The Raiders came into the Bears game on a high after a dominant defensive effort again the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas the week prior. They looked to not only continue that defensive play but improve upon a sub par offensive performance.
This week the first team players would stay on the field for the entire first half after getting only a couple of series in the first game of the preseason. The coaches and fans were going to get a better idea of what this team will look like this season. Leaving the second half to get a look at the depth players and position battles.
As usual I was watching to see which starters gave fans something to look forward to and which players battling for roster spots helped their cause or hurt it.
The other day Cable was gushing about how great Wimbley has been playing and so I guess he figured he would go out and prove his coach right-- and did he ever. If you watched the game or even if you read the box score you can see why Wimbley being named top Baller was an easy choice. He started the game at strong side linebacker and had FOUR SACKS in just one half of play! He has never had that many in a whole game in his entire career. When you watch him, you can see that he is the ideal rushing linebacker for defensive line coach Mike Waufle. Waufle had a few players like him that helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl championship. But the sacks are only part of the reason he is top Baller. In fact, Wimbley would probably have been a Baller even without the sacks. He was an absolute beast all day. Sorry, I mean all HALF. It just seems like he was out there all day. He had his first sack on the Bears first possession. It came on third down and he dropped Cutler for a loss of 11. The Bears went three and out and had to punt out of the back of their own endzone. On a later drive he started it off with a nice tackle on a screen to stop it for a short gain and then essentially ended the drive when he had the tightend blanketed in coverage for an incompletion. He then ended the next two Bears possessions in three and outs. The first drive ended with sack number two and the second ended when he dropped the receiver well short of first down. There was just one more chance for the Bears to move the ball before half time and that is when Wimbley really made it count. The first play was sack number three, 2nd play he had a QB pressure, and his final play of the game and the last one before halftime ended with his 4th and final sack. WOW.
He just looks tremendous. I found it rather appropriate that Bo Jackson was at this game because Michael Bush is the first Raider player I have seen with anywhere near the same combination of size, speed and power that Bo Jackson had. Let me be clear here: I am NOT saying Michael Bush is as fast as Bo Jackson. But Bush is quite fast and you don't often see his combination of size, power and speed. We certainly haven't seen in on the Raiders for a while. He looked every bit the kind of back the Raiders hoped he would be and his performances in games have distanced him in the supposed competition with Darren McFadden. The first time he touched the ball, he caught a screen pass and took off for 24 yards. It looked more like the kind of play we are used to seeing the Raiders fall victim to. The first drive would end with a much needed touchdown-- the first score for the first team offense this preseason. The next Raider drive he started with a nice pass block. Then on the next play he found a gap and broke off a 16 yard run to set the Raiders up for a field goal and their second consecutive score. Even Bush's short yardage runs, he fought hard for. He finished with 50 yards of offense on 9 touches.
Gallery got off to a rough start in this game on the second play of the game he was called for holding and then two plays later he was called for a false start. It wasn't looking good. But he quickly shook it off, regained his focus and showed why Tom Cable knows which side his bread is buttered on. How quickly did he shake it off? The next play. He had a killer block that sprung Michael Bush for 24 yards on a screen. The play made up for the 15 yards he lost and then some. The drive ended when Jason Campbell took the QB sneak in 1 yard for a touchdown. And Campbell knew who to follow to paydirt too. He went right behind Gallery and scored. The next Raider drive Gallery blocked for Bush again to pick up 16 yards on the carry and the Raiders were up 10-0 just like that. We didn't hear from Gallery for a while, which is just what you want from an offensive lineman. The next time his number was mentioned, he was recovering a crucial fumble after Jason Cambpell was sacked just before halftime. If the Bears would have recovered, they would have already been in scoring position. His value to this team may be hard to measure but it is impossible to deny.
