a terrible fumble on the Raiders 23 yard line that gave the Bills an easy score. Two good throws all day will not get it done. And not protecting the ball AGAIN is a sure fire way to lose a game. Last week it cost us a score, this week it gave up a score. Either way, it is seven points lost.
Was nonexistent yet again. Not much more to say about that.
Jonnie Lee Higgins
It is quite nice to see him make some plays worthy of making this list. He began the game exactly the way you want to begin a game. He had a 68 yard kickoff return that set up the Raiders first score of the game. He also played smartly by letting kicks inside the ten yard line bounce into the end zone. He later had a nice 15 yard run back into Bills territory that looked like he would get nothing. Then, of course, there was the big 84 yard TD catch that LOOKED to seal the game for the Raiders.
He had three field goals to give the Raiders their only scoring in the first half and the lead. He tackled Leodis McKelvin which saved a TD on a run back which resulted in the Bills not scoring going into the half.
I mentioned in "Key Matchups" that we would need a great effort from our special teams. And most importantly we would need all of Lechler's big leg. And we got it. He began his punting by booming two long high punts that Parrish fair caught inside the 20 yard line. Then he boomed a 57 yarder that had a hold on the return tacked on and put the Bills on their one inch line. Then he had the aforementioned punt that pinned the Bills on the 4 yard line. Roscoe Parrish was no where to be found as a punt returner. Brian Mooreman of the Bills was selected for the pro bowl over Lechler last year. In this game it was glaringly clear who was the REAL probowl punter.
DID NOT GIVE UP A SACK! Not only that but he was a beast in run blocking. He opened a hole for a 13 yard McFadden run in the 2nd quarter, then a 17 yard run by Michael Bush and a nice 8 yard run by McFadden in the third quarter to set up the Raiders first TD. That TD was a JaMarcus Russell QB sneak that went right through him.
Entire Dline (not named Jay Richardson)
They made Trent Edwards life miserable through three quarters. On the first play of the game Tommy Kelly pressured Edwards resulting in an incompletion. Then 2 plays later Gerard Warren sacked Edwards for a 12 yard loss causing the Bills to go three and out on their first drive. Later in the first, Derrick Burgess tackled Lynch for a loss and two plays later Kalimba Edwards pressured the QB into throwing the ball away on 3rd down. On the Bills next posession, Kalimba Edwards had a sack and forced a fumble that Sands alertly fell on to give the Raiders the ball in Bills territory and led to another Janikowski field goal to give the Raider the lead back. Kalimba Edwards and Terdell Sands were in the Bills backfield pressuring the QB and stuffing runs throughout the third quarter and they aren't even the starters. Speaking of non-starters; Fred Wakefield made his presence felt at DT. First he disrupted a run play stopping Lynch for a loss. Then a few plays later he tipped a pass at the line that negated what would have been a pass interference call on Thomas Howard. So instead of 1st down at the 50, it was 2nd down at the Bills 35. The line also made life difficult for Marshawn Lynch whenever he tried the middle of the line and held him to 3.6 ypc.
Didn't give up any long catches and had four tackles including one on Lynch to stop him for a short gain. He also had a forced fumble on Lee Evans on a catch that would have put the Bills in field goal range just before the half.
Despite the absolutely ridiculous and unwarranted ejection, he had a good game. He was 2nd on the team in tackles with five and nearly all of them were great plays. He had three run stuffs and two tackles in coverage, one for minimal gain. He would have had another TFL if not for the receiver dropping the pass in the flat on a play he sniffed out. He also had two QB pressures and recovered the fumble that Asomugha forced.