Just a week after playing a great game, only to come out on the losing end, the Raiders play a mostly terrible game only to come out winners. The Raiders blew the game at home against San Diego last week only to come from behind to win the game on the road in Kansas City. The NFL can be a crazy bitch. Either way, the Raiders are 1-1 after the first two weeks just as most people expected. It isn't the 2-0 that Raider fans had hoped and probably deserved but, as my mom always said, "it's better than a kick in the pants".
And after the game the Raiders played on Sunday, the team is probably feeling pretty releived not to be 0-2. Starting the season 0-2 against division rivals would be a difficult hole to dig out of. Now, while this team counts it's blessings after pulling out a tough win, it will be short lived as they prepare for their third straight division opponent in the Broncos next week. So there is little or no time to celebrate because the grind stone awaits.
But with that said, let's take one last look at those players that made this win happen and those who nearly pulled the rug out from under them.
Ok, I am officially worried. Someone needs to notify the proper authorities right now! Who is this guy in the #24 jersey and what has he done with Michael Huff?! Put out an Amber Alert, Dredge Lake Merrit or Lake Berryessa or the Delta or something because his family will need closure. On the other hand, whoever that dude is that was ball hawking the field in Kansas City on Sunday is damn good. And it must have been the same guy in Oakland last Monday against the Chargers so that should help the police with a time frame for Huff's disappearance. This guy trouncing around posing as Michael Huff has THREE interceptions in the last two games when the real/old Michael Huff had ONE in his entire career prior to this season. Huff was a Baller last week with his interception and fumble recovery (along with his great coverage) and this week he tops the list. In part because of the two interceptions, but that was only a fraction of his day. His first nice play was a tackle on third down to stop the Chiefs short of a first down to hold them to a field goal. He had a pass defended just prior to half time on a drive that ended without the Chiefs scoring. Then the first drive of the second half, he ended with his first interception. Two drives later he ended with his second interception. And then he ended the game by hitting the Chiefs receiver as he got the ball to knock it down on fourth down. That is three drives that he stopped the Chiefs from scoring any points and two more that he held them to a field goal. What an unbelievable day for him. And a complete transformation from Bust(er) to Baller and looking like a Pro Bowler. For the record, I said many times that Huff would come into his own after a year making the transition back to free safety. But no one could have seen this coming.
This guy is pretty good too. Chipped bone and all. His instincts and footbll IQ are so truly brilliant that it just boggles my mind. How does he so flawlessly execute almost every facet of the game the way he does? I just get goose bumps thinking of his on-field prowess. He played this game in tremendous pain. He was replaced by John Bowie late in the game and taken into the lockeroom to receive pain medication. But when the Raiders needed him the most, in the Chiefs last gasp final drive, Nnamdi went back in to shut down his half the field. He had arguably the biggest play of the first half when he came up to tackle the KC receiver for a short gain IN-BOUNDS to keep the clock moving and send the Chiefs into half time without scoring. That 3 points was the final margin of victory. He had two great tackles on the Chiefs second drive of the third quarter. The first was a run stuff for no gain and the other was a solid open field tackle on a short catch with the Chiefs at third and 18. The next drive he sniffed out a run play to his side and he brushed off the blocker to tackle the running back for a loss. That set up a long yardage situation that resulted in the second Huff interception. Oh yeah, and he didn't give up a single catch all day. That is pretty important too.
Just his tackle numbers jump out at you considering he had 13 on the day. And while a few were on receptions he possibly should have prevented, he had quite a few more that were much more vital to the success of this team on Sunday. Six of his tackles were either run stuffs for short gain or short gains on screens or check downs. On the Chiefs second to last drive, he hit Matt Cassel so hard on a QB scramble, it left Cassel whincing in pain in the huddle afterward. Those kinds of hits tend to send messages that make a guy a bit more tentative and nervous when considering leaving the pocket again. Usually referred to as "happy feet".
He had a game like any other punter last week but he rose to Lechler standards this week against the Chiefs. One would usually only see punts like that in Denver. But Shane is not your "usual" punter. He is the best in the game. He displayed that on Sunday with punts of 66, 70, 53, and 59 yards. And none of his punts were returned for many yards. Most of them had the return man backpeddling much further than he had expected or was comfortable with.
Howard is one of those guys that has great speed and knows how to use it. Sure every now and then he overruns a play and misses the tackle, but rarely are those mistakes too costly. And it is worth it because he makes the big play much more often. In the Chiefs second drive of the game he had a run stuff and two plays later he read a screen perfectly and tackles the running back six yards in the backfield. On the next Chiefs posession he shot between lineman and into the backfield to tackle the back for another six yard loss. This set up a third and long that the Chiefs were unable to convert. On the next Chief posession, he had tight coverage on an incompletion and then ended the drive three plays later when he teamed up on third down to stop the KC receiver short of the first down marker.
How much do I need to say, really? He converted on both of his field goal attempts. One was from 48 yards out and the other was a hefty (no pun intended) 54 yards. Both kicks were no doubters that hit the net in the back of the end zone. He also sent every one of his kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback. No problem.
He wasn't quite flying all over the place in the game but he had two sacks and both of them were drive killers for the Chiefs. Both were also late in the game when one might think he would be wearing down. The first sack was in the fourth quarter that forced a punt with the Chiefs in borderline field goal position. That was before he removed any mystery with the sack. The second sack was on the final Chiefs possession, third and ONE. It set up fourth and 4 and a passing situation. The pass fell incomplete and the Raiders took over on downs to end the game. Sacks are always a big deal but that last one was HUGE. That makes 3 sacks for Ellis already in just two games with the Raiders.
As critical as I was of JaMarcus Russell last week, he was considerably worse in this game. He began the game 0-5 in completions. He went into half time having gone 3-12 for 42 yards. Then he didn't have a single completion in the second half until the final drive. Sure, that was the most important time to do it but where was that the rest of the game? He was again wildly inaccurate. There were so many badly thrown balls that I am not even going to bother going through them all. This included missing a wide open Zach Miller at one point and a wide open Louis Murphy on plays that both would have resulted in touchdowns. He couldn't even execute a screen most of the time. On three screens in particular, he overthrew McFadden, threw one too softly that was batted down, and threw one too low that was also batted down. How much more vanilla does this offensive play calling have to be to stoop to his level? He finished the game going 7-24 for 109 yards. After 35% completion last week, he is below 30% this week. I just have two questions:
1. Is there a NFL equivelant of the MLB "Mendoza line"?
2. How close is Russell to being given the Vince Young/Matt Leinert treatment?
Seriously, what is he doing out there? When he isn't being completely burnt for catches and touchdowns, he is seen near the receiver making half hearted attempts at defending. On the Chiefs second drive, he gave up a 16 yard catch on third down, and then later gave up an 8 yard catch that would have gone for much more had Huff not been there to clean up. The drive ended in a field goal for the first score by either team. He was later seen giving up first down catches on two occasions and then a 29 yard touchdown to Dwayne Bowe. He seemed to have good coverage on the TD catch but he didn't get in tight and make a play on the ball. He just waved his arms around like he was trying to distract Bowe from making the catch or something. Obviously it didn't work and the Chiefs took the lead in the fourth quarter and it appeared at that point that the Raider may be in for another long week of wondering what happened. Luckily his teammates saved his ass from being the goat in this one. Speaking of which, does Cable still have Chris McAlister's number laying around? That could come in handy.