It was back home for the Raiders to face the Chicago Bears. The Bears were riding a five game winning streak coming into Oakland. However, they were to play their first game without their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler. With Caleb Hanie getting his first start, it was up to the Raiders to take advantage and come away with the win.
Even with Hanie at quarterback, the Bears were still dangerous. Their defense is among the best in the NFL and their running game with Matt Forte was also something to be reckoned with. But the Raiders matched them stride for stride in most aspects while forcing turnovers and capitalizing just enough to pull out a 25-20 victory.
The Raiders snapped the Bears' five-game winning streak and are now on a three-game winning streak of their own. It took a team effort to get this win and that will show in this week's Ballers & Busters.
Well, sooprise, sooprise, sooprise. After taking a few games to get his footing in his new digs, Curry showed the kind of potential that made him a top draft pick. What Curry has always had is energy and fire. But what he added in this game was discipline. The results speak for themselves.
He had two tackles for loss in this game, the first coming on the Bears' second possession when he came shooting in on a well-timed blitz to catch the runner for a three yard loss. It helped hold them to a second three and out to start the game. Next series, he had containment on the outside to force Matt Forte to the inside where he was tackled for a short gain. Then two plays later, he shed a block and used his great speed to close quickly on Hanie, forcing a bad pass that was intercepted by Stanford Routt. It put the Raiders in field goal position and they went up 6-0. He stopped Hanie on an attempted scramble on the next drive and it too ended in an interception—this time by Michael Huff.
Midway through the second quarter he had his second tackle for loss when he sniffed out a dumpoff pass and stuffed it three yards in the backfield. A few plays later, he was in the backfield again to slow the runner enough that he was tackled for a short gain. But his biggest play would come on the next drive.
With the Raiders up 9-7 and the Bears in scoring position, he stepped in front of a short pass to tip it and Kamerion Wimbley came down with the interception. Then he blocked the man closest to him and sprinted downfield to give Wimbley a personal escort for him to return the interception 74 yards. The result was a 12-7 Raider lead instead of the Raiders losing the lead heading into halftime. Hanie made sure he knew where Curry was the rest of the game.
It seemed when Curry tipped that ball to Wimbley for the interception, he passed on his stats as well. Because while Curry was a beast in the first half, Wimbley was in his own beast mode in the second half. But first there was that 74 yard interception return. He nearly made the endzone but was dragged down at the end of the run by a horsecollar.
Wimbley made his presence felt in the first quarter when he came flying in to hit Hanie just after he released the ball and Huff intercepted it. That hit was foreshadowing for later on. He really got things going in the third quarter. The Bears' second series was all about him. He had a run stuffing tackle for no gain on the first play, hit Hanie as he threw incomplete on the next play, and sacked Hanie on the final play. He finished the day with four tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 quarterback hurries, an interception, and a pass defended.
He kicked six field goals in this game. That broke a franchise record that had stood for 50 years. Four of those field goals were outside of 40 yards. He also had a touchback which he hasn't had many of since his hamstring injury. Johnny Knox had a 56 yard return on one of his kickoffs but that was more due to poor tackling. Otherwise, Janikowski kept Devin Hester in check with some nicely placed kicks all day.
It was the linebacker's day I guess. Sure, they were teeing off on Caleb Hanie but that is not important. McClain did what he was supposed to do. He made life for Hanie and the Bears' offense extremely difficult all day.
He ended their second possession with a three and out when he pressured Hanie into an incompletion. Later in the first quarter, he sacked Hanie for an eight yard loss which set them up in third and 15. Hanie would be forced to throw for it on the next play and it was intercepted. He had several other run stops in this game, most notably the one to end the Bears' drive to start the fourth quarter and a tackle for a loss of six late in the fourth. He finished second on the team in combined tackles (5-1) with a sack, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hurry.
Led the Raiders in tackles again (8-0). He usually does. It's when he gets those tackles near the line of scrimmage and/or cleaning up after his teammates that he gets the most credit. He had four tackles in the first half, both were near the line (3 yards, 1 yard). Then on the Bears' first possession of the second half, he came in on a safety blitz, hit Hanie who rolled out of it, but Tyvon stayed with him to sack him for a 10 yard loss. The next play was a third and 20 and Branch tackled the receiver for a short gain to end the series. He had his one hiccup in this game when he gave up the Bears' only touchdown on a nine yard pass to the tight end. But Branch made amends when he tackled Matt Forte inbounds in the final seconds to seal the win for the Raiders. It was the second week in a row he has closed out the game for the Raider defense.
