And so it came to pass that the Raiders yet again could not string together two wins in a row. This team seems to be able to get up for the formidable teams and yet when they play the lesser lot of the NFL, they lose all of that bluster that got them the big win just a week prior.
This team has beaten the playoff bound Eagles and Bengals as well as the playoff hopeful Broncos and Steelers. And yet how the same team can lose convincingly to the pathetic Chiefs, Redskins, and Browns is baffling.
This time, of course, it was the Browns' turn to be witness to the Raiders' self destruction. Promising drives by the Raiders would suddenly end with penalties, poor play selection, or a turnover, while drives by the Browns would somehow just continue because of poor execution, and lack of discipline by the Raiders.
The Raiders seemed angry in this game, but not the good kind of angry that won them the game against the Broncos last week. This was the kind of game that gets multiple unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and two ejections (seriously, Stanford Routt and Tony Stewart were both ejected for two separate incidents).
Now it is my sworn duty to give recognition to those who kept their heads about them and played smart, disciplined football -- and serve up those who served up that rancid turd that was pinched off in Cleveland on Sunday.
Janikowski played an extremely large role in the Raiders' having success in this game. His first job was to keep the ball out of Joshua Cribbs' hands at all costs. And he did that. The only decent return by the Browns on the day came from Jerome Harrison to start the second half. I blame that more on John Fassel or Tom Cable for asking Janikowski to kick to that part of the field instead of to the corner or out of the back of the end zone. In fact, I questioned not kicking the ball out of the end zone all day but Janikowski executed the design so well each time (except that one time) that it wasn't a huge problem. But aside from his kick-off duties, he earns the top Baller spot for his field goals. He was 3 for 3 on Sunday. The first one was a 44 yarder, the second was a 34 yarder and the third one was a career high 61 yarder that he hit to send the Browns into the locker room with just a one score lead. That field goal is the fourth longest field goal of all time. He has had the best season of his career this year and so it is fitting that he finally hit the length of field goal that he was always said to be capable of hitting when he was drafted in the first round out of Florida State. His field goal percentage alone has earned him a Pro Bowl nod as he has missed only one field goal inside 50 yards. Heck, he has only missed two field goals over 50 yards despite attempting 8 of them. He hasn't gotten the recognition because the Raiders are not a potent offense so he hasn't gotten as many opportunities as some kickers have. Last week he hit his third 54 yard field goal of the season and this week he set a new career high while taking over sole possession of the fourth longest kick ever. I would say he is sure to get the recognition now. But whether the voters show it is another story altogether.
He easily led all receivers with 9 catches for 110 yards. In fact, he had as many catches as the entire Raider wide receiver corp combined. Just for good measure, he alone had more catches than the entire Browns TEAM. His second catch of the game was in the beginning of the second quarter and it was the only catch on the drive. It went for 12 yards and instantly put the Raiders in scoring position where Janikowski would hit his 34 yarder to bring the Raiders within four. On the next drive he caught a short pass on third down which was good for a first down. Unfortunately, a holding penalty and a sack after that would back the Raiders up and they were forced to punt. His next catch came on the Raiders' final drive before halftime and just 18 seconds left on the clock. It went for 9 yards. One play later Janikowski would set up for his record setting 61 yard field goal before the break. On the Raiders' first possession of the fourth quarter, he had an 11 yard catch to put the Raiders in scoring position but Frye threw an interception on the next play to end the drive. His next catch was a 27 yard catch to set the Raiders up at the 26 yard line. He was then called for a completely bogus taunting penalty. The replay shows him taunting NO ONE in any way whatsoever. Then a play after he caught a ball for 7 yards, Frye threw a pass intended for him but he was interfered with to give the Raiders an automatic first down at the 2 yard line. Four blown pass plays later, the Raiders would be held out of the end zone. Miller had his most impressive catch and run on the Raiders final drive. He caught it about 15 yards out and ran past a couple defenders and stiff armed another until he had taken the pass 31 yards downfield. Unfortunately, the drive would end in another interception to essentially end the game. Miller did his part, as usual, but there is only so much he can do.
He was given the ball 10 times and got 52 yards out of it. So clearly he was in the same form he was last week. He simply wasn't given enough opportunities to carry the Raiders to a win. But he averaged 5.2 yards per carry and the Browns had no answer for him. Again, he did what was asked and more. He simply wasn't asked to do it enough (more on that later).
Yeah, he shut down his side and gave up no catches as per usual. Along the way he had tight coverage to force an incompletion on the Browns' second possession. The drive would end one play later with a field goal. On the Browns' first possession of the second half, he came up on a run play out of the wildcat and got the corner before Cribbs could get there to force him inside and where he was tackled for a short gain. That drive would end one play later with a field goal. On the next Browns drive, it looked as if the Browns had a touchdown run from Jerome Harrison but the problem was that Nnamdi had perfect position to make the stop so a Browns defender had to block him in the back. The run was called back and a few plays later, the Raiders would force Harrison to fumble and the Raiders would take over without the Browns scoring. You didn't see him otherwise because the Browns were not stupid enough to test him. Smart move.
