The article is over there <-----. It's not really, I just didn't want Antwan Applewhite to read it until it was almost over.
Well, I certainly didn't see that kind of game playing out. At least not one that ended in a Raiders' victory. I don't think many people really did. Just a victory seemed like wishful thinking, but complete domination on both sides of the ball against a team ranked first in total yards in offense and defense would've been downright delusional. Looking back on it, we should have expected nothing less. Not because the matchups dictated it, but because this is the way the season has gone.
If you take a look at our handy fan poll meter you find the three lowest points of the season after the losses to the Cardinals, 49ers and Dolphins and rightfully so. They were all bad losses. After each loss, it was back to the sentiment that this was the same ol' Raiders. After each one, we felt progressively worse about this team and it left the team with a do or die situation the following week.
That makes three times this season that the Raiders have taken the field with the perception that they need to win or the season is over and all three times that game came against an AFC West rival. Every time, the Raiders have shown they are not going to be written off this year.
It's a sign of resiliency and showing we're not a team that gives up.
That's what Nnamdi Asomugha had to say about his team after the latest "we're back from the dead" victory. These are not the kinds of phrases that have been meant for the Raiders in a long time. A time that spans Asomugha's eight year Raiders' career. That resiliency has led to the Raiders finding themselves in situations they haven't had since Rolando McClain was in the 8th grade. Asomugha:
There were so many firsts for me today, I don't think I can account for them all.
One of the firsts didn't come until the final horn sounded and a six could be found under the Raiders' win column.
It's a beautiful thing.... Six wins is great for us, but we have bigger goals than six wins. We've gotta do more than that.
Nnamdi wasn't the only one stressing that the work on this season is not done. With the Chiefs 10-6 victory over the Broncos, the Raiders failed to gain any ground in the division and, at two games back with only four to go, they don't have much room for failure. Just ask Michael Bush:
...it's a playoff mindset from here on out, because every game is big.
Of course, Nnam and Bush are just following the lead of Tom Cable. Cable:
We're at a point at (6-6) where we have got to come out and win, period.
Just like his team, Cable is proving to be the coach you can't write off. I was fairly certain last week that he was in the process of losing this team, but it appears he still has their ears. Don't believe me? Well, you don't have to. Richard Seymour:
We faltered a little bit (the last two weeks), but we have good leadership.
All of these positive vibrations are resonating from the can of whoop ass that the Raiders opened on the Chargers. And it was all possible, not because of an exotic game plan or trick plays, but because this team did what they do when they are playing good. Robert Gallery can tell you what that is. Gallery:
We had to get back to who we are, and that's physical and smash-mouth
And get back to it, they did. There was no battle in the trenches. The Raiders owned the trenches and then they moved them about three-yards deep into San Diego's side. It was easily the best game played by the offensive line. They only allowed one sack and that sack was on a scramble and slide for zero yards. The line gave Campbell enough time to get comfortable, survey the field and, when no one was open, scramble for key yards. While Campbell's running was clutch, it can not be overstated that this is not possible if the line doesn't give the offense enough time to stretch the field out.
Defensively, the Raiders' line allowed them to execute the perfect game plan. The Raiders shut down the run game so emphatically, that the Chargers essentially stopped trying. They ended the day with just 21 yards on eight carries. Eight carries? Really? I have no idea when the last time a team attempted only eight carries against the Raiders.
When Philip Rivers was passing, the line was getting enough pressure that John Marshall hardly had to dial up the blitz. All of which frustrated poor Philip Rivers, who torched the Raiders with the deep pass in their Week Four contest. Rivers:
They had safeties that were about 30 yards deep. They certainly made it tough on us. It's easier for them to make it tough on you when they know you're going to throw it almost every play.
Rivers may have been getting in a little jab at the play calling and it may have been warranted due in no small part to Rivers' own play. Phil missed on throws you don't expect him to miss on. While he took his share of hits, many of those throws were early enough that they came while his jersey was still relatively clean. Maybe the coaches were trying to force the passing game into rhythm, but when it was faltering early, it was surprising they didn't try to run the ball more and it was even more surprising they didn't put in Ryan Mathews. Mathews was the only Charger back to find success against the Raiders in Week Four, but he never got off the bench in this contest.
The defensive game plan was equally baffling. The Raiders ran the ball 52 times, yet the Chargers never got into the "you are going to have to throw it to beat us mode." Typically, they tried to stop the run with just the front seven and it just wasn't enough bodies. It's not that they weren't looking for the run. This was wildly apparent on the play fakes that left the Raiders with walk in touchdowns and easy plays. In fact on some plays, the Chargers actually had 12 men on the field biting on the play fakes.
Enough blabbing about the Chargers mistakes. For my money, given the opponent and the physical dominance, this was the most impressive game the Raiders have played this year....let's just get onto the bullet points.
- Rolando McClain: Death Ro' played his most complete game of the season. He was not caught out of position, was solid in run support and he leveled a legal statement hit that knocked Darren Sproles temporarily out of reality. What most impressed me about Rolando though was his defense of the underneath passes to the RBs. He was quick to find the RBs slipping out of the backfield and then made great tackles when they did catch it. These are the kinds of one-on-one tackles that we have seen Raiders' LBs either not be in position for or miss for years. The kind that turn simple dump-offs into big gains.
Samson Satele: Satele also played his best game of the season. Many of the Raiders runs were right up the middle. Satele was getting a good enough push that the Raiders guards were free to move onto block LBs.
LaMarr Houston: So much for the rookie wall. Houston is playing better every game and his game is evolving. He has learned how to help shut down the run as an end, he is getting pressure and he is playing more snaps then ever. He even got a sack from his more familiar DT position this game on a straight bull rush.
- Dike McBush: This was really the first game that the two-headed monster was in full-effect. The two backs complimented each other beautifully. Bush, who has had better games statistically, had his most impressive game. He seemed to finally fully embrace his role as the power runner. He hit the line and moved it, when there was no hole.
- Jason Campbell: When your team runs the ball like the Raiders did, it is easy to play QB. Still, Campbell did everything the Raiders asked of him and then some. He showed great field awareness and he was channeling Steve DeBerg on the play actions. The biggest contributions by Campbell were actually by his legs. After the game Campbell admitted to his motivation to scramble. Campbell:
Watching Cam Newton at Auburn, I had to go back to my Auburn days and make some plays with my feet.
Smart move by Campbell. If he keeps playing like this, he might be able to hold out for the kind of money Newton has made.