What is UP, my fellow Raider Nation faithful?! What a day for us all yesterday. Sorry I wasn't there to share with you all, but I live here in Pittsburgh so I was watching the game on TV with copious amounts of beer. Unfortunately, finances prevented me from getting a ticket to attend, but that was okay. Probably just would've got in a drunken brawl anyway. I'm writing this in an attempt to bleed off some excitement and offer my thoughts on the exciting day just passed.
GAMER: BRUCE GRADKOWSKI - A no brainer here. Gradkowski turned in what was easily the best individual performance by a Raider all season. He completed almost 2/3rds of his passes for the first 300 yard game by a Raider QB since Kerry Collins. His leadership and calmness were simply amazing. I was particularly impressed by his ability to extend the play and avoid a sack. Two or three times he looked to be caught or tripped up but kept his balance and wriggled away. In fact, he looked a lot like his opposite number in black and gold on his better days. To turn in the performance he did after two DISASTROUS previous Heinz Field outings shows him to be a true gamer. Now the million dollar question: Can he do it again and again and again consistently?
GAMER: LOUIS MURPHY - For a receiver more than any other positions, it's all about the stat sheet. Murphy's: 4 catches, 128 yards, 2 touchdowns, including a 75 yarder featuring a sick deke on Ike Taylor that allowed him to reach the end zone. He also made an incredible leaping catch on a wobbly duck of a ball, outjumping multiple defenders. The kid has hands...maybe he just needed someone who could put some touch on the ball. Now...will we see the same from Darrius Heyward-Bey?
GAMER - NNAMDI ASOMUGHA - The best player in the league who never makes an impression on the box score. Nnamdi quietly had what I feel was his best game of the year yesterday, absolutely shutting down whoever he was covering at the time. He gave up one short completion to Mike Wallace, which also happened to feature a spectacular catch by the young Steelers WR. Other than that, Nnamdi was shutdown city, also recording two tackles. If the Raiders would actually assign him to shadow a particular WR and not just one half of the field, life would be oh so good.
More after the jump
GAMER: ZACH MILLER - He continues to be a complete tight end. A good blocker and an excellent surehanded security blanket for the QB. 4 catches, 43 yards.
GAMER - JOHNNIE LEE HIGGINS - When was the last time one Raider WR was a gamer, let alone two? Starting in place of the injured DHB, our other initial man JLH made his opportunity count with 4 catches for 63 yards. He did run a bad route at one point and I believe dropped another catch, but after his miseries all this year, it was wonderful to see him recover his form from last year. He did, however, get blown up bigtime at the end of the game....will that shatter the confidence he seemed to have recovered?
GAMER - MICHAEL HUFF - The last two seasons, Huff couldn't have tackled a fat man in a phone both. Yesterday? 7 solo tackles to go with a pass defended.
GAMER - JUSTIN FARGAS - Huggy Bear ground out a YPC of over 4.2 against a nasty Steelers run defense. while running behind an o-line that wasn't exactly opening up huge holes.
HONORARY GAMER - DARREN MCFADDEN - 9 carres for 25 yards with a long of 7. So what the hell is he doing on the "gamer" list, you ask? Well, his stats don't qualify him, but he was doing one thing that gets him an honorable mention. Yesterday I noticed for the third game in a row--so we can call it a pattern now--the fact that he's actually leaning into defenders and hitting them making them pay for tackling him. Whether he's been hanging out with Fargas more or simply is 100 percent healthy and confident now, I don't know. But I do know that if he keeps this up, his breakout game WILL be coming sooner rather than later. It's also not DMac's fault that he's forced to run between the tackles all the damn time. That 7 yard gain came on an outside pitch where he was able to get the corner and work in space. He showed a nice burst before being swarmed by the Steeler defense, which is excellent at pursuit. If he could get 10 touches a game that get him around the corner, I promise you he'll break at least one for a big gainer. Hopefully Cable was paying attention
HONORARY GAMER - TREVOR SCOTT - Scott had a very nice sack at a very important time, plus three tackles. While that ordinarily wouldn't make him a gamer, keep in mind he also was starting his first career game at WLB. I was terrified he would be exposed in pass coverage or fail to hold his own against the run....in short, that he'd be an outright liability. Instead, he played solidly, which gets him an honorable mention.
On to the less spectacular performances from yesterday:
LAMER - RICHARD SEYMOUR - Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Big Sey and I hope he finishes out his career here. I don't care if he's 30, he's still among the most dominant defensive linemen in the game. He consistently draws double teams, which can sometimes drive his stats down. But, as he showed against San Diego and Philadelphia, he can still sometimes dominante even then. Yesterday, though, he was an utter non factor, in on only two tackles and not even doing any disrupting. Fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.
LAMER - MATT SHAUGHNESSEY / JAY RICHARDSON - The tandem replacement for the injured Greg Ellis put together an uninspiring performance to say the least. They combined for a grand total of three tackles. Plus, Richardson had an inexcusable encroachment penalty and whiffed badly on a potential sack.
LAMER - CHRIS JOHNSON / STANFORD ROUTT - I do have sympathy, because any time you're playing across from Nnamdi Asomugha, you are going to get picked on. A lot. But these two looked particularly bad yesterday, getting repeatedly torched by Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. Can't blame the Ward TD on CJ, though....thanks ref for not calling the blatant facemask.
LAMER - LUKE LAWTON - How exactly does a fullback manage to false start? Plus, the guy can't run block for crap and has bad hands for screen passes. Put Gary Russell back in, for God's sake.
LAMER - CHRIS MORRIS - When Satele went out, Morris came in and struggled mightily. LeBeau started repeatedly blitzing right up the middle because it became rapidly clear Morris was out to lunch.
LAMER - THE ENTIRE RETURN GAME - Ugh. Just abysmal, like it's been all season. Al has got to draft a CB/KR hybrid. There's a lot of really good ones available in the upcoming draft: Kyle Wilson, Perrish Cox, and Javier Arenas all come to mind.
HONORARY LAMER - JAMARCUS RUSSELL - Et tu, fat man?
So there you have it. What do you think? Was I too nice or too harsh on anyone? Did I miss a gamer or a lamer? Fire away.