The Redskins came to town as one of the tougher teams in recent weeks despite the fact that they had just 3 wins on the season. They came within a chipshot missed field goal of beating the undefeated Saints and have given every other team they have played all they could handle. Sunday was no different in that regard.
The difference ended up being penalties and the Raiders porous offensive line that kept them from matching the Redskins blow for blow as other teams had done. The Raiders gave up 8 sacks to the Redskins-- 4 of those sacks were at the hands of rookie Brian Orakpo. The Raiders also racked up 14 penalties for 118 yards not to mention the positive yards that were wiped out when a penalty negated it.
The Raiders punted to the Redskins with the score tied at ten and two minutes remaining in the first half and that it when the wheels came off. Actually that is an understatement. The best way I can describe it would be for you to picture those video footage of a building being demolished. How they blow the foundation with explosives and the entire building collapses on itself in a cloud of smoke and within a few seconds there is just a pile of rubble where the building once stood.
So let's go over that footage to see who attempted to build a sound structure and who set the charges to cause the implosion.
He was a Baller last week after he seemed to thrive in his new hybrid LB/DE role. Well, this week he seemed to be playing his more traditional defensive end pass rush specialist and he looked even better. In fact, he looked better than he has looked all season. He was third on the team in tackles which is always good for a defensive end. What was better was where he was getting those tackles and the pressure he consistently putting on the quarterback. He had one sack on the day and he got in on the Redskins second play of the game. The drive would end with a three and out. Two possessions later, he got pressure again on the first play of the drive. The next drive he had two run stuffs-- one for a loss. Next drive he had tight coverage on the tight end on a designed roll out dump off, forcing Jason Campbell to throw the ball away. The drive ended in a three and out again. He had another quarterback pressure on the following drive. He had two other run stuffs and an assist in the game that all resulted in little or no gain. Even though he is lining up as a defensive end and pressuring the quarterback like one too, he is also playing the run and dropping into coverage like a linebacker. He is really becoming quite a gem.
Finally, we see the versatility and game breaking ability everyone had been expecting from him. He lined up at receiver several times and looked the best he has ever looked as an NFL player in that role. He led the Raiders in receiving with 3 catches for 84 yards. His biggest play was a catch that went for 48 yards. It was a quick slant that Gradkowski put in his chest in stride and he was off to the races. After about 30 yards, he was met by the safety trying to make the tackle. But he stiff-armed him and took the ball for about 20 more yards. The catch, speed and refusal to go down easily were all very impressive and long overdue. And if that play wasn't impressive enough, he had another great catch that was just as eye-popping for reasons all it's own. It was a simple timing route in which McFadden was to run 25 yards down field and turn back for the ball. But he turned to find that Gradkowski had thrown the ball to his outside shoulder (away from the defender). He made a complete adjustment falling backward and he caught the ball for a 26 yard gain. It was the largest gain on the drive that ended in the Raiders only touchdown of the game. Through the second half, he commanded such attention that he cleared out defenders to allow other receivers to get open. Receiver like this next guy...
Caught a team high 7 passes in this game. Unfortunately he was only able to get 46 yards on those catches but all he can do is catch what is thrown his way, even if they are litte dinks and dunks. With that said, he did miss a perfect ball right in his hands that would have resulted in about a 30 yard completion. But when a guy catches 7 passes in the game, I think he is allowed a little mishap. He isn't perfect you know. Just darn close to it.
As per usual, he kept the Raiders competitive and had them aligned to have a chance to win the game. Even with constant pressure, he still managed to escape and move the ball down the field. And he has his teammates inspired around him too. He was on pace for another 300 yard outing when the pressure finally became too much. He hurt BOTH of his knees in this game from pass rushers barreling down on him. Normally getting sacked twice would be a bad thing. In this case, it was more like he ONLY got sacked twice. He escaped and made positive yardage several times in the face of a potential sack. The second knee was injured when he had a defender hanging on his leg and he made a Brett Favresque flip to Justin Fargas that resulted in a first down with a chance to scrore in the waning seconds of the first half. He would not return for the second half and finished the game 10-18 for 153 yards and no interceptions. With him out of the game, the Raiders would only score a field goal the remainder of the game while giving up 6 more sacks and turning the ball over once inside their own territory.
He had just two tackles on the day and both were open field tackles for loss on the running back. He also saw one ball thrown to his receiver on the day at which time he earned a pass defended as he batted it down incomplete. He went out injured for a short time in the game but late in the game, he cam back in despite the game being out of hand. Some All-Pro players might just not see it necessary to come back into the game. But he came back and promptly registered his second run stuffing tackle for loss.
