Tony Sparano, Greg Olson, Jason Tarver, Bobby April
What is with this team on the road as opposed to at home? Sparano seems to be able to make this team play outside itself at home, but on the road they play completely uninspired football. That isn't the only reason Sparano is a Buster for this game. He also made some poor decisions. First and foremost, playing Khalil Mack.
I can see giving him the start for pride sake or to make his line look good. But Mack was a liability in this game and nearly invisible. He also could have aggravated him hamstring strain which would have been very bad for the Raiders.
There was also the matter of punting in fourth and five from the Broncos' 40-yard line. He has done this before. He has arguably the biggest legged kicker in football and was in the thin air in Denver where Janikowski once tied the NFL record for longest field goal in NFL history (63 yards). The field goal on this day would have been from 58 yards out. He has made plenty of 58-yard field goals in his time and the Raiders very much needed to put points on the board, down 30-14 nearing the end of the third quarter.
The only other option that would have made sense in that instance was to go for it. Down 16 points, what do you have to lose, right? Either get the points with the field goal, or go big and go for the touchdown. Absolutely DO NOT punt in that situation. The punt went a total of 28 yards to the Denver 11-yard line and they mounted a long drive that ended at the 3-yard line where they added a field goal.
If Sparano wanted to convince the Raiders he was the right man for the job, punting right there was symbolic of how his job as head coach will end.
On offense, the Raiders were predictable and unimaginative. They opted to pass on their first third-and-short and Carr was sacked, threw a screen pass on third-and-15, and didn't get their first first down until midway through the second quarter. Then on the next drive, passed again in third and one. It's like each game Olson forgets all over again that the Raiders have a running back who can convert those third and short plays and tried to get ‘tricky'. The defense was rarely fooled by anything he called in this game.
On defense, there have been a lot of injuries and Peyton Manning can make a lot of defenses look silly. But Tarver didn't need Peyton's help with that. Routinely the Raiders were either offering cushions of 10 yards or more and there were enormous soft spots in the zone. The result was 40 points given up by the defense and a second-straight season giving up over 450 points which is a franchise record.
Special teams couldn't stop anything either. And this is not a new thing. Marquette King punted a couple long ones early in the game only to have them returned to midfield to give the Broncos fantastic field position. One of those even featured a delay of game which had King punting from even farther back. Then the coverage team gave up a huge return to begin the second half that resulted in a touchdown. They were dead in the water before they could think about trying to pump any wind into their sails for the second half.
A send-off befitting a house cleaning.
Speaking of getting torched... Hayden was torched like Hades in this one. He gave up a 12-yard catch on the Broncos first drive for a field goal, a 13-yard catch on their second drive for a touchdown, a 23-yard catch on third down to the one-yard line on their next touchdown drive, and a 9-yard catch on their fourth and final scoring drive before half time.
After a kick-off return set them up for a touchdown early in the third quarter, Hayden was called for a 36-yard pass interference penalty on the first play of their next drive. That led to a short field goal. On the following drive, he gave a huge cushion for an easy 8-yard catch and two plays later was in position by didn't turn around to look for the ball so it literally hit him in the back. Had he turned, he would have been in position for an interception. Instead, the drive kept going and on the next play he was blocked downfield on a 22-yard run. The drive resulted in another field goal.
Next drive he was again way off of his receiver to give up an easy 14-yard catch. The Broncos would force a fumble on the ensuing Raiders possession and return it for a score. At 40-14, that was ball game and Peyton Manning didn't come back into the game.
He held the ball too long and was sacked on his first pass of the game. It was a sign of things to come. The next play, in third and 16, he tried his signature back shoulder pass to a streaking receiver, and hit the back shoulder... of the defender and it fell incomplete.
The next three-and-out ended with Carr again holding the ball too long resulting in a sack. The next three-and-out -- the third straight to begin the game - he had two receivers in the area and threw too high for the low man and too low for the high man. Then ended it with a 10-yard screen play on third and 15.
The next drive was his fourth straight three-and-out and very nearly the worst way possible. On third down he fumbled the snap and Donald Penn fell on it for a 21-yard loss. I heard the talking heads calling the game say some nonsense about maybe the snap ‘had some smoke on it'. And then of course the fans parrot the talking heads and so on. That snap was fine. It went right through Carr's hands just at his right shoulder level where he would have held it for a pass anyway.
And so it came to pass, the Raiders finally got a first down with 8:07 left in the second quarter. Then two plays later, Carr stared down his receiver on a screen pass and it was batted down at the line.
