In the third week of the 2012 preseason, the Raiders won to over the Detroit Lions 31-20.
The third preseason game is generally considered to be the most important because the starters play for the longest period of time and the coaching staff actually puts in a game plan to prepare.
The defense - and especially the run defense - looked extremely solid. The 1st team run defense allowed less than 10 yards to Detroit's running backs.
For the offense, the Raiders showed good running power most of the game. Starting RB Darren McFadden ran hard and ended with 9 carries for 27 yards and a TD and added 2 catches for 11 yards. McFadden has long been considered one of the best RBs in the league as long as he remains healthy. He has yet to play an entire season, however.
In relief of McFadden, the Raiders turned to second year speedster Taiwan Branch, playing for the first time this preseason after suffering a hamstring pull earlier in camp. Jones showed his breathtaking speed, with multiple runs for more than 10 yards. Jones ended with an average of 5 yards/carry after running for 50 yards on 10 carries. It's likely he earned the number 2 RB spot with his performance tonight.
Mike Goodson, playing with the 3rd string offense, looked good at points, too, but not enough to have him back in the conversation to be the primary backup. He still is likely to be on the final roster as the third string running back.
Quarterback Carson Palmer started the game very strong, taking shots down the field but checking down as needed and moving the Raiders offense down the field. However, as he has done a number of times this offseason, he made a poor decision on a throw in the second quarter and it was picked off. There is indication there was defensive holding that went uncalled by the refs but it was still a poor decision and the poor decisions by Palmer continue game after game. Palmer had another interception on a high throw that bounced off WR Eddie McGee's hands.
Palmer ended the night with 17 completions on 26 attempts and 181 yards with no touchdowns and the two interceptions. He played the first half, only. His QB rating was 53.5.
Matt Leinart, Palmer's backup, didn't play due to a finger laceration sustained in last week's game vs Arizona. In his place, Terrelle Pryor played with the second team offense and, despite some shakiness initially, was able to make some big plays for the Raiders.
First, Pryor was able to move the team down the field using his feet. On two sequential plays, Pryor had long runs for 59 yards and 17 yards, the second resulting in a TD. The first was particularly impressive as he broke free from contain, ran up along the right side of the line and into open space and then hit another gear to blast down the field much faster than most QBs are able.
Later in the game, Pryor twice looked to rookie WR Juron Criner for plays and, on both occasions, Criner came through. The first play was a 39 yard bomb to the end zone that was just slightly underthrown. Criner was in man coverage and was able to see the ball's trajectory and come back for it for a great TD reception. There was a pass interference on the play that was, of course, declined.
The second play was another long ball to the tall rookie and Criner was able to make the catch about 40 yards down the field, shaking his man in the process, and then scoot down another 30 yards or so for a 76 yard catch-and-run TD.
It wasn't all good news, though. The Raiders special teams continues to struggle in practically all areas. The Lions averaged almost 40 yards on their kickoff returns, a stat that is heavily aided by a 79 yard return that would have gone for a touch down if not for a hustle play by Matt Giordano who chased down the returner, former Raider Justin Miller. On the other side, the Raiders kickoff return average was an incredulously low 11 yards.
The team struggled with some punting and kicking issues, too. Pro-bowl punter Shane Lechler's first punt only went 41 yards although he settled in after that and looked much more himself as the game progressed. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski added a missed 30 yard field goal and hurt his groin on the long kickof return trying to chase down returner Justin Miller.
Also the team struggled with penalties again, tonight, ending with 9 penalties for 59 yards. A few of those penalties were early penalties against the defense for lining up in the neutral zone and another two were for RG Mike Brisiel false starting. Brisiel's are almost forgivable as he was matched up against formidable DT Suh.
There was one memorable sequence in which the Raiders were awarded a pass interferance penalty against Detroit for a penalty in the end zone and they were moved to the 1 yard line for first and goal, the same as last week. Just as last week the team struggled to get into the end zone, trying several times before getting to 4th down. However, instead of kicking a FG on 4th down as he did the week before, head coach Dennis Allen decided to go for it and McFadden was barely able to cross the goal line with the ball for a TD before the ball was knocked from his hands. Although the play was initially ruled a fumble, a review of the play showed that it was, in fact, a touchdown as McFadden had broken the plane of the goal line with the ball before losing it.
However, the good outweighed the bad as the Raiders looked better than their Detroit counterparts for most of the game. The Raiders finished with 513 yards of offense compared to 282 achieved by the Lions.
If the third preseason game means anything, it likely means that the Raiders have some way to go to be elite but they can, at least, matchup well against a team that, a year ago, beat them soundly in the regular season.
-Taiwan Jones - the speedy runner looked faster than every other player out there and consistently was able to get good yardage on his runs.
-Juron Criner - he only caught two balls but both were difficult receptions and both went for TDs. He did have a drop on a 3rd down play later in which he tried to get upfield before securing the pass but after the other receptions he still makes this list.
-Lamarr Houston - Very solid night with a number of tackles (6 solo, 8 total to lead the team) but also with QB pressures that don't endup on the stat sheet.
-Jamie Cumbie - Cumbie, playing for a spot on the team, had a great night ending the night with 3 pass deflections on Lions QB Kellen Moore - one of which resulted in an interception - and a sack.
-Raiders first team run D - Very solid, gave up less than 10 yards in the first half of football.
-Darrius Heyward-Bey - DHB made what may be the best catch of his career, reaching around a DB 41 yards down the field and hauling in a long reception in a 1-1 battle. It was as impressive a reception from him as we've ever seen.
-Rod Streater - ho hum. The rookie standout led the team in receptions - again - with 5 catches for 56 yards.
-Eddie McGee - he ended with no receptions despite being targeted a few times. He had a couple of drops and a high but catchable pass bounced off his hands and ended up being an interception for the Lions.
-DeMarcus Van Dyke - DVD did no favors struggling in both pass and run defense. He got caught out of position on pass defense at times and had one bad PI call against him. His slight build allowed the Lions to run right at him because he doesn't have the bulk and strength to seperate himself from receivers who are run blocking opposite him.
-Dre Muhammad - the wide receiver and kickoff returner had the unenviable position of having to make a split second decision on a kickoff that may or may not have eventually rolled out of bounds. He scooped it up and ran out with it since the Lions unit was bearing down on him. The decision was questionable but not necessarily wrong but head coach Allen had a long discussion with the Raiders special teams coach after the play and looked none to happy about the play, itself.