The Raiders had an awakening last week against the Chargers. Of course the Chargers have been the NFL's version of an espresso shot lately. But there is something to be said for taking the opportunities presented and creating a few opportunities of one's own. The Raiders did a lot of both on Thursday when they beat the Chargers 24-17 on their "home" field.
This win was an overall team effort that showed the Raiders' ability to dominate in just about every area. Perhaps the dominance didn't all happen simultaneously but it happened in one area at any given time. And it showed the potential for this team to put it all together, especially once they are able to get healthy.
The hardest part about this week's B&B was deciding who would receive the top spot. There were several deserving players but in the end I had to make a tough decision. Just keep that in mind when looking at the top few that in any game like this one, heroes are not so easy to single out.
Palmer had some great games in Cincinnati, there is no doubt. I am sure if I dug through the numbers I could find a game or two in which his performance was equal or greater on paper than this one. But, in my limited scope, I personally don't think I have ever seen him play a better game than this one. Through three quarters of play, Palmer had a perfect QB rating: he threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions, he completed 11 of 13 passes for 256 yards. One of those incompletions was when Denarius Moore slipped and couldn't come down with it.
In the fourth quarter he had his first off target throw as well as his lone interception. Even the interception was not his fault as his arm was hit as he threw, causing the ball to sail up for grabs. Palmer put together a masterful game. He would finish 14 of 20 for 299 yards, two TD's, and one INT with a 125.0 QB rating. He also jumpstarted a new offense for the Raiders as he had five passes of over 25 yards which is the most the Raiders have had in nearly 20 years (Hostetler had six in 1993 per Josh Dubow of the Associated Press).
Bush ripped off enormous chunks of yardage all day on the Chargers including a 44 yard run and a 55 yard screen pass. His 44 yard rush got things started off early on the first play of the second possession. He settled in after that when on the next drive he rushed for two first downs and a touchdown. Next Raider touchdown drive came in the second quarter and featured a 23 yard run by Bush. His 55 yard screen came early in the third quarter and led to the Raiders' final touchdown of the day. After that they just kept "feed(ing) the stud," as Bush put it, as he continued to churn out the yards and eat clock.
By the end, he had toted the rock 30 times for 157 yards (5.2 ypc) and caught three passes for 85 yards. His one mistake in this game was in the passing game when he missed a block that led to Palmer getting hit as he threw, resulting in the interception. Otherwise, he may have been the logical choice for top Baller. But it is impossible to overlook 242 yards from scrimmage.
During the Raiders' bye week it was noted that Wimbley had just one sack on the season through seven games, after putting up a team leading 9 sacks in 2010. He then got his second sack against the Broncos—still below what we have come to expect from him. But he knows how to catch up in a hurry. He had four sacks in this game erasing any doubts about his abilities since getting his monster contract this offseason.
Chargers starting left tackle Marcus McNeil was knocked out of the game in the first quarter and from that point on, Wimbley went on his tear. His first sack opened the second quarter and closed the door on that Chargers drive. Shortly thereafter, he stopped another Chargers drive with a sack on third down. Then on the last series of the first half, he had a third sack. When he wasn't sacking Philip Rivers, he was pressuring him and hitting him with regularity. Wimbley had his final sack on the second to last play of the game to force a long last gasp pass attempt by Rivers who was sacked a final time to end the game.
Along with his four sacks and many hurries (7) and hits (5) on the QB, Wimbley also led the team with seven solo tackles. He becomes the first Raider to have four sacks in a single game since Anthony Smith in 1993.
The level of trust that has developed between Palmer and Denarius so quickly is astonishing. He threw to Moore 12 times last week though only completed four of them. But that didn't discourage him from going for his new favorite target again. This time he had a great deal more success. But things didn't start out looking that way. Moore slipped on the turf (third week in a row) and dropped the first pass thrown to him. Next time he saw the ball was fielding a punt in which he ran backward for two yard loss. And that was his entire first quarter. Then things turned around... big time.
On the Raiders' first possession of the second quarter he had a spectacular 46 yard fingertip grab that made the round of the highlight reels. It set up a field goal to put the Raiders up 10-3.
