The Raiders played the Chargers tough again but again, they couldn't pull it out in the end. In the week one loss, it was the defense that played great all game only to not be able to stop the Chargers offense from scoring on their final drive. In this game, the Raiders offense actually looked decent through most of the game only to complete fall apart on their final drive.
This team has struggled with it's identity all season. But regardless of how these Raiders identify themselves, they can't seem to get all cylinders to fire together. Both the defense and the offense have lapses that end up costing them the game. The defense gives up big touchdowns while the offense is having to settle for field goals.
While inconsistency is better than simply being consistently bad, the result is often the same in the win/loss column. And that is the only place it really matters. And on that note, let's see who held their own this week and who fell off the wagon.
He was not the starter again despite earning the job every time he steps on the field. He was the Raiders' leading rusher and when you watch him run, you see no mystery behind it. He hit's the hole with reckless abandon and a burst of speed that you rarely see in other backs. If he is stopped, he keeps his legs churning like he is straight out of "28 Days Later". The result is usually upwards of 5 yards and those runs that are less than that are often situations where he saved a negative gain and made something out of nothing. If he is stopped for no gain, it is almost always the fault of his blockers for his hole closing because he rarely dances around. His longest rush in the game was for just 7 yards but that is not really a bad thing considering his workhorse efforts on Sunday. Of his 18 rushes on the day, 12 of them were for nice gains, hard fought yards or pivotal plays. Here is what they looked like: 6 yd first down, 4 yds, 7 yd first down, 4 yds, 5 yds, 3 yd TD, 7 yd toss, 2 yd first down, 5 yds, hard fought 3 yds, hard fought 3 yd first down, caught in backfield escape hard fought 3 yds. He also had three catches for 20 yards on the day. You will also notice that he had the only touchdown for the Raiders on a 3 yard burst right up the gut and into the end zone.
I just mentioned the Fargas had the only touchdown for the Raiders on Sunday. Well, Seabass had the rest of the Raiders points. He hit field goals of 48, 41, and 28. Each one was high, long and right down the middle. I think we can start calling him Mr Automatic now. His kickoffs were pretty nice too. He only had one kick returned for good yardage (38 yard line). The other kicks looked like this: 70 yards with a negative 1 yard return, touchback, touchback and returned 5 yards to the 8 yard line.
He replaced a hurting Greg Ellis for the bulk of the playing time and he made the best of it. He tied for the team lead in tackles with 5 solo tackles. Every single one of them was a dandy too. He stuffed LaDanian Tomlinson for no gain for his first tackle. Later in the same drive he got in the backfield and came all the way around to the opposite side to stop the runner for a short gain. Then a few plays later he was double teamed and powered through BOTH blockers and still had a hand free to tackle the runner for a 5 yard loss. That one was a real eye opener. Later he chased down the running back on a screen to tackle him from behind. His biggest play came on the Chargers final drive. With the Chargers on second and goal he sacked Philip Rivers to force the eventual field goal. If the Chargers had scored a TD, the Raiders would have been down two scores with no chance to come back. I have said that he may be the best pick of this draft class for the Raiders and I stand by that. And yes, that includes the Raiders leader in dropped balls-- Louis Murphy.
As we have become accustomed to in his half season as the starter, he made plays all over the field. He was a force on special teams as well with two return tackles, one as the gunner in the open field. He was good in coverage forcing three incomplete passes with tight coverage to go along with a pass defended. He lead the team in total tackles with 4 solo tackles and 2 assists.
He had 4 tackles on the day, 3 of which were for little or no gain. The Raider held LaDanian Tomlinson to just 56 yards rushing on the day and they held the Chargers team to just 100 yards rushing overall. Tommy Kelly's efforts were a big reason why.
I was hesitant to put Zach as a Baller this week because he missed his assignment on a blitz that got JaMarcus Russell sacked. But, his overall body of work was good enough to forgive that one transgression. Besides, the Raiders recovered a fumble on the ensuing punt return anyway so it worked out well in the end. He led the team in receptions and yards (big surprise right?) with 5 catches for 52 yards. His yards made up almost half of Russell's total completion yards. 3 of those catches were on the final drive as he did everything he could to help the Raiders come back in this game.