He did not play well last week. But as has been the case for Campbell his entire career, he constantly improves. He started this game almost perfect. He started off the first drive with a well executed screen pass to Bush for 24 yards. Then his first really nice pass was a timing route to Jonnie Lee Higgins with a comebacker. One of those passes he throws before the receiver even turns to look for the ball and it was perfectly placed for 18 yards. A few plays later he fit a ball in to Louis Murphy between defenders that went 26 yards and set the Raiders up at the 2 yard line. He would sneak it in for a touchdown a few plays later. He didn't have a single incomplete pass while completely dismantling and demoralizing the Bears on that first drive. He later had an interception but he had an oncoming rusher in his face which caused him to throw off his back foot. He carries some blame but most of that blame goes to the lineman that was beaten(I will get to him later). There were a few rough series after that but Campbell still managed to have one more nice drive in which he had a 10 yard scramble for a first down and two completions to set up another field goal.
Just after halftime, the Raiders were forced to punt. The return man for the Bears muffed his attempt to field it and the Raiders recovered the ball in the endzone for a touchdown. For those who watched this game on TV, you may have seen and heard the credit for this touchdown go to Mike Mitchell. He ran out of the endzone after the play with the ball in celebration and kept it along the sidelines(I am guessing for his collection). The cameras followed Mitchell in his celebration and Greg Papa several times said that Mitchell scored it. But alas, it was Slade Norris who scored that touchdown. I saw it happen and wondered first of all how Papa and the cameras could be so mistaken, but more importantly why Mitchell would be acting as if he was the one to score it? It seems a bit disrespectful to his teammate to parade around like that knowing full well he didn't score the TD. But regardless, the official scorers have Norris scoring the TD as does the film when the Raiders review it in the coming days. Norris is proving to be a a damn fine special teams player. Later in the game he shot into the backfield to block a punt that bounced out of the back of the endzone for a safety. That makes 8 points directly attributed to Slade Norris in this game. A little less bounce on that blocked punt and Norris may have had a SECOND TD in the game. Yes Mike Mitchell, I said a SECOND TD.
As per usual, Murphy is the most reliable Raider wide receiver. Sure, Schilens has great hands but to be reliable he kinda has to be on the field. Murphy is a straight up Baller in every sense. He fights to get open, has great hands and is always looking to score. And despite the amount of trash he talks, he has proven that he is as selfless as they come. The first pass was a 26 yarder he hauled in that slightly behind him because Campbell had to fit it between defenders. But Murphy reached back and pulled it in, then fought for a few extra yards to set the Raiders up at the 2 yard line. On the Raiders final scoring drive before half time, he had a 14 yard catch and a 4 yard reverse(it would have gone further but Yamon Figurs missed his block). He finished with 3 catches and a team leading 53 yards receiving.
Chris Johnson was expected to be out but prior to the game Nnamdi Asomugha was also scratched. This meant that Stanford Routt was the closest thing the Raiders had to a starting corner on the field. He played superbly in this game too. Probably the best I have seen him. I had Johnny Knox as one of the biggest threats to the Raiders in this game and Routt shut him down. He had a pass defended on Knox on third down early in the game and then later Routt had another pass defended on Devin Hester. More impressive may be that he didn't allow a catch in the game which means he was not giving Cutler anyone to throw to.
Beginning on the Bears second possession of the 2nd half, Cooper helped end three consecutive drives. He got into the backfield to stop the Running back and force a tackle for a loss to end the first one. He chased the quarterback down causing him to run out of bounds for a short gain on third down in the second one. And with the Bears set up at the Raiders 5 yard line looking to score, he chased the runningback down from behind and tackled him in the backfield for a loss. They would settle for a field goal. The Bears would have a total of six more offensive plays the remainder of the game.
He had another solid game as a reserve. After having over 100 total yards last week, he comes back and has 64 yards rushing and a 78 total yards in this game. One drive in particular was almost entirely his. He had 32 yards on 6 touches in the drive that ended with a Raider touchdown. Then on the first play of the Raiders final drive, he shot up the middle for 44 yards. The Raiders seem to be leaning toward Rock Cartwright as the Raiders third back but Bennett is making that decision very difficult for Cable.
He was a force in this game with three run stuffing tackles for minimal gain. He also had containment on the running back two other times that resulted in a tackle for no gain and a tackle for a loss.