The following drive ended with a long incompletion, but it wasn't Carr's fault necessarily. He never should have been asked to pass in third and one, then he rolled left and when he saw Kenbrell Thompkins open, he threw to him long. Problem was when Thompkins saw Carr rolling left, he slowed up to try and come back toward him. It was just enough to keep him from getting to the long ball.
To begin the third quarter, the Raiders offense got its first and only touchdown. The big play was a catch and run by Latavius Murray who caught the Carr pass on a crossing pattern about five yards off the line. Carr hit him in stride and he got some key blocks and took it 46 yards. Carr hit James Jones for a 8-yard first down and then finished it off by finding a wide open Jamize Olawale in the back of the endzone from one yard out.
The following drive was looking promising as well, but Carr squandered a golden opportunity for a touchdown when off a flee flicker that pulled up the safeties, he overthrew a wide open Andre Holmes on a long post pattern. He would finish it off with a pass too high to Darren McFadden in the flat and connecting on a 6-yard dump pass on third and ten.
The final three drives ended very poorly. He checked down for a one yard loss on third and 14, was sacked as he attempted to throw which was recovered and returned for a Broncos touchdown, and the final pass of the game he was intercepted. He finished going 18 for 36 (50%) for 158 yards with one touchdown and one interception and a 59.7 passer rating. He was also sacked three times.
Mychal Rivera, Andre Holmes
Mentioning that Derek Carr held onto the ball too long, resulting in a sack wouldn't be complete without also mentioning some of those receivers who failed to get open to give him a place to throw. James Jones would of course be included in that, but that alone isn't enough to be named a Buster. Rivera and Holmes were targeted a lot and caught very little. To be specific, they were targeted a total of 15 times and caught 4 passes for 36 yards. Rivera had two on-target drops and while Holmes didn't technically have any drops, he wasn't performing his purpose in this offense. He is supposed to be the big, tall mismatch receiver who can go up and get passes and battle to get the ball. He had two catches for 10 yards on 7 targets. And while Carr is mostly to blame for overthrowing a wide open Holmes on his post pattern, Holmes did slow down just enough to keep from catching up to the pass.
Ray Ray Armstrong
Early on it was looking like Ray Ray might be a Betweener. But by the end, he had twice as many mistakes as he had positive plays so there was no way around his place on this list. And that is even while considering the holding penalty he received that set up the Broncos first score was complete BS.
He was the first missed tackle on C.J. Anderson's 11-yard touchdown run to finish off the Broncos second drive. He was blocked on a 3-yard first down run on the next touchdown drive. A couple series later he forced a fumble on third down. The Broncos recovered but had to punt.
The following drive he was out of position on a 15-yard dump pass and two plays later was blocked on a 10-yard run. The drive resulted in the field goal heading into halftime.
To begin the third quarter, he would miss another tackle on a 25-yard touchdown run to put the Broncos up 27-7. To begin the next drive he was blocked on a 13-yard run. On the following drive, he gave up a 7-yard catch on third and 8. The Broncos went for it on 4th and one and converted. It ended with a short field goal to go up 33-14. That was enough.
Charles Woodson, Brandian Ross
Yet again, Peyton Manning got the better of fellow 1998 draftee, Charles Woodson. It is, of course, a lot easier to play at a high level as a quarter this late in a career than it is to play defensive back. This isn't really commentary on that. Both are locks for the Hall of Fame even if they retired years ago. Anyway...
Ross has also played well this season. He and Woodson couldn't do much to stop the Broncos in this one. For brevity sake, let's just focus on the scoring drives.
Woodson gave up a 16-yard catch on the first scoring drive, Ross missed a tackle on the 11-yard touchdown run to end the second drive, neither were victimized on the third scoring drive, Ross missed a tackle on a 10-yard run on the fourth scoring drive, Ross was then blocked on the big return to begin the third quarter and both he and Woodson missed tackles on the 25-yard touchdown run to end it. Neither were victimized on the sixth scoring drive.
Ross was caught in traffic to give up a 35-yard catch to begin the fourth quarter. A few plays later Woodson missed a tackle on a 22-yard run to set up a short field goal to end the seventh scoring drive. Ross left the game hurt on the next series and Woodson didn't get over to help to give up a 38-yard catch on the final drive for a touchdown. And that one wasn't Peyton Manning, it was orchestrated by Brock Osweiler.
Later this week, I will be coming out with my 2014 Season Ballers & Busters, so keep an eye out for that.