This past week's game was a rough one for Raider Nation. After a rough first half, it seemed that the team was headed towards another lopsided defeat, this time at the hands of the Bengals.
Then a solid third quarter had the team in position to make a game of it . Unfortunately, after a series of officiating blunders, the Raiders ultimately went out without being able to really make the Bengals sweat it out.
Here are a few observations from Sunday's game:
1. Pass blocking was poorly executed, even by the standard the line has set for itself this season. Pass blocking is one of the unnoticed, not discussed features of the zone blocking scheme the Raiders have implemented. The principles that are used in the running game under this scheme also apply to pass protection, as linemen do more slide protection and zone protection under this scheme as opposed to matching up. Remember how effective players such as Veldheer were last year matching up against opposing defensive linemen. This year, and particular yesterday, the zone scheme of pass protection has resulted in an unfortunate number of blown assignments. The players just aren’t comfortable in it, and adjustments need to be made.
2. Unpreparedness. It seemed like the Raiders were not ready for anything the Bengals came out with to start the game, on both sides of the ball. They were expecting coverage, and got blitzed. When they expected blitz, they got coverage (and unfortunately still were pressured). When they sold out to stop the run, the runs either went the other way or were passes. The coaching staff has to find a way to define what it is that they want to accomplish to start a game, and then find a way to impose that will on the opponent and set the tone for the game. This goes back to establishing an identity, something the Raiders don’t have even at this point in the season.
3. Pass coverage. This week was a step up in the pass coverage. A lot (though admittedly not all) of the completions made were on plays where the coverage was at least present, which is an improvement. There’s still a long ways to go, but the consistency on that unit is slowly improving.
4. No resiliency. It stems from the Raiders not having anything to fall back on when times get rough. There is no go-to play or player on offense, and the team can’t manufacture plays on defense. When adversity strikes, the breakdowns start to snowball. While the players are not to blame for this at the end of the fourth quarter after everything that transpired, what they are responsible for is this problem rearing its head in the first half. Lack of resiliency allowed the Bengals to go from scoring first, which is not the end of the world, to a 24-0 lead seemingly in the blink of an eye. One look at the Raiders’ record the past few seasons when not scoring first tells you all you need to know about their lack of ability to overcome adversity, which is something that the coaches need to address by being prepared for it.