Kwame Harris Khalif Barnes
I actually thought that after a poor performance last week that Barnes would have gotten the reps at right tackle that he needed to step up and hold it down. I was wrong. Although, I could be trivializing just how difficult the switching of sides can be. Perhaps one of Khalif's legs is twice as strong as the other one so he needs to be on the left side? Regardless of reasons why, he was even worse this week than he was last week. Which is saying a lot. He had a false start on the Raiders second drive which came right after Russell had to call a timeout. It seems like of all times he would have his timing down, it would be after a timeout-- but no. The Raiders couldn't make up the yards lost by the false start and went three and out. The next drive, he gave up a run stuff on Fargas that ended the drive with yet another three and out. After that it seemed like he was settling in...until the third quarter rolled around and he gave up a sack forcing the Raiders to settle for a field goal. Then on the next Raider possession he had yet another false start resulting in yet another three and out. Then on the Raiders' final implosion drive, after a sack put the Raiders in second and 23, he has his final false start. The Raiders set up in second and 28 and the game ended three plays later. Turns out that Cornell Green may be the lesser of the evils in this case. And that is truly sad. And where is Langston Walker in all of this?
After the game, Russell gave his usual "I think I did a good job" media session. Actually it seems that many people are saying that he wasn't that bad. That may be the worst news of the season. The bar has been set so low for Russell that a game in which he throws an interception on his first pass, has just over a hundred yards passing, fumbles, has no touchdown passes and goes just a shade over the 60% passing mark (63.6%) despite throwing only two passes to wide receivers (neither of which were over 10 yards), is considered a good day for him (breathe). Well, the Buster list is not graded on a curve based on previous performances. His performance by any standard was not "pretty good" it was bad. He is the dead weight this ship is dragging behind it while it is trying to get underway. With an even serviceable quarterback in this game, the Raiders could have won it. Just like the first time they played the Chargers.
Morrison got worked over in this game. He didn't even have his first positive play until the third quarter. In the mean time he gave up a lot of positive plays to the Chargers. He was blocked easily on LaDanian Tomlinson's first touchdown run to put the Chargers up 7-0. On the next Charger scoring drive, he was not in his gap and gave up an 11 yard first down run. The drive ended with a touchdown for a 14-7 Charger lead. The very next Charger posession he gave up a 5 yard catch to Antonio Gates on one play and the very next play he was WAY out of position on a 30 yard catch by Gates. Then on the very next play he was out of position again on a 9 yard Tomlinson run. Three plays later he was blocked on an 11 yard run to set up first and goal at the 9 yard line. The Chargers would run it in for a score on the next play to go up 21-7. That is 55 of 80 yards that went through Kirk. This Charger scoring drive was brought to you by Kirk Morrison, the letter F and viewers like you. And all before halftime.
Louis Murphy, Jonnie Lee Higgins
These two guys had just one play a piece. Murphy had a 12 yard end around and Higgins had a 6 yard catch. Outside of that, it was all bad. Murphy had a false start at one point because he didn't hear the call at the line and was faked out by the defender while he was trying to ask DHB what it was. Higgins not only was ineffective in the passing game but he was non existent in the punt return game. He had just one return on three opportunities for 9 yards. He was thrown the ball on the final play of the game and botched it pretty good. He was supposed to catch the ball in a hook and lateral to Heyward-Bey, but instead of catching the ball prior to the lateral, he decided to try and touch pass it basketball style and it fell incomplete. But the main reason these two are grouped together was because of their little stooge routine two plays earlier. They were running twins right and both cut towards each other at the same time, ran into each other and both fell down. With both receivers rolling on the ground and DHB no doubt covered wel as usual, Russell was forced to step out of the pocket and was sacked for a 3 yard loss. It would set up a near impossible third down and 31. ESPN, PFT, and NFL Network would like to thank you fellas for the fresh material. As if the rest of the football world doesn't already have enough reasons to laugh at the Raiders.
While I won't group DHB with Murphy and Higgins on this one, he won't escape being a Buster. Just one bobbling catch for 10 yards won't get it done. He is not even seeing the ball thrown in his direction very often which means that he is not running crisp routes and is not getting open. And while I don't factor in the performance of his fellow high draft picks at receiver, it is worth noting that he is by far the worst receiver in the first round thus far despite being the first guy chosen.