I said last week that this game against the Texans was the last best hope for this Raiders team before they head into a tough stretch of games. It was their last shot at showing that there is some potential in this team to improve upon last year's result. Well, that train has left the station...and it plowed over this team on it's way.
The Raiders showed up in Houston to collect their paychecks on Sunday. Some of which were out to earn those paychecks and others...not so much. And still others tried real hard but are either being used improperly, can't overcome the weak links around them or just don't have the skill set necessary to succeed.
Here are a few numbers for you to consider from this game:
4: Raider drives of more than four plays. 3 of those 4 went for 15, 17, and 17 yards.
3: Raider posessions that ended after 1 play or less. Fumble, Safety, Fumble.
2: Raider drives ended in a score. Both were field goals.
1: Sustained drive for the Raiders in the game.
0: Touchdowns in the last two games for the Raiders.
-3: Yards on the ground for starting running back Darren McFadden.
Now it is my dirty job to attempt to pick through this turd and figure out who's the fiber and who's the waste. Ok let me get my latex gloves (snap), my respirator, and my protective eyewear. I'm going in.
It isn't usual that a defensive tackle leads a team in tackling. But with the Texans knowing how the Raiders struggle in stopping the run, excel in pass coverage, and don't score much on offense, their game plan was simple; Run the ball. Tommy Kelly was certainly up to the challenge on this day. He had 9 solo tackles and 4 assists on the day. Those a typically middle linebacker totals. The Texans did break off a few runs but they were always around the edges. They had almost no success in the middle of the line. 9 of those 13 tackles were run stuffs for little or no gain and one was for a loss.
He was certainly giving maximum effort out there which is all we can really ask for at this point. Control what you can control as they say. His first play was a pass defended in the end zone on third down to hold the Texans to a field goal (their first). Then the next Texans scoring drive, he teamed up to stop Andre Johnson on a short 4 yard reception on third and 8 and force another Texan field goal. At this point, it was 6-3 Houston and the game was still well within reach. But that was the last time. The next Texans drive ended in a 32 yard run by Steve Slaton in which Brown missed a tackle but he was certainly not alone. Then later after two straight touchdown scoring drives for the Texans, he had a pass defended that was nearly an interception. The next drive for the Texans he stopped the running back for a short gain on third down for a three and out. He had two other tackles on run stuffs in the game.
Again, he did what he was asked to do. While it is sickening that he has given the Raiders the bulk of their points this season, at least the Raiders know they can depend on him when he is called upon. He had a 46 yard field goal and a 33 yard field goal. Kicked off three times. The first was a designed pooch kick. The second went to the endzone. The third was fair caught for no gain.
God loves ya Tom. And the Raider Nation loves ya. But that second relationship is getting more and more strained each week. This offense is the worst run offense in the NFL right now and it is mostly your fault. I just mentioned "Control what you can control"? Well, Tom, it is in your control to start who needs to start and play who you need to play. And you are not doing that. McFadden has three fumbles last week? Start him. Receivers can't catch a parasite in a puddle in Tijuana? Put the same dudes on the field. Offense predictable? Run the same plays. Earlier in the week I laid out several ways that this team could do to turn the season around and he instituted NONE of them. So this result, while frustrating, comes as no surprise to me. Does it shock to him? In his post game press conference Cable mentioned that two thirds of this team played poorly on Sunday. Well, he forgot one. It should be three fourths because he left out coaching. Several times, the Texans linebackers were seen calling out the plays. They knew exactly what was coming on seemingly every single play. So while other pathetic teams that had less potential for a turn around have achieved positive results with virtually the same players, the opposite is true for the Raiders. And Cable is mostly to blame.
