ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Chris Johnson #37 of the Oakland Raiders misses intercepting a pass intended for Donald Jones #19 of the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Yesterday, I witnessed two teams battling each other for relevancy. I also saw two teams that were, due to injuries to Oakland's starting two wide-outs and tight-end, evenly matched.
The contest was a tale of two halves with each team putting together the best half that they could imagine. Oakland looked like the best team in the NFL in the first half and took a 21-3 lead into the break.
Buffalo then responded with a record breaking half that made them look like the best offense on the face of the planet, or the history of the NFL. In scoring five touchdowns on all five of their possessions, Buffalo made scoring look as easy as if they were on offense in 5-7 year old Pee-Wees. Then again, even those teams don't score EVERY time they have the ball.
Lost in all of the stats, headlines and commentary is one simple fact. The Raiders had three chances to seal the game, with the ball in their hands and they weren't able to do it.
I had the opportunity to watch the game yesterday with Oakland Raider Linebacker Travis Goethel who is recovering from a knee injury. While in the midst of watching his fellow defenders being marched backwards down the field time and again, Travis was asked what you do as a defensive player to stop the opposition. Travis replied, "You look to step up and make a play. You need to do something to stop their momentum and reassert yourself". Just as he said that, Richard Seymour tackled the running back and the Offensive lineman in the backfield.
This seemed to get the defense back into a rhythm and the Bills drive stalled at the Oakland 8 after two incompletions in a row. Then a yellow flag was thrown for a defensive holding on Chris Johnson and the Bills had the momentum back with a first and goal from the four yard line.
Now, you can say, If Chris Johnson wasn't holding there it would have been 4th and 8, forcing a likely field goal and the Raiders would have still bee up by 1 with the ball and 4:48 left. But, there was a play that came up next that would have likely ended the game.
With momentum back on Buffalo's side, Fitzpatrick threw a pass directly into Tyvon Branch's hands that went through them and into the hands of his tight end Scott Chandler. That was the first play that should have been made that would have seen Oakland up by 4 points with the ball and an offense that was on a roll.
After going down the field once more and scoring on an A-Mazing bomb to Denarius Moore, the Raiders would put themselves into position two more times to effectively end the game
On the final drive with the game on the line, the Buffalo Bills completed two forth downs, but, on each of those plays nobody was actually in position to make a play.
There was however an opportunity for Chris Johnson to show that he is a player in this League when he had an interception firmly in his grasp and then let it be slapped away by a good play from the intended receiver.
With Buffalo on the Oakland 15 yard line with 27 seconds on the clock Fitzpatrick tried a corner end zone route and Chris Johnson had it snuffed out perfectly. He was in perfect position to make the pick and end the game, but couldn't get it tucked.
It did set up 3rd and 10 and then 4th and 1, but nobody was in position to end the game, so the Chris Johnson failed pick attempt was the defenses last chance to end the game as Buffalo scored with 14 seconds left to go up 38-35.
Barring a major miracle that was the ball-game. But, wait, the Raiders have found a game changer in 5th Round draft choice, Denarius Moore. With one final heave. as time ran out, Jason Campbell gave his young play maker a chance to do just that and he nearly made a classic Raider catch that would instantly ranked in the top 10 off All-Time. Unfortunately for Oakland, that was it.
With all the talk about the 35 points scored by Buffalo in the second half and all of the talk about costly penalties prolonging Buffalo drives. It came down to three plays. If Oakland makes them, they win. If they don't, which they didn't they lose.
I have to say that I think next week's game against the Jets will be an absolute rumble. The best news to come out of yesterday's loss is that that there were no major injuries and hopefully some of the injured bodies will start coming back for Oakland.