The Raiders seem to have reverted to the team they were in week 4 of the season. At that point in the season they had just one win. That one win was against the Rams (before they started playing well) and they only managed to score 16 points. Well, the Dolphins are not the Rams and 17 points was not going to cut it.
What makes this even more sad is that the Dolphins and Raiders should match up very well-- especially with Brandon Marshall having been out with injury.
It was as if the Raiders were counting so much on Tyler Thigpen starting that they thought they would beat the Dolphins simply by stopping the Wildcat. The Raiders did do well stopping the wildcat. But while they were playing as if it was a running play, Chad Henne was torching them through the air. To the tune of 307 yards passing and 2 touchdowns. 111 of those yards went to Devon Bess who was returning to his home town of Oakland to show the team he grew up rooting for that they made a mistake in not drafting him.
When the Dolphins offense wasn't having their way, their defense was stonewalling the Raiders formerly potent running attack. As bad as the Raiders were made to look last week against the Steelers, I am starting to believe that may have had more to do with the Raiders than the defense they line up against.
So with that in mind, let's get down to business.
Talk about hot and cold. Jacoby Ford has been all but invisible in 9 of the 11 games this season. But when he shows up, he SHOWS UP. He turned some heads when he single-handedly pulled the Raiders up by their boot straps to beat the Chiefs in week 9. He showed us some skills we didn't know he had in him in that game. And all by itself, it could have been a fluke. But he proved without a doubt that was no fluke.
He got this game started off the same way he got the 2nd half of that Chiefs game started off-- with a kickoff return for a touchdown. This one he took out of the endzone for 101 yards.
He led the Raiders in every offensive category in this game but passing. He had 108 yards receiving on 4 catches, one went for a touchdown. And it was a beauty too. Gradkowski floated it over Ford and his defender and Ford bated the corner until the last moment when he broke off of him and hauled in the pass. Then he shot up the sideline for a touchdown. And that wasn't his most amazing catch either. When he stole that certain interception away from Brandon Flowers in the Chiefs game, it was the play of the week. And he did it AGAIN in this game. Just amazing that he can do that. It is like nothing I've ever seen before. It is one thing to catch the ball simultaneously and wrestle the ball away from the defender. But for the guy to have what looks like a sure interception only to have Ford simply take it out of his hands is truly something to behold.
He even led the Raiders in rushing when he took a reverse for 13 yards.
I have to say I was wrong in my assessment of this kid when he was drafted. I was right that he was an Al Davis pick on draft day, there is no doubt in anyone's mind about that. But I was wrong in thinking he was an average receiver. He is an extraordinary receiver with extraordinary speed. Can you say Steve Smith?
He didn't play a perfect game by any means. But he did have a solid game overall and held down his position quite well. He was a big part of the reason the Raiders were able to keep the wildcat under wraps nearly the entire game. Last week he didn't look as if he was fully recovered from his injury. This week he not only looked back to 100% but he looked as good or better than he has much of the season. And part of his good day today included an interception at the goal line. It was the first of his career and it was a big one. It came in the 2nd quarter with the Raiders down just 7-10. It kept the Dolphins from scoring which allowed the Raiders to take back the lead a couple drives later.
Then in the 3rd quarter, with the Raiders down 23-14, he had a tackle for loss and another run stuff to force a long field goal attempt that would be missed to keep the Raiders within striking distance. He finished the day second of the team in tackles with seven.
Branch is back as a Baller after leading the Raiders in tackles again (9-2) and saving their bacon quite a few times on runs and short catches that could have been much longer if it weren't for him. His best drive came in the 2nd quarter with the Dolphins starting their series on the Raiders 26 yard line after a turnover. On the first play the Dolphins ran left and Branch came streaking up to the line where you could hear him pop Ricky Williams for the stuff. Two plays later, on third and 8, he was sent on the safety blitz and sacked Chad Henne. The loss of yardage made for a 52 yard field goal attempt that missed to keep the Raider down just 7-10. And the resulting good field position helped them score a touchdown on the next possession. Then he made the final play of the first half when he had a pass defended at the goal line to force the Dolphins to settle for a field goal.
After rookie Jeremy Ware got ripped a new one last week, rookie Walter McFadden got torn apart. It should be criminal to abuse another person as badly as Wal*Mac was on Sunday. He was spelling Nnamdi Asomugha through muc h of this game because Chris Johnson was out with an injured groin. It became painfully obvious why the team would even attempt to take their chances with a Nnamdi at less than 100%.
McFadden started seeing extensive action near the end of the first half. And it is no coincidence that that is when things started to get out of hand. He almost instantly gave up an 18 yard catch on 3rd down. Two stops later, he gave up another 11 yard first down catch on 3rd down. The drive ended in a field goal to bring the Dolphins within one at 14-13.
Immediately after halftime, he was victimized again. On just the fourth play of the drive, he gambled on a short pass to his receiver and gave up a 57 yard catch and run for a touchdown. And just like that the Raiders were down 14-20.