Lechler had five punts on the day. Three of those punts were stopped inside the twenty yard line. The first was a masterfully placed coffin corner kick to pin the Bears at the three yard line. The second was a towering 51 yarder that was downed by the Raiders at the four yard line. All World return man Devin Hester had no chance on the day. He had two returns—one for seven yards and the other for zero yards. All that is enough to get Lechler a Baller nod. But I haven't even gotten to his biggest punt of the day. Make that the biggest punt of his career. Better yet, the biggest punt in Raider franchise history. It came in the fourth quarter with the Raiders at their own 20 yard line after a three and out. Hester stood 55 yards downfield ready to receive the punt. Lechler launched the ball 80 yards downfield for a touchback. It took Hester a moment to realize what he was seeing, at which point he started sprinting toward his own goal line but was never able to catch up with it as it landed near the goal line and bounced into the endzone. It was the longest punt in Raider franchise history and was glorious to behold.
Myers is a Baller for the second time this season. Last time I mentioned that he had never been on the list before due to the fact that he just doesn't see much playing time. That hasn't really changed since then. But what also hasn't changed since then is Myers' making plays. First he did it with his hands when he caught a 25 yard pass on the Raiders' first drive that ended with a field goal. He also did it in the run game, blocking for Michael Bush including laying the key block that opened the hole for Bush to score the Raiders' only touchdown from three yards out. But where Myers really made his presence felt was on special teams. He stopped Devin Hester three times in this game. All three times, Hester didn't make it back to the 20 yard line. The first was a kickoff return stopped at the 18 yard line, the second a punt return of 7 yards stopped at the 12 yard lined, and the third a kick return to the 16 yard line.
Completed 21 of 37 passes for 301 yards and one interception, despite having almost constant pressure in his face from the relentless Bears defense. His nicest pass was a 47 yarder dropped in perfectly to Louis Murphy to set the Raiders up at the three yard line. It led to a touchdown run on the next play which gave the Raiders their first fourth quarter touchdown in two months. Not since the week five win over the Texans had the Raiders scored in the fourth quarter. Palmer was still unemployed at that time, with no clue he would become a Raider.
The Raiders were without Palmer's top two receivers for this game so it was up to Reece to fill the void. He stepped up to the challenge and caught five passes for 92 yards to lead the team in receiving. Palmer targeted him early and often, and Reece started off with an uncharacteristic drop in the endzone to start the game. But he got the call again in the second quarter and took a screen pass 47 yards. It led to a field goal, and the Raiders retook the lead 9-7. Reece had two more catches to start out the second half—one for 11 yards and two plays later a 29 yarder. That too set up a field goal as the Raiders extended their lead 15-7.
Jared Veldheer, Stefen Wisniewski, Samson Satele
Otherwise known as the left side of the Raiders' offensive line. These three have had many great games this season. There have even been times in which I have lumped them together as Ballers. But as a group, they were manhandled by the Bears' defense. That's not to take anything away from the Bears' defense. But if you want to point to the reason the Raiders had so much trouble getting into the endzone in this game, you need look no farther than these three and the battles they lost at the line of scrimmage on Sunday.
Satele got things started off on the Raiders' second possession when he gave up a run stuff tackle for no gain, which led to a three and out. Next drive it was Veldheer's turn. He ended the Raiders' next drive when Julius Peppers beat him for a sack. Just last week I along with a few others in the media were heaping praise on Veldheer for holding Jared Allen to a sackless game. The prospect of holding Peppers without a sack ended early for Veldheer in this one.
Next drive was brutal for the Raiders Oline. On the second play, Wisniewski gave up a run stuff at the line, next play Veldheer was blown up by Peppers to give up a hit on Palmer. Two plays later, Veldheer gave up another sack.
Things didn't get much better for Veldheer in the second half. With the Raiders at the Bears' nine yard line, he was called for holding. Two plays later, they would settle for yet another field goal. Next Raider possession began with Wisniewski losing his block and giving up a tackle for a loss of two.
Next drive the Raiders would get back to the nine yard line—this time in first and goal. But the offensive line collapsed big time. On three consecutive plays the Raiders moved backward. Veldheer started out by giving up a tackle for a loss of three. Then Wisniewski was called for holding, wiping out a touchdown on a screen to Bush. Finally, Satele gave up a sack. The Raiders went from first and goal at the nine yard line to fourth and goal at the 26 yard line. And again—wait for it—a field goal.
The Raiders were finally able to score a touchdown on their next drive but not without having to overcome a holding penalty on Satele. Anyone still doubt the strength of the Bears' defensive line and linebackers? I can tell you the Raider offensive line has no doubts.
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