Some Thoughts about the Baltimore "Incident"

It was painful, but I rewatched the defensive plays (and some special teams) against Baltimore. Here are a few observations and thoughts.

Curry looked terrible. The two late hit penalties were obvious, but his instincts looked terrible and his angles were poor. On one notable play in the 3rd quarter, there a stretch run and Curry takes a bad angle and then knocks down Wheeler by running into his back. He should not have been playing in this game at all. He played special teams, also. I don't recall him playing any last year; it's not clear if he should continue to play s/t. It's not like how Quentin Groves made an impact as a special teams player. Curry was a non-factor with his only play of note being a late hit penalty.

Ron Bartell looks like JAG (Just Another Guy). He was not a noticeable improvement over Pat Lee. He's still working on getting back into game shape and may have looked very good in practice, but at full game speed, he didn't look great. It probably would have been prudent to have kept him inactive for this game and kept Pat Lee.

Giordano had yet another miserable game and this was perhaps his worst yet; he has at least 3 highlight reel blown plays and things appear to be getting worse with him. Mike Mitchell replaced him late and it's hard to imagine that Mitchell could not perform better than Giordano at this point. Gio is increasingly becoming a more of a liability and the result are these huge plays. I really do like the guy and root for him to succeed, but his performance as of late is embarrassingly bad.

And this goes against the fundamental tenet of the type of defense that T&A are trying to install: Bend but Don't Break.

Burris and Wheeler flipped positions on occasion. Burris definitely played some SAM.

The DL had multiple lineups that we haven't seen much before. Notable was moving Shaughnessy to the LDE, Houston to RDT, with Kelly at LDT and Andre Carter at RDE.

Des Bryant appeared to do quite well in one-on-ones. On run play double teams, though, he was moved and on the first Rice almost-TD run, Bryant was put on the ground.

Bilukidi was ok and for the first time, I saw why he is still on the roster. He has the potential to be a big space eater on the inside. He was ineffective rushing the passer, but on run plays, he was able to hold his position against single and double teams. If he can add weight and get stronger and learn some of the interior lineman tricks from Seymour and Kelly, he could blossom. Next year maybe. Or perhaps even the year after. He's definitely raw and a project, but yeah, there's some potential there. He had one tackle and it was a nice play.

Huff was Jekyll and Hyde. He gave up a couple of completions, but also had some very nice pass breakups and a key interception (i say "key" b/c it was still a game then). He should have had a second int in the endzone if he could have tracked the ball and timed his leap better. And another "garbage" int was up for grabs.

There was a very nicely drawn up blitz/stunt combo that the Ravens' oline handled quite easily.

There was a clear scheme problem and so much of the issues that arose from this loss can be placed on the preparation for this game, though this is due in part to the nature of the Raiders' defensive personnel and trying to compensate for the inherent deficiencies.

The Raiders have two major issues : Stopping the run, pass rush.

The run defense was exposed previously against TB and it was clear that T&A were working to fix that. But to that end, the Raiders' defense was overplaying the run. Safeties and LBs were biting HARD on play action fakes and leaving huge gaps in the defense. Too often, the Raiders were in zone and the play action fake pulled as many as 3 defenders out of position, leaving the middle of the field wide open.

The Dennis Pitta TD pass was a prime example. The Raiders were in a Cover-2 zone with 5-across and 2 (safeties) behind. The play fake to Ray Rice brings both Wheeler and Burris all the way up to the line of scrimmage, totally vacating the middle of the field. Hanson plays his zone correctly and passing off Pitta to Burris in the middle zone, but Burris was not there. Giordano actually plays this fine and this should have resulted in bracket coverage on Pitta.

Torrey Smith's long TD was also a case of biting on play action. Both Burris and Giordano bit hard on that.

This happened all day. This indicates that the preparation was to overplay the run and make sure that Rice doesn't get big yards.

The Raiders have no pass rush at all. With Seymour out, there's even LESS pressure. That is scary. With no pass rush, the only was to get pressure is by blitzing. T&A's blitzes are now on film and it appeared that Tampa was adjusting to it and Baltimore clearly was not taken by surprise by any of the blitzes. The 2nd quarter 47 yarder pass completion to Jacoby Jones was on such a blitz pickup. McClain came first and then Branch on a delay; against Atlanta, Jax or KC, Branch wold be running free. On Sunday, Ray Rice picked him up, gave Flacco another full second to set and make the downfield throw.

Without difference makers on the dline to rush the passer or to stuff the run game, the Raiders have to "pick their poison." In this case, they played aggressive run defense. And it showed. And the Ravens were prepared for this. Harbaugh prefers to start his offense with Rice, but has no problem going with what works.

What else showed up was the over-aggressiveness. Raiders would react hard to first action. Misdirection fooled them and played off that aggressiveness. Reverse, screens, and draw all had varying levels of success, but they were effective in always keeping the Raiders defense off-balance.

What's interesting is that this is the style of offense that the Raiders want to run. Run first, force defenses to overcommit to stop the run, and then take deep shots off that with WRs and TEs across the inside. This is a prime example of that (but on the wrong side).

Wheeler's defenseless receiver hit penalty sucked. It was a legit call, but it's hard to blame Wheeler too much when he was already in the middle of the tackle motion and Pitta then drops down into him. Not sure how he could have pulled up, perhaps trying to leap over Pitta? It was on a 3rd-and-15 and was incomplete.

That brutal 2-min drill at the end of the first half by the Ravens. It was actually a 1:10 drill. This was a case of offensive play calls defeating defensive play calls. The players seemed to play fine, but Ravens were making better calls.

That fake FG was deserved. If the Raiders are going to overload a side for a block, they deserve to have the fake run on them. That's on the Special Teams Coach Hoffman.

The Jacoby Jones kickoff return for the TD was caused by one of two Raiders running out of his lane. Stewart and Ross had the outside lanes and Clayton had an inside lane, but there should have been a Raider in the lane in between; that was the clear lane that . It looks like that should have been Richard Gordon. Alternately, if Gordon was supposed to go inside, then Clayton fails to adjust outside far enough.

I don't believe that the Raiders' effort should be questioned. If anything, it appeared that Raiders were being too aggressive and trying too hard. Defenders weren't giving up and getting blocked or knocked down; they were running out of control to strange places or getting fakes out by misreading/misrecognizing a play. But even into the 4th quarter, players were still selling out to try to make tackles (mostly) or take on blocks. Admittedly, there were a couple of instances where a player doesn't quite get far enough and then just dives at the ball carrier, in a more-or-less token fashion.

My main takeaway is that this was a mediocre to bad team facing a premier team. The Raiders were likely going to lose, but it was a question of by how many points. The preparation seems to have acknowledged that and as such, Allen decided on a more aggressive and gambling approach on defense. It misfired and compounded by some mistakes, the Raiders got blown out in embarrassing fashion.

While I'm not quite ready to give up on the team or the coaching staff, it really does highlight the major issues on the defense and it will continue to be difficult for the remainder of the season. There's not another Bye coming. There's no time to get more volume and get players ramped up on scheme. This is basically it combined with weekly game planning. And now opposing offenses are going to be pretty well prepared to play this defense.

We're going to learn a lot about this team in the next couple of weeks.

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