This was the kind of game that nightmares are made of. For the past few weeks, "Super Mario" has not been too super. And this has by far the worst game of his short career. His first miscue was when he gave up a quarterback pressure resulting in an incompletion on third down to end the Raiders' initially promising second drive. A few drives later, he ran up field to block the middle linebacker, allowing the defensive end to shoot into the backfield and stop the running back for a loss. The middle linebacker was the assignment of Satele of the play and so while they double teamed the linebacker five yards up field, Fargas was getting stuffed in the backfield. To end the first half, he was pushed back into Gradkowski and then fell over him to injure him and essentially knock him out of the game. In the second half, with Gradkowski out and Russell in, the news got worse for Mario...much worse. On the Raiders second drive, he gave up two sacks on back to back plays. The Raiders were forced to punt on fourth and 35. After a Redskin touchdown, a one-play drive consisting of a Russell interception and another Redskin touchdown, Mario was at it again. On the first play he gave up ANOTHER sack. This time Russell fumbled and Henderson was lucky to fall on the ball after a 17 yard loss to the Raiders' 3 yard line. To put a cherry on this crap sundae, the final play of the game was a fourth down incompletion because Henderson was beaten around the edge again and the pressure forced a poor throw. I pondered the question a couple of weeks ago if defensive ends in the league may have found the chink in Henderson's armor or if he was just in a temporary funk. This performance may have answered that question definitively. I hate to say it but this could officially signal the Raiders' need to draft a top tier left tackle next year. And I had high hopes for him too.
While Green started out the game playing well, when the rain started coming down (so to speak), it poured. Like monsoon. The first mistake Green made was his biggest. It was when he was beaten around the outside to allow his made to grab Gradkowski's leg and twist him down. Then Henderson fell on him and Gradkowski was out which meant the Raiders were out because Russell would get the call after that. But Green was far from done. Oh no, he had much more craptastic tricks up his sleeve. In the same initially successful drive in the third quarter that Henderson combusted, Green contributed to as well. After the Raiders drove 35 yards downfield and into at least field goal range, he gave up a tackle for loss on McFadden. Then three plays later, he was called for being illegally downfield that negated what would have been another Zach Miller reception and put the Raiders in a manageable second down situation. A field goal would have made it a one point game but after the penalty and sacks, that was no longer an option. The Raiders had two final last-gasp drives. The first one ended in a turnover on downs when Green gave up a sack. And the final drive, Green was called for holding that would negate a first down catch by Higgins and the game would end one play later.
I don't know what it will take for him to understand what he needs to accomplish for this team to win. He stares down receivers, throws late, has no pocket presence and he dumps the ball for 2 yard gains when the Raiders have to have 15. What about that big arm of his? What difference does it make how far he can throw if he is always dumping the ball off to his check downs? It is not a fluke that he was sacked 6 times while Gradkowski was sacked 2 times. He has no escapability and often times scrambles right into the pass rusher. His interception should have been a nice completion but he has no ability to see a man get open. Schilens found an open spot but Russell saw it too late and when he tried to get the ball to him, the defenders were already closing in. The Redskins would get the ball in Raider territory and score a touchdown to seal the victory. Then to add insult to injury, on the very next Raider possession, he fumbled the ball for a 17 yard loss and a punt of their own end zone. The Raiders cannot and will not be winners with him as the quarterback.
Continuing the theme of incompetent blocking, we have Luke Lawton's sad performance. On the Raiders' second possession, with the offense clicking and the team looking like they might score, he whiffed on his blocking assignment and gave up a 9 yard sack. And that ended that drive empty handed. On the next drive, after the big 48 yard McFadden catch and run, Lawton was brushed aside easily by an oncoming rusher to cause a rushed pass and incompletion. The drive would end there and the Raiders would settle for a field goal. Next drive, with the Raiders set up at the 4 yard line, looking to score, he ran past Gradkowski as the blocking back and on his way by, he stuck his arm out and popped the ball out of Gradkowski's hands before he could hand it off to Fargas. The fumble would cause a 7 yard loss and threatened to stunt the best drive of the day for the Raiders. Luckily it didn't as the Raiders would punch it in two plays later anyway. On the very next drive, after three plays, the Raiders were in third and one at their own 21 yard line. They handed the ball to Fargas off right guard but the linebacker came up and Lawton was chopped down in the running lane and Fargas was stopped at the line of scrimmage forcing the Raiders to punt. A fullback is not supposed to end three drives in a half and almost end a fourth. But not only did he aid in the implosion but I didn't once see him lay a nice block to spring a Raider runner for even modest yardage, let alone significant yardage. Put fullback on that wish list too.
The special teams continues to be a glaring weak spot on this team. Two of the most significant mistakes of the game happened on special teams. The first was John Fassel's mistake solely. On a punt return by the Redskins, Hiram Eugene was called for interference on the return catch. It was a horrible call which on replay showed perfect timing on Eugene's part. But then Fassel in his anger, albeit justified, came storming onto the field getting in the face of the official which prompted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to be called on him. That penalty tacked onto the interference penalty put the the Redskins at the 40 yard line to start their drive. Three plays laters, they scored a touchdown to break what should have been a 10-10 tie at halftime. The special teams had more mistakes to be made though. After a nice drive in the final seconds of the half to put Janikowski in line for a 66 yard field goal, they pondered the decision too long which caused a rushed kick. In the rush, Janikowski would slip on his plant foot and the kick would fall well short of the uprights (but perfectly on line). Granted Tom Cable has the ultimate decision in such matters, but the Raiders' special teams has been a disorganized mess all season under Fassel, so this is just part and parcel to that.