He had 4 catches for 64 yards and should have had a few more through little or no fault of his own. On the Raiders' second drive he was thrown at twice. Both times he was wide open and both times Frye was off the mark. The first time he had his man beaten and Frye overthrew it. The second time it was an underneath, out pattern that Frye threw wide and out of bounds. Frye would continue to find Schilens open the rest of the day with better success. On the next drive, Schilens caught a 16 yard pass on one play and on the next play he would lay a nice block to spring Michael Bush for a 14 yard run. Then two plays later he had another catch for 4 yards. He would drop his only pass of the day two plays later but the Raiders were already in scoring position and got a field goal out of the effort. The Browns would lock him down for a little while after that but near the end of the third quarter, with the Raiders at their own 6 yard line, he would catch a 20 yard pass on first down to give them some breathing room. Then late in the game after a penalty started the Raiders on their own 6 yard line again, he caught a 21 yard pass on second down. It would be the first play en route to a 92 yard drive that ended on the Browns 2 yard line. On the Raiders' final drive of the game, he had a 6 yard catch on the first play but then the drive ended for the Raiders when Frye stared Schilens down and the defense read it and intercepted the pass to end the Raiders' chances.
Tyvon Branch: He did give up one big catch in the game to the Browns' tight end that went for 25 yards, but other than that he played a great game. He was second on the team in tackles with 7 solo and 1 assist. This includes a couple of tackles on special teams as well.
Last Friday I laid out a few things that I thought the Raiders needed to do to win this game against the Browns. One of those points was to hand the ball to Michael Bush. Along with that, it was inferred not to put the game on the arm of Charlie Frye. Unfortunately, that was advice that Cable did not follow. Even after Bush had 133 yards last week, he didn't allow Bush to carry this team. Even after Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs ran all over the Browns last week, he apparently didn't trust that Bush could and would do the same thing. Even though Bush had 50 yards on just 9 carries by HALFTIME of this game, Cable only gave him the ball one more time the entire rest of the game. Heck, Bush didn't even touch the ball for the first time until the Raiders' third possession. And while Bush had just 10 carries all game, Frye threw the ball 45 times. How much sense does that make? On the Raiders' first possession, Cable had McFadden run for a short gain, and then Frye threw right into the arms of a defender for an easy interception. The Raiders' second possession, he ran McFadden for a short gain and then had Frye pass the ball twice for two incompletions and a three and out. Are you seeing a trend here? The Browns clearly saw the trend before it even happened. Perhaps Rob Ryan knew exactly what Tom Cable was going to do: just what he should not have done. Bush was finally given the ball on the Raiders' third drive and he ran for 18 yards on two carries to help the Raiders get their first score of the day. Give Bush the ball and the Raiders score; what a concept. And even though the concept should have been realized at that point, it apparently wasn't. The next two drives would end on failed pass plays. Then after a holding and a sack (yes, two more failed pass plays) would stunt the Raiders' next drive, they gave the ball back to the Browns with 1:46 left in the half. For some reason Cable thought that this was enough time to stop the Browns, get the ball back and score before half so after one play by the Browns, he called a time out to stop the clock. What would happen next was an implosion of mind boggling fashion. To make a long story short, the Browns would get several first downs accompanied by two Raider unnecessary roughness penalites, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty culminating in a 17 yard touchdown strike with :18 left on the clock. Eighteen seconds is less clock time than is taken to call a play. You think the Browns could have gotten down the field and scored if Cable hadn't called that time out? Probably not. The time out was a premature anticipation and it backfired big time. Then to start the second half Janikowski was told to kick towards Jerome Harrison instead of Joshua Cribbs and instead of... well, away from ANYONE. After Harrison fielded the kick, he ran it back to the Raiders 47 yard line. Another big-time back fire. Then three straight drives after that would end on pass plays (intentional grounding, tip pass at line, and interception), the Raiders would have a drive to the Browns' 2 yard line. With first and goal at the 2, Cable called FOUR STRAIGHT PASS PLAYS. Every single pass fell incomplete. The third was intercepted but the defender had only one foot inbounds. The final Raiders drive of the game was also ALL pass plays and it ended with the final Frye interception. All the while, Bush ran the ball just ONCE the entire second half. Explain that one, Tom.
