Miles Burris #56 is congratulated by Michael Huff #24 of the Oakland Raiders after he tackled Eddie Royal #11 of the San Diego Chargers during their season opener
Well, this isn't exactly what anyone expected to see in the Raiders' first game of the season. The coaches spent all this week preparing for what the Chargers might do. What they didn't plan for was losing a long snapper and having losing a game primarily due to botched snaps.
The Raiders were down 10-6 at the half and had no idea at the time just what would befall them. It was still a competitive game. The defense was holding up well against the high-powered Chargers offense and the Raiders offense had moved the ball well too. That was the case the whole game really. But with the Chargers getting great field position time and time again, the Raiders couldn't recover and lost 22-14.
Amidst the glaring problems, there were positives. Hopefully the Ballers can capture that. Equally important will be correctly laying out the Busters.
He has improved leaps and bounds from where he was even a few weeks ago. Dennis Allen was very upfront about the fact that Burris was having an up and down camp and preseason. Even up until week three of the preseason, he was still not where he needed to be as a starting NFL linebacker. Since then something has clicked for him. He led the Raiders with nine tackles in this game from the weak side linebacker spot. Among those nine tackles, he had two tackles for loss. Several other tackles were at or near the line of scrimmage. One thing you notice about Burris is how well he tackles. He is a very sure tackler with textbook mechanics and always wraps up. That goes a long way in the NFL.
McFadden was nearly the entire Raiders offense. His number was called 33 times in this game out of 64 plays. That means he had more plays than the rest of the offensive players combined. He was targeted 18 times in the passing game and had a Raider running back record 13 catches. It was once shy of tying the Raiders record at any position-set by Tim Brown in 1997. Granted the Raiders should have spread the ball around more but McFadden deserves credit for being the workhorse in this game. He was far more featured in the passing game because the Chargers were allowing underneath passes all day. He averaged just over two yards per carry (15 for 32 yards). Two of his shortest runs went for first downs and late in the game he was tackled for a loss of three and then a loss of eleven. He finished with 118 yards of offense averaging 6.5 yards per touch on 28 touches.
He wasn't perfect and Burris could teach him a thing or two about wrapping up. But he was disciplined and where he was supposed to be nearly the whole game with no big mistakes. He started off his day breaking into the Chargers backfield to flush Philip Rivers from the pocket and right into the Raiders only sack of the day. Outside of that, he had five tackles on the day. Only one of those tackles was past two yards off the line of scrimmage. That tackle was five yards downfield on third and six to force a punt.
He was the Raiders' second leading receiver behind McFadden. He had five catches for 61 yards-every one of them came in the fourth quarter. His first catch was his longest. It was also the longest pass of the day for the entire Raiders team. It went for 26 yards. His next catch went for 20 yards on third and 14. It was the Raiders final drive and he had two more catches of 8 and 11 yards to set up the Raiders only touchdown of the game.
This defense looked well prepared for the Chargers. His bend but don't break style was working quite well. The Raiders pass rush was not on full display-just one sack on the day-but it was because the Raiders were focusing on not giving up the big play. The Raiders defense came back on the field after a turnover or bobbled snap four times and each time, the Raiders held the Chargers out of the endzone. There was just one long completion for the Chargers and it was not a scheme issue.
He was just signed by the team not five days prior to their Monday night opener and had just three practices to get ready. That is meaningless with regard to whether he was a Baller, but it is interesting to note anyway. He is a Baller purely for what he did on the field in this game. He caught four of the five passes thrown his way. He was the first Raider wide receiver to have a catch in this game-for 13 yards on the first drive. Then on the Raiders final drive of the first half he had a ten yard catch followed by a four yard catch to help set up the field goal before half time. Early in the third quarter, the Chargers were called for pass interference on him on third down for an automatic first down. Then on the Raiders final drive of the game he had a 17-yard catch to help the Raiders get their only touchdown of the game.
A lot of people want to give him the benefit of the doubt because of the fact that he was under pressure a lot of the time and his receivers were not getting open consistently. Well, that's what I'm doing. He also had a lot of off target throws which stalled drives. While we talk about the punting issues, we must also talk about why the Raiders were punting so much. Every single one of the stalled drives in the second half that resulted in punts included an off target throw by Palmer. And yet he finished a respectable 32 of 46 for 297 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
He was targeted ten times in this game. And yet he had just four catches. One of those catches he fumbled away while attempting to fight for yardage he wasn't going to get anyway. He later dropped one of the few long attempts Palmer threw. He was also in the huddle when he wasn't supposed to be which had the Raiders penalized for 12 men in the huddle. He atoned a bit later when he scored the Raiders' only touchdown as well as the two point conversion. I suspect he will learn from this.