After the clock struck zero it was a little harder to appreciate this victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the way that it really deserves to be appreciated. It was very difficult to get too excited after seeing the Raiders offense set a franchise record for least amount of yards in a half in a win (34). It felt like this team got lucky and sneaked out a victory in a game which they had dominated through the first half.
Yes, the playcalling was absurdly conservative and the execution of the conservative playcalling left much to be desired. However, the reasons why it played out the way it did make a lot more sense now after the blood has stopped pumping so hard.
The fact is the Raiders did what they needed to do to win the game, and that is proven true by the win column totals going up by 1 when the game was all said and done. The team did exactly what they had to do to win; no more and no less. They limited their mistakes and played solid defense. That was how Dennis Allen decided to plan it and it worked.
Moving forward the team has to be better than what they were yesterday, there is no denying that. They almost let the game get away and they let themselves get so conservative that the team was completely ineffective in the second half on offense. Had things gotten any worse and gone into overtime it would have been too difficult for the offense to regain their aggressiveness and they likely would have lost.
That is where the defense came in and they never once lost their aggressiveness. The turnovers and three and outs by the offense had the defense on the field a lot and they began to tire in the fourth quarter. They bent a lot, giving up 15 points late, but in the end they did not break. This defense continues to play extremely well this season and what they did to win the game against the Steelers is the statement game of the year so far.
Lamarr Houston is an absolute beast of a man out there and is ready to break out as an elite star in the NFL. He was all over the place for this team yesterday and they would not have been able to win without him. Our fan base has always known the caliber of player that Houston is but now the world is seeing it in a way that wouldn't have been possible without some victories this year. Hopefully it turns into a pro bowl birth for Lamarr because he has played more than worthy enough to deserve it.
Besides Lamarr on the defense this also was a breakout performance by Sio Moore. His 2 sacks in this game are exactly what we thought we would see from Sio coming into this season. He is a ball of energy unlike anything this team has had in a long time and it really is reminiscent of the energy that Ray Lewis played with. We don't know if he will ever come close to the caliber of player that Ray is but we are seeing him have the potential to be the type of high energy leader that Mr. Lewis brought to his Baltimore Ravens.
It wasn't just the linemen and linebackers that were making plays in this one either, the secondary was getting in on the action too. Tracy Porter and Michael Jenkins both made a lot of plays in this game including each on getting an interception. Porter's interception imparticular could not have been bigger nor much more difficult. Rookie corner DJ Hayden also made some plays in this game including a very tough tackle on a 3rd down play.
Much of the credit for the defensive performance has to go to the masterminds of it all, Jason Tarver and Dennis Allen. The team understood that the offense was being told to make sure to not make mistakes and to put the onus on the defense in the 2nd half. That type of trust and confidence is contagious and appreciated by the defense and though they got tired by the end they were not going to let that type of confidence go unsatisfied.
Jason Tarver imparticular was especially emotional in this game. His antics were caught on tape and he will be fined by the league for his emotional gestures to the officials. He got caught not one, but twice flipping the bird. First I would like to say this is completely unacceptable behavior and he absolutely needs to reel it in, it was unprofessional and very easily could have been penalized. Second I would like to say that the whole situation is funny as hell.
As for Terrelle Pryor, holy crap is he fast. We have seen his speed several times already but it still is astonishing when he gets into the open how fast he is. The record setting 93 yard jaunt to the endzone was never once in question, he was gone from the moment he passed Rod Streater's amazing block in Troy Polamalu. Pryor's run fake was so good that it even confused some of his own blockers which really shows how well it worked.
The rest of his game was very much underwhelming but a lot of that was up to the coaches decisions. Still he needs to be able to get the ball moving even in an ultra conservative offense and he needs to be able to step up in the pocket better when its there. He only had 88 yards passing in this game, not all of that is on him since there were plenty of drops (cough, cough, Brice Butler, cough, cough) but that does not mean that none of the blame was on him.
His post game press conference definitely was one where you could tell he was frustrated with the game plan, but had he executed it a little better a lot of that frustration could have been removed. He will get better and is getting better every game he plays though, and its hard to be too mad at someone who had a 93 yard TD gallop anyway. He will need to play better against Philadelphia if he wants to get this team to .500 next week.
The one player it is hard to think positively for on this whole team has been Darren McFadden, but its more for what he hasn't been able to do that what he has been doing this year. What he hasn't been able to do is regain his pre Lisfranc injury form but there were moments in this game where he did look like the player he used to be. Both of his TD's were solid run plays and one other run that he had in the game was a 20 yard run that was really nice too.
I am not sure how much of his missing production is on him and how much is on how OC Greg Olson has been utilizing him but I can not just give him a pass. Even in this game where he clearly played the best he has in awhile he still wound up with just a 3 yard per carry average on 24 carries for 73 yards. A lot of that is from the coaching staff consistently sending him up the middle where the blockers have not been able to open up the holes that DMC needs to play well.
Sooner or later we will start to see some stretch plays and some toss plays thrown in the mix for McFadden and that is when we should get a better idea of where DMC is in his career. He is better on those plays than the up the gut runs that have been called far too often this year so if he still isn't accomplishing much when those plays are being better utilized it will severely limit the excuses he has for a lack of production.
All in all I wasn't happy after the game as much as I should have been. This was a tough, physical game against a rival and the defense came up huge. The offense didn't but the game plan was for them to not kill the team with mistakes and they did accomplish that. Hopefully the coaches start trusting the offense as much as they do the defense but that kind of trust is earned. The defense has earned it but the offense hasn't yet. We will see if that changes next week when the Eagles come to the black hole.