Played well as we have grown accustomed to seeing from him. He got the start with Richard Seymour out Bryant played nearly the entire game. He had three run stuffs, one of which was a tackle for loss. And he had the quarterback pressure that caused Bears QB Dan LeFevour to throw the ball right into the hands of...
He has ended both of the Raiders preseason games with interceptions. In the Dallas game he came down with a last ditch hail mary attempt. This after he had an easy tip ball go right threw his arms early in the game. And this week he leaped in the air to pull down LeFevour's long pass attempt and returned it 46 yards down field to set the Raiders up in scoring position. Not bad for a late 7th round pick.
Samson Satele, Chris Morris
Or better known as the Raider centers. They were both Busters last week too. They just seem to get worse. Satele seemed to have turned a corner last year but now he looks like he has regressed. Morris has been bad all along and is only around because the Raiders don't have a better option(yet). Satele gave up a run stuff on the second play of the game. Then later in the first quarter he was beaten badly on the rush causing Jason Campbell to throw under pressure and off his back foot resulting in an interception. This killed a successful drive in which the Raiders were looking to score on their first three consecutive possessions. The very next play, the Bears' Matt Forte broke through a huge hole to go 89 yards for a touchdown. Satele had just one more run stuff to give up before he came out of the game with an injury and was replaced by Chris Morris. Morris and Campbell immediately began practicing snaps when Satele was down on the field. Then Morris lined up and promptly snapped the ball early and off target for a fumble the Bears would recover. The Bears would score another touchdown with the short field to take the lead 14-13.
It is probably best that the fans not set their expectations too high for McClain so early on. He has a lot of room for improvement and will go through some growing pains. This game was a good example of such growing pains. He started out well with a run stop for a short gain. But a few plays later he was caught up in a block while the Bears runner picked up 13 yards. What earns him a place as a Buster, however, is the fact that he had 8 Bears points go directly through him. The 89 yard run by Matt Forte should have been stopped at the line. It was McClain's assignment but he over-ran the play and instead of plugging his gap, he ran right into the blocker and Forte shot through the hole untouched and with a full head of steam that carried him 89 yards to the endzone. A few minutes before halftime the Bears scored another touchdown. They had missed an extra point earlier so they now looked to make up for it with a two point conversion. Forte took the handoff around the right side of the line and literally walked into the endzone. McClain was out of position on the inside so there was absolutely no one home on the right edge of the line. So for the second time, Forte came through McClain's gap untouched. It should never be that easy. He has a lot of work to do.
It was surprising to see Daniels playing as the goal line fullback with the first team in this game. He didn't even see the field last week. Cable speaks very highly of Daniels and he has played well in practice. Heck, I thought he played well at defensive end before they moved him to fullback. In practice this last week it became obvious that his receiving skills were not part of those rave reviews. So what is assumed is that Cable is referring to Daniels' blocking skills. Which makes it more surprising that it is his poor blocking in this game that lands him on this list. The Raiders drove the ball all the way downfield on their first series and were set up at first and goal from the 2 yard line. With the way Bush was running the ball, he should have gotten in easily. But he was stopped for almost no gain on two straight attempts because Daniels couldn't seem to find the guy he was supposed to block. Jason Campbell ended up having to take the ball in himself on a sneak on third down. Marcel Reece was the actual starting fullback and he was replaced by Manase Tonga and then Chane Moline. Daniels was put back in the game near the end. At which point, he missed his blocking assignment again and got Bennett tackled for no gain. With the tough competition at fullback, Daniels just made his chances even slimmer.
For the most part Huff did a good job in this game. But as is often the case, one play can earn a guy a spot as a Baller or a Buster. That Matt Forte 89 yard run was one such play. And Huff looked horrible. Sure Forte came through the hole without anyone slowing him down but he put one little change of direction on Huff and he was gone. Huff looked like he didn't want to have anything to do with him on the run. He didn't lay a finger on him or even slow him down in the slightest. If he had at least simply missed the tackle as opposed to completely whiffing, Tyvon Branch would probably have caught up with Forte around mid-field.