The Raiders vs. Patriots game was a disaster from start to finish. The Raiders committed far too many costly errors against a team that will beat you if you commit any, and the Raiders just kept right on making them as if it didn’t matter at all.
I suppose I have to come up with four good things to start with, so let’s just jump right in.
1) Tom Brady
We like to give Tom a hard time around here, because his entire career is an accident of nature, but I’d be hard-pressed to say he isn’t the best NFL player in existence right now. If you remember the Brett Favre game, where Captain Dick Pic’s dad had just died and Brett could do no wrong, this was a lot like that. Brady’s line was an ultra-efficient 30/37 for 339 yards and three touchdowns. As is their custom, the Raiders did not pick off Brady in the game.
2) Brandin Cooks
It’s hard to say the Saints made a bad move in trading away their star receiver, but did it have to be to the Patriots, a team which doesn’t need the help? Cooks was far too fast for any of the Raiders’ secondary players today and lit them up for 149 yards and a touchdown on six catches.
3) Marshawn Lynch
Before the Raiders were forced to abandon the running game, Lynch was having a very productive day. He had 67 yards on only 11 carries and the Pats defense was having trouble stopping him. He showed great power and elusiveness and the sort of effort we want to see form him. It’s too bad circumstances limited his effectiveness in the game.
4) Raiders offensive line
A lot went wrong for the Raiders today, but the line wasn’t really one of them. The team was able to rush for 109 yards on only 21 carries and Derek Carr was only sacked one time.
Derek Carr finished with a line of 28/49 for 237 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. But that doesn’t tell the story, like, at all. Receivers dropped quality passes from Carr all day long, and one that was caught by Seth Roberts was fumbled when he tried to be a tough guy instead of going to the ground with a first and goal. My kingdom for a WR who can catch reliably.
2) The secondary
It’s hard to imagine a worse day than the one just turned in by the Oakland defensive backs. I could have told you what the Patriots were going to do, because I watch them play. They like to run crossing routes and throw to running backs in the flat. Apparently the defenders did not get this memo, because they seemed utterly flummoxed by the Patriots’ game plan. This is par for the course for Oakland, whose defense’s natural state is out of position.
3) The coaching staff
Ken Norton, Jr. should have been fired last year and under no circumstances should have been allowed near this team again. How many performances like this will it take before he loses his job? He has done nothing whatsoever to turn this unit from a terrible one into a top one, and is just as awful as Chuck Bresnahan before him. Jack Del Rio isn’t getting the job done either, and he isn’t getting top effort out of his players anymore. His game plans are weak and ineffectual. I didn’t see much wrong with Todd Downing’s play calling today, but he hasn’t really been on the ball lately either. These guys should all be coaching for their jobs at this point. Surely some quality coaches would want the opportunity to mold a young team with a shiny new stadium opening up in a brand new market soon.
4) The AFC West
Before the season began, the AFC West was a logical choice for the best division in football. At this point, it might be one of the worst. The only thing taking the sting out of today’s game was watching the Chiefs get beaten in overtime by the hapless Giants and seeing the Broncos fall apart against the almost-as-hapless Bengals. The only division team to win today was the Chargers, who blew the doors off the Bills, 54-24.
The truth is, all the teams in this division are awful. If the Raiders get it together and win division games, they can actually make the playoffs by winning the division itself. They will get thoroughly processed in the playoffs, of course, but it would sure be nice to get in. They will have to turn in a far better game than what we saw today to beat anyone else going forward.