Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
After a delay caused in part by the choosing of our next President of the United States, the making of the Ballers & Busters was finally to commence. After that I had run out of excuses not to get it done. Much like the Raiders. They fell to 3-5 on the season thanks in large part to rookie running back Doug Martin running for 251 yards and four touchdowns. But let's start with the good news...
Even if it took the coaches half a season and two running back injuries to figure it out, they finally gave the ball to Marcel Reece. They then figured out what the rest of the NFL already knew-he's really good at what he does. What does he do? He presents a huge mismatch for opposing defenses. He is a fullback who catches like a receiver and runs like a running back. He was the Raiders' leading receiver both in catches (8) and yards (95) in this game and he did it all in the second half.
Late in the third quarter is when he really got going after the Raiders had given up 21 unanswered points and found themselves down 28-10. He made a fantastic catch for 26 yards to get things moving. Then two plays later, he had a 15-yard catch. The drive resulted in a much needed touchdown. He had two more catches on the next drive which also ended with a touchdown.
He had two more catches on the following drive. The first went for 20 yards and the second was the touchdown which brought the Raiders back within three points at 32-35. Eight crucial catches which helped nearly bring the Raiders back in a game which looked to be lost. He had a total of ten catches in the last four games with none the previous week. You just hope the coaches finally figured out the weapon they have in Reece and continue to make a point to get the ball in his hands.
Let's start with his line 39 of 61, 414 yards, 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions. Only one other quarterback in Raider history has thrown and completed more passes in a game than that-Rich Gannon. That's also 64% completion. And he threw most of those passes and yards while both of his top running backs were out of the game and had gained a total of 17 yards on the ground. He carried this team on his arm. The Buccaneers knew he had to throw and still couldn't stop it.
The first touchdown was a perfectly thrown ball to Rod Streater from 25 yards out which came two plays after a 46-yard sideline pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey. It was inside the final 2:00 of the first half to send the Raiders into the locker room with a 10-7 lead.
In the third quarter, the Buccaneers reeled off three straight touchdowns. The third was following Palmer's first interception. That interception came on what appeared to be due to Denarius Moore running the wrong route. Although, it isn't for certain. It may have been a judgment call based on what the defender was doing and Palmer read it incorrectly. Regardless, the interception didn't set the Bucs up with great field position so the points off of it are on the defense. They gave up a 67-yard touchdown run on the second play.
Palmer came back out and led the Raiders to a touchdown of their own. Then the defense gave up a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play. So Palmer came back out and led the Raiders to another touchdown. The Raiders defense got lucky on the next series as the Bucs fumbled the snap. Otherwise it may have meant another touchdown exchange. But instead it was Palmer turn again and he again led the Raiders for a touchdown. After that touchdown, the Raiders needed a two point conversion to make it a three point game and under heavy pressure, Palmer put the ball up and Juron Criner came down with it.
This is when the controversy really starts. The Raiders had the fans believing in miracles. The crowd was going crazy and they deafened the Bucs offense to cause two delay of game penalties which helped stop their attempt to respond offensively. But when Palmer got the ball back, he threw an easy interception on the second play. This wasn't a Brett Favre situation per se. He wasn't trying to fit the ball into a covered receiver. He had a defender in his face as he threw that ball which caused the pass to arch off target.
Also, that interception alone didn't kill the Raiders' hopes. It was the defense who allowed a touchdown on three plays which killed them. If they had held them to a field goal, the Raiders would still have had a chance to drive to win the game. Palmer's third and final interception came on the final drive but that one had no bearing on this game. It was already all but in the books by that point.
And that's why I credit him more for his heroics than I fault him for his mistakes.
The Raiders came out stale and dysfunctional in this game. Two straight three and outs featuring Denarius running the wrong route, a two-yard pass, a drop by Brandon Myers, Darrius Heyward-Bey falling down for a catch and a loss of one, Richard Gordon called for a false start, and finally another catch short of the first down marker.
On the following Bucs offensive drive, the Raiders defense looked as anemic as the offense had. They letting the Bucs move down the field with ease, picking up steady chunks of yardage. The drive finally stalled once they hit the red zone and after three plays the Bucs set up for a 35-yard field goal. And that's when everything changed.
Houston came rushing in and leapt in the air to block the field goal attempt. Then he alertly picked it up and rumbled 34 yards down the field. That play seemed to ignite the fire in the Raiders which was missing through much of the first quarter. The offense woke up and began moving down the field. And though they too stalled at the end, they were able to get on the board first with a field goal.
The Raiders would surrender a touchdown on two big passes on the next drive but the remainder of the first half, the defense held strong. Houston had coverage on a third down for an incompletion and a tackle for a loss of seven on the next series helping keep them from scoring again the first half.
The defense as a whole was pretty bad in the second half but it was not Houston who gave up any of the big runs. He added a couple tackles and led the team with two tackles for loss.
After a terrible week last week, he had to show it was simply a rookie mistake and make up for it. His first big play wasn't a catch. It was doing something every good receiver needs to do from time to time- become the defender. Immediately following the 46-yard catch by DHB, Palmer threw it his way but his defender had perfect position. So Streater jumped up and slapped the ball down to prevent an interception. It proved to be worth it for the Raiders and for him because two plays later, he caught a 25-yard touchdown.
Later in the game, when the Raiders really needed to put some points on the board, Palmer looked Streater's way again. It was the beginning of the fourth quarter and the Raiders were down 17-35. He starter with two straight passes of 9 and 15 yards. Later he had a 6-yard catch which was follow by his defender being called for pass interference in the end zone to put the ball at the one yard line. The raiders would score on the next play. He had one more catch but it was called back by a holding penalty.
This is Carter's third game as a Raider. He didn't make an impact in the first two games but as of this game it appears he is back in football shape. He played just 25 snaps (38%) and made those plays count.
On the very first third down of the game for the Buccaneers, Carter came in the game and sacked the quarterback. Talk about instant results. On the next drive, he came in the game in the red zone and promptly had a tackle for loss and on the next play put pressure on the quarterback to force an incompletion. The Bucs would be forced to settle for a field goal attempt two plays later (which was blocked).
The next time the Bucs were facing third down came in the second quarter and he was back in the game. He pressured the QB again to force another incompletion. The Bucs realized then that they would need to account for him when he came in the game.
Darrius Heyward-Bey - He had 5 catches for 74 yards including a fantastic one-handed grab for 46 yards to set up the Raiders first touchdown of the day.
Brandon Myers - Dude had two touchdown catches. Which alone is great. But he also had three on-target drops-one on third down-and a fourth incompletion in which he fell down. I can't let those mistakes slide just like I can't let his touchdowns go unnoticed.