In weeks three and four the Raiders faced two tough games on the road against two tough teams and the Raiders did not fare well at all. But returning home and with a Baltimore team that looked to be struggling and it seemed like a perfect opportunity for the beginning of a turnaround.
On paper, it looked like a match-up that could favor Oakland. Baltimore was not a good 3rd down team, they were prone to turnovers, and they were not a particularly efficient team. They had 11 takeaways 11 in 4 games, including 9 interceptions, but they also had 9 giveaways including 6 ints. If the offense could be efficient and safe with the ball, the defense could have some opportunities to make plays.
The injury to Derek Carr was a big concern, of course, but a great team has to be able to win ugly and win tough games without being at full strength and so this was going to be a good test of its character.
As it turned out, this team looked out of sorts and mixed in moments of inspired play with some abysmal moments. The previous week in Denver, the defense looked like it was righting its ship a little bit, but maybe that was an illusion created by a poor Broncos offense.
There’s a lot of football yet to be played. The preseason visions of a deep playoff run need to give way to more realistic hopes of just playing fundamentally solid football for a full game and coming out with a hard-fought win. It may not be a step ahead from last year, but maybe something between 2015 and 2016.
Here are some notes from this game.
- It was obviously a tough situation for EJ Manuel especially when it was suddenly 0-14 after three offensive plays. With a backup QB in, the rest of the team really needed to step up. In particular, the defense had to show up.
- The offense looked pretty capable early on, especially on the ground.
- A lot of bigger plays came on broken plays and outside of the designed offense. That’s nice, but again focuses questions on the game plan and preparation. Of course, maybe going off-script plays into EJ Manuel’s game (Strong arm and scramble drill) a little bit.
- Jared Cook’s fumble really helped set the tone for the game. EJ Manuel and Jared Cook were about 1’ off for much of the day. Some of those balls were just off Cook’s fingertips. The timing/sync that Derek Carr probably connects.
- A team doesn’t just decide to become tough and smashmouth overnight; that’s an attitude that’s burned into the heart and soul of the team from OTAs on. Week 1 looked like this team was playing hard and smashmouth. But since week 3, this team looks like a finesse team that keeps meeting tougher teams.
- Coach Todd Downing is still finding his way and he has to do it mostly on his own. Coach Del Rio is a defensive coach and the only real other veteran offensive coach is Coach Tice and while he was a former QB (college) and has been a HC, he may not be able to help Coach Downing with scheme prep and design. Generally, defensive Head Coaches prefer veteran Offensive Coordinators (and vice versa) for this reason. Would be very nice to have an offensive consultant like Al Saunders right about now.
- I think the team’s psyche is strong. I don’t feel like they ever gave up; they just got whipped and they just made mistakes.
- Marshawn showed that he can still run if you give him a chance.
- Jalen Richard looked about a half-step away from breaking some big runs.
- Earlier this year when Khalil Mack had an offsides penalty, I thought it was great because he was timing up the offense. This time, not so much. It felt more like he was pressing rather than timing. Although, he did make a killer move and get a hit on the QB, so there’s that.
- James Cowser had quite a few good reps out there.
- The full injury list is getting to scary levels (depending on length of injury): Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, DeAndre Washington, Jamize Olawale, Marquel Lee, Cory James, as well as the 4 defensive backs. If Justin Ellis or Mario Edwards goes down, it will get really ugly.
- The DB injury list (David Amerson, Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu, and then Antonio Hamilton during the game) reminds me of 2012 where so many CBs went down (Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, Chimdi Chekwa, etc) that Michael Huff shifted from FS to CB.
- CBs injuries had nothing to do with the interior defensive line getting gashed for big runs and the lack of pass rush.
- Is Amari fully healthy? Remember end of his rookie season, he was battling a foot injury and wasn’t quite the same. Then he blew up v Green Bay when Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts went out. I haven’t actually studied him closely so I don’t know; I’m just asking. I was wondering similar things about Gabe Jackson earlier and that proved to be true.
- The defensive line was trying too hard to rush the passer so on a draw play they ran way up the field and it was easy for the Ravens’ center and guards to clear open the middle.
- Yes, the defense was getting tired for being on the field so much. But a good deal of that was because the defense was giving up long drives and staying on the field for too long.
- 1 week after I was singing the praises of Eddie Vanderdoes, he got manhandled by Ravens’ offensive line.
- When Ravens’ ran wide zone they often found a seam between Justin Ellis and Vanderdoes. I wonder if it’s execution or if they are finding a design problem.
- Treyvon Hester continues to baffle me. I am not sure why he has been so high in the rotation as everytime I see him, he’s either losing contain or getting driven out of the hole. And I wonder what has Darius Latham been doing that he’s been inactive until today?
- 24-17 with 3:46 remaining in the 3rd quarter looked like it could be a turning point. The crowd was into it and momentum was inching in the Raiders favor and just needed a defensive stop. But the team just couldn’t rise up. Baltimore responded with a 12-play, 5:36 Field Goal drive that made it 27-17. Raiders punted on 4th down and Baltimore came back with a 13-play 6:26 drive for another field goal.
- You know it’s one of those days when stuff like this happens on the field :
- Fake it on 4th-and-11 in Denver and then punt it on 4th-and-3 at home vs Baltimore?
- Punting on 4th-and-3 puts it in the hands of the defense to get the ball back. And then maybe either again or on the onside kick. In my mind the team should have been in Desperation Mode / 4-down territory that whole drive and I assumed that was why they were so satisfied with running the ball and taking their time.
- Even when they were fresh, the defense was getting beaten up and they were tired and depleted at the end. Nicholas Morrow (6’, 225 lbs), Tyrell Adams (6’2”, 225 lbs) were manning the inside LB positions on the final drive.
- This team needs a win, but more than that they need a convincing win where they actually play well on both sides of the ball and earn a win. Week 2 seems so long ago, but with 11 games left, at the end of the year, we may be saying the same thing about this little losing streak.
- Keep the faith, Raider Nation. We still have not seen the best of this team.