The Chiefs and the Raiders met up this week in a matchup of bottom feeders to see who could make the fewest mistakes. It was reminiscent of that South Park episode where the boys are playing Little League baseball and competing to see who could lose so they wouldn't have to keep playing. In this case, it seems like the two teams were competing to see who gets a higher draft pick. If you look at it that way, the Raiders won.
Although when you consider that the Raiders last three top picks are either inconsequential or the very reason they lost, it probably is not that much of a win even in that regard. No, this one felt like a loss all-around. There is nothing that can be taken from this game that Raider fans have not already beat their collective heads against the wall about almost constantly the past seven seasons. And the most nauseating and infuriating thing is that we all know this cycle will play itself out indefinitely.
This week's list has a few usual suspects on it but it also has a few complete role reversals. A few guys that were a midseason Baller or Buster, have made the other list. So it seems I jinxed the Ballers and gave the Busters some motivation. As I have said before, these guys thrive on negative criticism and fail when they are confident. Well, some do. Some overcome it and others play terrible no matter what.
With that said, let's get to those that overcame and to those that under whelmed.
It is nice to see him break out again. He had 119 yards rushing on the day which is the first time a Raiders running back has gone over hundred yards since...Michael Bush had 177 yards against the Bucs at the end of last season. His big run was a 60 yarder that occurred on the second play of the game. It put the Raiders in scoring position on the 4 yard line. Fargas would punch it in two plays later. He was workmanlike until the third quarter when Tom Cable finally decided he would just run the ball. Bush carried the ball five straight times for 36 yards and three first downs. Then for whatever reason Cable decided to have Russell throw the ball. Two wildly off-target incompletions later and the drive ended. Bush was the only good thing the Raiders had going on offense but unfortunately he wasn't enough.
As usual, he had a solid day from the strong safety position. He had 8 solo tackles and 2 assists on the day which was good for second on the team. Four of those tackles were run stuffs, one for a loss. Two other tackles were short of the first down on third down to force a punt. He had two passes defended as well as two coverage incompletions. He ended three different drives for the Chiefs. One in which the Chiefs were in first and goal on the 7 yard line. He stuffed a run attempt on second down and had tight coverage in the end zone forcing Cassel to throw the ball away. The Chiefs would settle for a field goal.
Here is the first of those role reversals I spoke of. After being a midseason Buster, Morrison came out and played a nice game. He led the team in solo tackles which isn't that unusual all by itself. But Morrison's big problem has been giving up the big plays. The only really big play on the day was the Chiefs' 44 yard touchdown run on fourth and one. A play in which Morrison sealed off the outside forcing Jamaal Charles to go inside. At which point, a Raider defender is supposed to be there to stop him. Morrison did his part and his fellow linebackers and defensive ends were not there to finish it off. The fact is, he was Kirky on the spot all day. When he wasn't stuffing the run at the line, he was chasing down runners and receivers from behind. He forced a fumble that would have been a great play for the Raiders had it not been that the ball bounced around until it was twenty yards downfield and recovered by the Chiefs. Again, Morrison did his part and his teammates couldn't finish it off. A few plays later, Morrison stopped the tightend short of the first down. The Chiefs failed to convert on fourth down and were turned away without scoring. He ended his day by tackling the Chiefs runner short of the first down to give the Raiders the ball back with enough time to make a push to win it. And again, Morrison did his job, then the offense couldn't finish it off.
He punted 11 times on the day and 5 times inside the 20 yard line. His first punt was fair caught at the 9 yard line. His second punt was muffed and recovered by the Raiders. His third punt traveled 52 yards. His fourth and fifth punts went for 55 and 57 yards and in both cases the returner was tackled immediately at the 19 yard line for minimal gain. His next punt was fair caught at the 11 yard line. I am thinking that I should just put him on the Baller list as a given (like Al Davis as a Buster). He is the best in the game and will be for a long time so there is not much else to say about it. He will certainly give the announcers something to talk about when the Raiders head into Dallas Stadium in two weeks. That big screen above the field will be nice target practice.
He had two neutral zone infractions in this game. The first one worked in the Raiders' favor because it negated a first down catch by the Chiefs to set up third and 12. Chris Johnson intercepted the ball on the next play. The other neutral zone infraction didn't hurt much as Richard Seymour would deflect Cassel's pass on the next play and the Chiefs would have to punt. The rest of his day was great. He had a quarterback pressure on the Chiefs second drive. Two drives later he sacked Cassel for an 8 yard loss. Later he had a pass deflection at the line. He also had a two run stuffs for no gain.
Speaking of role reversals... Cornell Green is almost never a Baller. He must have been refreshed after being out for so many weeks because he was bringin' it in that game. Not only did he not give up a sack on the day but he had no penalties either. This after his replacements Eric Pears and Khalif Barnes racked up many sacks and penalties. Where Green was visible (in a good way) was in run blocking. The three runs Michael Bush had to start the Raiders' first drive of the second half were all successful because Green was up field plowing the way. The result was 26 yards and two first downs. Never thought I would say this but, it's good to have Cornell Green back.
Another fine performance from the best rookie in this draft class. The Raiders haven't missed a beat with Greg Ellis being out. On the Chiefs first drive he sealed off the running lane to allow Jon Alston to tackle the running back for a loss. In the third quarter he did it again on a pass into the flat to allow Alston to tackle the back for minimal gain. Then in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs intercepted the ball and with the Chiefs up by 3, he sacked Cassel on first down to make it second and 7. Then he chased down a screen for 6 yards to set up third and 11. Unfortunately the Cheifs were able to convert and make a field goal anyway but Shaughnessy did everything he could to prevent it.
