This game was just bizarre from the very start. After three-straight chunks of yards picked up on the first three plays, everything just fell apart. Two of those big chunks early on were big runs (15 and 8). The Raiders were having early success against the Browns porous run defense. So, what did they do? They went away from it. A couple plays later, the wildcat reared its ugly head as Derek Carr split out right as a wide receiver, and Darren McFadden took the snap. He rolled toward Carr, but there was an oncoming rusher in his face as he flung the pass to no man's land. It was the first of many WTF moments.
Two plays later, in third and 14, Carr connected with James Jones... for a two-yard gain. No matter, the Raiders had a cunning plan. With the team in long field goal range, they brought out Sebastian Janikowski, but the fake was on as Matt Schaub stepped back to take the snap. Schaub then bobbled the snap, then threw an interception. I don't necessarily fault the Raiders for trying the fake there. But it seemed as if the two-yard pass the play before was with the idea that they were just gonna fake the field goal anyway. The first drive is a bit too early to be thinking four-down territory and resorting to gimmicks. As a result, it was a six-point swing.
The next drive ended on a questionable playcall as well. On third and one, the Raiders opted to pass. And right into the center of the field too, where all the Browns were stacked to try and stop a short play. There was plenty of coverage in the area and the ball was knocked down incomplete. Punt.
The next drive also ended with a short pass on third and long. Punt. The drive after that, the Raiders were in third and one. This time they did decide the run it. But the play went to the up man, Jamize Olawale despite Olawale never proving he is a short yardage back and the only other time he got the ball in this situation, he also was stuffed for no gain. Fool me twice...
Things didn't improve in the second half. In fact, it looked like the Browns had made adjustments and the Raiders offense looked even worse. A holding penalty had the Raiders backed up at their own 10-yard line. Then it got worse when there was no one covering Paul Kruger who came free and nailed Derek Carr, causing him to fumble. The next play, in second and 23, the entire offense looked completely out of sorts. The Browns looked like they had a copy of the Raiders playbook and Carr ended up spiking the ball at the feet of his line to avoid a possible safety. A delay of game on the next play put the icing on that crap cake.
The one thing overall that is a bit baffling was the run game. Or the lack of it. Tony Sparano said Monday that they passed more than they ran mainly because of being down and having to make something happen. But they were very much in the thick of it in the first half and yet they passed nearly twice as often as they ran it (23 to 12). This is against one of the worst run defenses in the league, mind you. At that time Darren McFadden was averaging 6.6 yards per carry. That shouldn't happen. Also, against a secondary that boasts Pro Bowler Joe Haden and the first corner taken in this year's draft, putting the game on Derek Carr's arm in the passing game is silly.
The Browns had Carr rattled and confused most of this game. Whether it was bringing pressure or coverage downfield. The first drive ended when Carr threw a 2-yard pass to James Jones on third and 14. An incompletion while attempting to pick up the first down would have been preferable. He threw a dangerous pass into traffic to end the next drive. Two plays before, he waited too long to throw to Daren McFadden to allow the defender to close on it. He was luckily that one was only a pass defended. The following drive ended with a delay of game on third down making it third and long and he couldn't pick it up.
The Raiders were able to put together a decent drive late in the second quarter but on third and five, Carr completely missed a wide open Kenbrell Thompkins and instead threw for James Jones who was blanketed in coverage. It fell incomplete and the Raiders settle for a field goal. The Raiders got the ball back for another scoring chance with 1:32 on the clock. That was whittled to :18 seconds in two plays. And from the 22-yard line, Carr completed a pass... for two yards. It would have been better off falling incomplete because Carr had to spike the ball just to keep from leaving empty handed.
It went from bad to worse in the third quarter when he stood flatfooted in the pocket as he was drilled by an oncoming rusher. First off, he should have seen the uncovered man and called it out. Even with the free rusher, he completely missed Marcel Reece who was his outlet on the play. If he had noticed the oncoming rusher, he might have noticed Reece wide open in the right flat. He noticed neither and was hit so hard right in his face, he fumbled. Luckily the Raiders recovered but it put them in second and 23 at their own 7-yard line.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Browns scored their first touchdown and the Raiders needed to answer. They couldn't do it thanks in part to Carr throwing into coverage followed by throwing for six yards on third and 21. The next drive featured Carr twice throwing incomplete to a covered receiver - both against Joe Haden. He said he trusts his receivers, but he also says he goes with what the coverage gives him. Those coverages gave him nothing and yet he still went for it. He's lucky he wasn't intercepted.
He may not have been throwing interceptions, but he still turned the ball over. He had his own version of a butt fumble on the next series when he ran into Austin Howard and fumbled it away at his own 9-yard line. The Browns would score their second touchdown to put the game away. The long drive to score a touchdown after that was what we refer to as "garbage time."
Menelik Watson, Khalif Barnes
These two shared the job at right tackle for the Raiders. And it didn't seem to matter which one was there, the results were the same. Barnes had the first transgression, giving up a run stuff on third and one early in the second quarter. Late in the second quarter, Watson gave up a sack. The Raiders couldn't make up the lost yards and settled for a field goal. Watson came out for the third quarter and on third and five, got worked around the edge to give up a pressure on Derek Carr, forcing him to throw the ball away. Barnes came in for the next series and decided to double team the inside man while Paul Kruger got a free run at Carr. He hit Carr, forcing a fumble which was luckily recovered by the Raiders for a three-yard loss. Then it was Watson's turn, adding a false start to his resume to put the Raiders in a hole they couldn't dig out of for a three-and-out. Watson was flagged for illegal hands to the face later in the game but it was declined.
You know that illegal hands to the face penalty that was declined? Well, it was declined because Howard had given up the sack. But Howard's issues started much earlier. He gave up a run stuff tackle for a loss of four yards on the first drive. It put the Raiders in third and 14 and they couldn't pick it up. Early in the third quarter, Howard was called for holding on first down. It put the Raiders in second and 20 at their own ten-yard line and the drive was dead in the water. Just like the Raiders offense most of the day. Howard didn't lay a single key block on a run either.
Reece had a rough day. On the first drive, the Raiders attempted a wildcat but Reece whiffed on his blocking assignment to give up a rusher right into Darren McFadden's face to disrupt any chance of the play succeeding. On the very next play he missed his block again, along with Howard, to get Maurice Jones-Drew stuffed for a four-yard loss. The first possession the third quarter, he was supposed to provide the block to spring James Jones on a bubble screen. He was brushed off and gave up the tackle for a 2-yard gain. The series ended on the next play with a three-and-out.
Reece did have a 19-yard catch in the game. He was wide open and Carr found him from left to right. But Reece showed no field awareness and despite having nothing but open field between him and the endzone, he just caught the ball and stepped out of bounds. It was inexplicable, really. The drive ended with a lost fumble. Reece finished the day with 5 catches for 34 yards. But if you take away the 19-yard catch in which he stepped out of bounds on his own accord, he had 4 catches for 15 yards. An average of less than 4 yards per catch. Not exactly an X-factor. More like a non-factor.
Speaking of non-factors, there have been few players who have been less of a factor this season than MJD. He had six rushes in this game for 8 yards. That's a 1.3 yards per carry average. Which, sadly, is not far off of his season average. He just looks inconsequential. He looks done.
Got the call on a fake field goal. He bobbled the snap, panicked and threw it up for grabs. It was intercepted and returned into scoring position. Really, dude? One pass, one interception? Just. Wow.