Two drives later he was called for holding on his receiver that put the Dolphins in scoring position again. Next drive he gave up a 19 yard catch on 3rd and 8. Next drive he gave up a 29 yard catch that set up another Miami field goal that made it a two score game late and essentially ended any chance the Raiders had to get back in the game. All told he was responsible 151 yards offense and 13 points.
If you look solely at his numbers, he appears to have had a decent day. 53% passing and over 250 yards, a TD and 2 interception. But I don't take too much stock in numbers. Much has been made of who is the better quarterback between Gradkowski and Jason Campbell. I have chosen not to compare them solely with each other but rather take the perspective of which QB is better for this team. Afterall, what else really matters? For the purposes of B&B, the only thing that really matters is if they played well or they didn't. And Gradkowski did not. He was erratic all day.
His first big mistake came when he underthrew Marcel Reece up the sideline so badly that Reece had to stop and reverse field to try and come back for the ball but it was easily intercepted instead. If not for that poorly thrown ball, his first half would not have been all that bad. It was the 2nd half where he really lost it.
The first time the Raiders got the ball on offense in the 2nd half, he tried to force a ball to his receiver and it was almost intercepted. Then he was wide and incomplete on the next play to force a three and out. A couple of drives later he set up the Dolphins perfectly off of play action and rolled out to his right where Jacoby Ford had beaten his man and was wide open headed for the end zone. But he threw the ball way too late and the safety was able to come over for the interception.
The following drive he threw what looked to be a sure interception if it were not for Jacoby Ford stealing it out of his hands just has he had done for Jason Campbell late in the Chiefs game. The resulting catch went for 52 yards to put the Raiders in scoring position. But the drive ended three plays later when Gradkowski threw to no one in the back of the end zone. Hard to say what was going on there but it wasn't good. The Raiders settle for a field goal when they desperately needed at touchdown.
The next Raider drive he had three errant passes. He threw the first one right into the ground, then he threw behind his receiver, and on 4th down he missed a wide open Jonnie Lee Higgins. The Raiders had to score on that drive to keep any hope alive and it ended right there.
As is so often the case of late, the entire line put in a dismal performance. But I attempt to pick out the worst offender among them. The line made things very hard on Gradkowski and impossible for Darren McFadden. Aside from the pressure that was constantly being put on Gradkowski, the first real mistake made by Carlisle was when he missed his block and caused Marcel Reece to get hit hard at the line, causing him to fumble. Then on the next drive, Carlisle was beaten on the rush causing Gradkowski to get hit as he threw for an incompletion. Then on the Raiders last drive attempt, they were forced to go for it on 4th and 4. Carlisle was beaten badly and had to hold his man. The Dolphins were called for a pass interference penalty that would have given the Raiders a first down but the holding offset caused offsetting penalties and they were unable to convert when given another attempt.
Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, John Marshall
I can't say enough about how lost this team was in this game. Mike Mitchell after the game insisted that the fault wasn't in the coaching but there is no way I believe that. On offense, the Raiders were back to their vanilla play calling. After last week's game Cable said that the Raiders are sticking to their gameplan. And we saw how well that worked for them against Pittsburgh. But while Pittsburgh's defense has been tough on most opponents, Miami hasn't looked near as good. And still the Raiders made them look like the Steelers. All the while, the Bills were making the Steelers defense look mediocre. The BILLS! The fact that McFadden has gone from 108 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry to a total of 16 yards on 18 carries in the last two games, is no accident. Both the Dolphins and Steelers simply stacked the box because they didn't fear the passing game or play action.
On the defensive side for the Raiders, what happened to the confusion they caused against the Seahawks and Broncos? Now they are following the same formula every single set of downs. It always results in sending the house on third down. And while those blitzes resulted in two sacks on the day, there were 19 third down attempts by the Dolphins. Two sacks in 19 tries is not good results. The Dolphins converted on nearly half of their third down attempts. Every one of the Dolphins touchdowns were long ones because once they got past the first line of defense, there was no one else there.
Definitely the worst game of Nnamdi's career. He was in and out of the game with injury simply because the Raiders didn't have better options. He was a half step slow in his breaks in the game and in the NFL, that is all it takes to go from elite to pedestrian. In the first half alone, he gave up a 27 yard catch, a 13 yard catch, was called for holding, and gave up a 17 yard catch. All told, he gave up 4 catches in limited action and was responsible for 69 yards for theDolphins. This performance already has the "Nnamdi is overrated" chanters out with their pitchforks and torches. Of course, these are the same guys that said the same of Charles Woodson, so take that for what it's worth. As for me, I treat it like the time my favorite breakfast place got my eggs wrong. It was bound to happen sooner or later and I didn't start flipping through the yellowpages to find a new place.
Follow Levi on Twitter @LeviDamien or befriend him on Facebook