Sure, he had 333 yards of passing. I would hope he had over 300 yards when he had 45 pass attempts. But it really doesn't matter how many passing yards you have if you have no points to show for it to go along with 3 interceptions. His first interception was his first pass play of the game. Heck, JaMarcus Russell can do that. In fact I think it is his trademark. It would set the Browns up at the Raiders 17 yard line where they would score a touchdown in two plays. When the Raiders got the ball back, he would make two wildly inaccurate throws. Both had Schilens wide open, one was an overthrow and the other was thrown wide out of bounds. Those too are also JaMarcus Russell trademark throws. Throws like that are why this team lost 7 of its first 9 games this season. Two drives later Frye ended a drive when he threw an errant pass incomplete. He seemed to settle in a bit for a while after that but he still couldn't get the Raiders into the end zone. Then the fourth quarter came and he had his second interception. He was late on a timing route to Higgins that was jumped by the defender. The Raiders were at the Browns' 24 yard line and looking to score but instead left without even a field goal to show for it. The return on the interception would set the Browns up with good field position and they would turn it into a field goal of their own. That's at least a 6 point swing. Add that to the 7 points he gave the Browns to start the game and you have a score of 13-12 in the fourth quarter. If he had been able to complete any of those passes from the 2 yard line (that he should have been asked to attempt), that would have been a Raider touchdown. Or if he hadn't thrown his final bonehead interception to end the game, that could have been a score. As I said, yards mean nothing. You give the other team easy points while not scoring any of your own, you lose.
Jonnie Lee Higgins
JLH was doing his best DHB impression in this game. Well, his DHB is better than the real DHB considering JLH's one catch was longer than any catch DHB had all season. But this is not about DHB, it is about JLH so I will stick to topic. On the Raiders' final possession of the first quarter, he flat out dropped their best chance to keep the drive alive. Later, in the third quarter, he dropped another pass and with the Raiders in third and long, the drive would end on the next play. Then in the fourth quarter after he had a nice 33 yard catch to start the drive, it ended on Frye's second interception. Sure Frye was late on the pass but Higgins didn't come back to try and fight for the ball or knock it away from the defender. He just watched as the defender jumped the pass and returned it half way down the field. That was just his day as a receiver. As a returner, he only had two returns for a total of TWO yards. One went for zero yards and the other for 2 yards. Then to put an exclamation point on it, he muffed the final punt of the game. Luckily it went out of bounds but at that point it didn't make much difference.
He started his day by getting completely manhandled on the block that allowed Jerome Harrison to run through the line untouched for a 17 yard touchdown in the first 1:30 of the game. Then later in the game, on the Raider implosion to end the first half, he completely lost his s#*t. He was called for offsetting unnecessary roughness penalties when he and a Browns Olineman got into a scuffle. But apparently that didn't sit well with him and he got angry with the ref and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. When it happened, the Browns were still on their own 23 yard line with just 1:22 on the clock. Later in the drive he and Gerard Warren would both take an outside angle to try to get pressure while Harrison ran right up the middle for a nice gain. But it was the two penalties he had that kept the Browns drive alive and would lead to a touchdown before half time. The two score lead was one the Raiders couldn't overcome. After this penalty there would be several more to follow, many of which seemed to be fallout from this initial incident. Seymour is supposed to be a leader on this team. The Raiders traded for him so he could be a positive example for his teammates. Well, they certainly followed his lead in this game. And he led them straight to a loss.
Speaking of fallout, Routt was the next Raider player to lose it. Two plays after Seymour's incident, Routt head butted a Browns player and according to an official, it was so vicious that it warranted Routt being ejected from the game. The Raiders have been seriously lacking in depth at the corner position so the loss of Routt is a big deal. What was just as big was the 15 yards that came with the unnecessary roughness penalty. It set the Browns up at the Raiders' 27 yard line and a drive that started with the Browns just looking to run out the clock, was now a scoring opportunity that materialized right before their eyes. Oddly enough, after that the Raiders actually looked better on defense in his absence. You can interpret that however you like.
Cooper Carlisle, Chris Morris
Just prior to that imploding drive, the Raiders were stopped on a drive that looked like it had some promise. But thanks to a Chris Morris holding penalty and Cooper Carlisle giving up a sack on Frye, that drive ended just short of a scoring opportunity. After the penalty and the sack, the Raiders were knocked out of field goal range and were in third and 24. This after the Raiders had already made up for Carlisle giving up a run stuff a few plays before that. Then early in the third quarter these two would team up to stop the Raiders again. The first play of the drive, Morris was called for holding but it was declined because the Browns had stuffed McFadden at the line anyway. Then three plays later Carlisle was brushed off by his man and Frye tried to get rid of the ball as he was being sacked and was called for intentional grounding. The loss of down would end the drive. Oh, and by the way, Morris came in for an injured Langston Walker and on his fourth play from scrimmage he had a drive killing false start penalty. Breathe.
This is a Buster I didn't want to list because he played his tail off in this game. But there is no denying that a lot of the yards and scoring went through him so he has to be here. He gave up the second touchdown of the game on a 17 yard touchdown pass to Mohammed Massaquoi at the end of the first half. Earlier in that same drive he gave up a 14 yard catch as well. In the third quarter he was beaten for a 28 yard catch on third down. Then in the fourth quarter he was called for pass interference on third down. That drive ended in a field goal and the final score of the game.