This was originally planned to be my initial installment of a weekly column on offensive tendencies, based on a breakdown of slow-motion replay complete with personnel and the formations, sets, and plays run throughout the game. Unable to watch the game again, I'll begin documenting the offensive tendencies and their respective successes or lack thereof next week, with hopes the true identity of what we can expect from the Raiders will have begun to emerge more completely and clearly.
Instead, this will be a focus on the overall impressions I came away with watching from the stands: some good, some not so good, and some I hope will not be a harbinger for things to come this season. As the preseason and offseason have indicated thus far, the defense looks like it can and will be an impressive unit as 2012 progresses. Although there definitely exist key injuries and problems to the wide receiver corps, the offense looked to have possibly taken a few steps back from where it was in 2012, particularly in explosive plays and in red zone and short yardage.
Ultimately, though Dennis Allen's decision to not try for the touchdown on first and one with :07 seconds left on the clock might have been based on the offense's inability up to that point in the game, the failure to at least attempt one pass play left a very bad taste in my mouth and was essentially a forfeiture of the game and set the tone for the second half. How many times have we seen Brady complete that quick pass to Gronkowski or Hernandez in a matter of a couple of seconds? Didn't we see Manning complete the same such quick play to Jacob Tamme too, in his first game with a new team? ( edit: called to my attention I somehow missed this was called a 4th and 1 in attendance; for the record, the fg attempt likely the right thing to do, although I woudn't have been mad had they gone for the yard)
Another overwhelming impression I was getting as a fan in the stands was the utter lack of confidence Carson Palmer inspired in me that he might lead us to victory Monday night.Perhaps Allen's decision to kick the field goal before halftime was a vote of non-confidence in Palmer. Seems even Tebow would've been given that shot. I have been a staunch defender of CP, and still believe he has many great qualities we haven't seen from a QB for a long, long time. I just don't get that feeling you want from your QB, that say, the Tom Brady's, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees do for their respective teams, and what we've seen Peyton Manning proved he can bring to an entirely new team, staff, and fans. Despite the decent 95 rating on the day and a perceived effort to protect the ball better than we saw last year, he was uninspiring to me as a fan in the stands and I believe, quite possibly as much to his teammates and coaches, and I'm not going to give him the usual excuses I do even though some clutch balls were dropped. I'm not giving up on Carson or switching my position on him based on this game, but I will admit I came away with more questions about his ability to lead us to a division win or playoffs, and will look forward to indications to boost my confidence in him. Maybe I'm starting to see the Carson those who aren't fans of the Raiders are seeing.
Last year, statistically the Raiders had great success in jumbo/short yardage formations with additional lineman on the field, like those tackle eligible plays on third and shorts and in goal line/red zone situations. I didn't see any attempt of this in Greg Knapp's zone blocking system, and don't know if we can expect that to be the norm for the season; without looking it up myself, I believe I remember hearing the Raiders averaged 7 yards in the jumbo, and recorded only one play that went for a loss.
I believe the Raiders were also 5th overall in plays of 20+ yards last year too. While it was good to see CP find a nice chemistry with McFadden, it will be much nicer to have a healthy group of wideouts to keep that stat in place. Most would agree if you kept yourself in those couple stat columns and got your defense together to be mostly in the better half of statistical columns you'd find yoursef rooting for a winning team and possibly one competing for its division.
Finally, I'd have to say the collective results of the game made me temper my likely lofty expectations for the team, and it was a reality check of sorts, in that although I still applaud the job McKenzie did building this team back into one that resembles a roster ready to compete in the division, I cannot realistically believe with the depth issues already exacerbated by early injuries that the Raiders can stay in the mix down the stretch without a lot of help from the football gods, and I will have to be pleasantly surprised otherwise. This game highlighted growing pains the team, new GM McKenzie cap situation and all, and new coaches Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver will likely experience more often than not this season.
I do see a degree of discipline that has been lacking from the team and foresee Allen continuing his efforts to cut down penalties even though, perhaps ironically, they continued to lead to sustained and scoring drives for this opponent. The score would undoubtedly be different had key cog Jon Condo not been concussed Monday night, but I remain uncertain the outcome of the game would have been.