Pears had more mistakes than Cornell Green mainly because he played the whole game and Green only played the first half. In the first half, while Pears was still playing left guard, he was called for holding on third down which was declined in favor of a punt on a three and out. The Texans had a short field on the ensuing drive and scored a touchdown. Then he stunted any chance of a score before halftime when he was called for a false start. After halftime with him playing at right guard (his "natural" position) with the Raiders pinned at the one yard line, he was pushed into the Raiders backfield where Fargas ran into him and was tackled for a safety. His coup de gras was when he was left in the dust on a sack that happened so quickly, Russell didn't see it coming and fumbled the ball to put the Texans instantly in scoring position. As if they needed another score.
With the Raiders already down 20-3 and halftime coming up soon, he had a false start on third and 7. Then a few plays later, after the Raiders converted on fourth down to keep the drive alive, he was tossed aside easily by the oncoming rusher and Russell wisely threw the ball away to avoid a sack. The Raiders would get no further and settled for their second field goal. After halftime, he was not in the lineup which we found out later was because he was injured. Eric Pears moved from left guard to take Green's place at right tackle, Chris Morris moved to left guard, and Samson Satele was put in at center.
Darrius Heyward Bey, Louis Murphy
I must lump these two together this time because they may as well have been the same person on Sunday. Louis Murphy had 3 catches and 3 drops. DHB had 1 catch and 2 drops. Their inexperience and lack of knowledge shows every week. Murphy showed his lack of knowledge on another play in which he was supposed to go in motion on an audible and didn‘t. When Russell tried to yell to get him in the correct position, Murphy was confused and it cause a false start on the Oline.
Sure he made a few nice plays on the day, including his interception in the end zone. But he was beaten quite a few other times for very large gains. On the first Texans drive he was called for holding. On the second Texand drive, he was beaten on a 62 yard completion to Andre Johnson to set up their first score. Two possessions later he gave up a 41 yard catch to Kevin Walter which set up the Texans second score. Two possessions later, he gave up a 44 yard catch to tight end Owen Daniels. The drive ended in the Texans second touchdown and essentially put the game out of reach for the Raiders and their impotent offense. Add these numbers up and you see that 157 yards of offense went through Chris Johnson in the first half alone.
Initially I thought to myself, "This may be the first loss that isn't Russell's fault". Afterall, there were a great number of drops by his receivers and the run game was nearly non-existent. But then I thought better. Because like many things to do with the failures of the Raiders in recent years can be traced back to Al Davis, the faults in this Raiders offense can usually be traced back to Russell. I mentioned before this game that the fact that the Texans had the next to worst running attack and the worst run defense in the NFL would mean absolutely nothing. And that is mainly because of Russell. He present no threat of success in the passing game. Any team can look like a good rushing defense when they put 8 men in the box. As long as Russell continues to be inaccurate, teams will focus on the run. You go with what works. And it is not like Russell had a great day outside of the drops anyway. He still fumbled the ball and many of his completions were on third down, shorter than what was needed for a first down.
He has two jobs, block and catch, and he couldn't do either one on Sunday. He wasn't opening any holes for the running backs that is for sure. 31 total rushing yards by the running backs has to fall on him at least a little. On a drive in the first quarter he straight dropped an easy catch at the line of scrimmage that was right in his chest. The next play he missed his block and McFadden was tackled in the backfield for a 3 yard loss. A couple drives later, he threw a half hearted block on an incoming blitz and Russell was forced to throw the ball away.
Sure, he had two catches. However, one was for 9 yards on third and 11 and the other was an 11 yard catch on third and 20. Not much good in either of those plays. The play that landed him as a buster though was the 95 yard touchdown return by Jacoby Jones. Watkins was the first guy down there and he just stood there without making any attempt to tackle Jones. If Watkins had even dived at Jones, it would have made him change direction and/or slowed him enough to keep the return from resulting in a touchdown. And speaking of which...
The special teams looks like a shell of it's former self. Not only does the kicking team give up huge chunks of yardage on nearly every return but the return team hasn't been able to gain any good field position on their returns. Whatever he is or is not doing, it is nothing like what Brian Schneider did before. A 95 yard free kick touchdown is inexcusable.