I am beginning to wonder if this guy ever knew how to catch. How was he rated as a top prospect? How was he even "Honorable Mention!" all ACC? He had two golden opportunities in this game to catch the ball and put the Raiders in position to score. And he pulled the same pathetically amateur move both times. What he does is he leaps in the air and tries to catch the ball in his gut only to have the ball fall right through his arms and to the turf (see the above picture). He did the same thing in the game against the Jets on an easy touchdown grab. It is not unlike that of a 4 year old child trying to catch a ball. What do the experts always say about a receiver catching with his hands? Well, "Drops Hella-Balls" doesn't seem to know what his hands are for. They aren't for throwing up in the air or shrugging and saying "I did my job out there." At this point, he should be using them to cover his face in shame. The second of his bumbling idiot attempts at catching the ball, ended up being the last play of the game for the Raiders. He not only dropped the ball, but then he kicked it straight up in the air for an easy interception to end the Raiders chances of scoring and giftwrap a win for the Chiefs. He is the worst receiver I have EVER SEEN. Truly, he is a completely incompetent fraud. But I digress.
Jonnie Lee Higgins
What is it with the three name receivers on this team? In Higgins' case, he was at least good at one time. He just had a really terrible game. On the Raiders' second drive he ran an end around that he tried to go wide on and ended up getting stopped for a gain of just 2 yards. Then on third down he caught a 2 yard pass and could have gotten the first down but instead opted to try and juke a defender and was tackled immediately, forcing a punt. Next time he saw the ball, he ran a route short of the first down marker and even though he made the catch, the drive was stopped. The next drive, he dropped a pass right to him. Then in the fourth quarter, with the game within reach, he let a ball bounce right off of his hands and be intercepted. The Chiefs would go up by six after that. As bad as he was as a receiver, he may have been even worse in the return game. His returns went as follows: 3 yards, -1 yard, fair catch at 19, -4 yards, lost punt in air downed at 17 yard line, and fair catch at 20. That means his total return yards was -2 with only one Raiders drive starting outside the 20 yard line. Seriously, negative total yards on returns? If the Raiders would be better off having someone back there fair catching the ball then why do they need Higgins back there? That seems like a fair question.
Only JaMarcus Russell can be so terrible that even when you take away all the drops (6), he still can't get over 60% completion. It would be easier to go through his completions than his incompletions considering he had just 8 for the entire day. Especially if you go through the completions that actually mattered. His second pass was one in which he escaped pressure and hit Michael Bush for 8 yards. Later he threw a 14 pass to Chaz Schilens. Just before half he threw a 15 yard pass to Higgins and a 9 yard pass to Zach Miller. And that's it. Those four throws were the only completions the entire day that mattered in the slightest. Two other completions were short of the first down on third down. He had eight incompletions that were off target. Four of those were on third down to end the drive. He also held onto the ball too long resulting in a sack and fumbled the snap on an attempted quarterback sneak on third and one. He was benched in the third quarter to the delight of the crowd at the colliseum. Cable will announce Wednesday if Gradkowski will be the starter next week or not. Even though it is too late to salvage anything at this point. Thanks JaMarcus.
Ok let's see... Javon Walker still inactive? Check. Darrius Heyward-Bey still starting? Check. JaMarcus still starting (until further notice)? Check. Playbook still vanilla? Check. That is enough right there to warrant Cable as a Buster. Not only did Darrius Heyward-Bey start, but of 63 snaps, he played in 54 of them. That is more than any other receiver on the team by far-- including Chaz Schilens. And he has done what exactly to be given that kind of playing time? Drop the ball in key situations? Check. Take no responsibility whatsoever? Check. The Raiders flirted with the "Wild Hog" formation on the second drive. McFadden ran for 3 yards and then Higgins ran the end around for 2 yards. And that was the end of the flirtation. That was the lamest attempt at mixing up the playbook ever. He's going to have to do a lot better than that. Not that it matters though; his clock is ticking as it is.
Our first role reversal of the Buster list. After going a season and a half without giving up a sack and playing nearly flawless football, Super Mario had a stinker. He was called for holding three times on the day, two of them happened on consecutive plays. Tamba Hali was giving him all kinds of problems. Last week he gave up his first sack to Shawn Merriman and now this. This could mean that defensive ends have figured out how to beat him. It could also mean that his mind is not right. Either way, it is hard to say if he will turn it around or if this is where we start to see the chinks in his armor.
And the ultimate in turns of fortune is that of Asomugha in this game. He came into the game with just 11 passes thrown to his man. But Matt Cassel seemed unafraid to throw his way. The decision paid off for the Chiefs. He gave up a 13 yard first down catch in the third quarter. And in the fourth quarter he was beaten on the play and was called for pass interference. The penalty was the key play that put the Chiefs in field goal range and allowed them to go up by six. But Nnamdi's worst play was one in which he gave up a catch on a slant to Dwayne Bowe, then missed the tackle. Kirk Morrison knocked the ball out of Bowe's hand and Nnamdi had the best chance of any Raider to recover it. He slid down right on the ball and couldn't get ahold of it. He only ended up knocking it further downfield where the Chiefs would recover it for a net of twenty yards. I would venture to say that if you pit Aso vs. opposing quarterbacks, he wins 4 out of 5 times but this game was that one time. I only hope other quarterbacks think that they can try the same thing because Nnamdi is going to jump one of them and take it to the house.
Yeah, I didn't forget about you.