The following Raiders' possession, he got a reprieve after a bad choice to field a punt at the one yard line when on the do-over punt, he blocked the gunner to keep him away from the ball and allow it to bounce in the end zone for a touchback. He also had a seven yard catch on that drive. The drive after that was almost all Denarius. He returned the punt 21 yards to their own 44 yard line. Two plays later with the Raiders at the Chargers 33 yard line, Denarius broke away from two defenders to catch a perfectly placed pass at the goal line and take it in for the touchdown. He would catch another touchdown pass from 26 yards out on the Raiders' next drive. The remainder of the game for Moore consisted of a nice 11 yard catch in which he scooped it up off the turf and a nifty move on a punt return to the 30 yard line. He finished with five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Cooper Carlisle, Stefen Wisniewski
It seemed nearly every time you saw Bush burst through a gaping hole and run wild into the secondary, it was through a block by one of these two. Carlisle was the first to get a notch on his belt when he pulled from his right guard spot to lay a gap clearing block that sprung Bush for a 44 yard gain. Later the two of them executed a screen play to perfection that gave Bush a convoy for him to break off 55 yards. Those two big runs are just the most obvious examples. Wisniewski, who was filling in for the injured Samson Satele, and Carlisle were doing some serious work and Bush's 157 yards rushing and 242 yards from scrimmage is proof of that.
There is a saying or perhaps it was a song lyric, I don't know, that "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." While I wouldn't completely subscribe to that with what I have seen from McClain, there is a ring of truth to it. As critical as I have been of McClain, this team is clearly better with him in the lineup. McClain is the team's middle linebacker and it becomes obvious what that means when you watch this defense with and without him in it. He was playing through an injury in this game. He was visually hampered by it, but if you didn't actually see him laboring, you never would have known it. He had several run stuffing tackles at or near the line of scrimmage and even had a tipped incompletion and three passes defended. He dug deep late, when the Raiders needed it the most. With the Chargers down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, McClain had a QB pressure to force an incompletion, a run stuff at the line, and then ended the drive with a pass defended.
He didn't have a great day but he did have the Raiders' only turnover. After the Raider defensive backs had three previous golden opportunities to pick off Philip Rivers that came up empty, Giordano was finally able to get an interception. It came late in the fourth quarter after the Chargers had driven down the field and were looking to tie the game. Rivers dropped back and threw a long ball to Vincent Jackson and Giordano intercepted it in the end zone. In the process he became the only Raider defender to have more than one interception this season.
It's a second straight top Buster for Curry. In his short time with the Raiders we have gotten a really good indication of what kind of player he is. He is a high energy, hard hitting player with little in the way of instincts or football intelligence. That becomes a serious liability in pass coverage more than anything. We picked up his poor play in the third quarter last week and again, that is where we pick it up this week.
On the Chargers' first drive out of the locker room, they began exploiting the pass coverage of Curry. He gave up an 11 yard catch and a 22 yard catch on that drive. The result was the Chargers' first touchdown. On the next drive, Curry gave up a 10 yard catch on third and one and gave up a 20 yard catch on the very next play that put the Chargers in field goal range. The next Chargers drive, he was out of position which left running back Jacob Hester wide open for a seven yard touchdown catch. So that's three drives, three scoring opportunities, and two touchdowns for the Chargers facilitated by Curry surrendering five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Curry says that his high energy defines him as a player. That high energy works well in basic run defense. But in every other area, it won't cut it. He was left confused facing Tebow's read-option attack last week and he was lost in coverage against Philip Rivers this week. The Chargers went into the locker room at halftime and came out knowing just the guy they could exploit to move the ball down the field and score. And you can bet every other team from here on out will take the same approach, though they probably won't wait until the third quarter.
As usual, Routt played a good game for the most part. But he usually seems to make us forget all about his fine coverage skill because he keeps getting victimized when it counts the most. On the Chargers' first touchdown pass, he was in perfect position to intercept it or at very least defend it. He saw it coming the moment he left the line and had what felt like an eternity to size it up. Then he leapt in the air and came away with nothing. The receiver, Vincent Brown (who?) plucked it away and came down with the 31 yard touchdown catch. As the Raiders' number one corner, he HAS TO make those plays—and he just doesn't. The Chargers were lined up in fourth and one and Routt gave up a catch and missed the tackle and it went for 17 yards to the seven yard line. The Chargers scored the touchdown on the next play. He was later called for holding.
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