It appeared that the Oakland Raiders were about to be on the clock. The 2013 NFL Draft clock. Playing listless, uninspired football for chunks of the game, the Raiders somehow came back to win, 26-23 in overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Normally I am not one to look down upon a win, no matter how it was earned. But what is most disconcerting is the fact that this afternoon, the Raiders looked like the same undisciplined, unfocused team of old against a bad Jaguars team. Although Jacksonville lost their superstar Maurice Jones-Drew after two carries (and just six yards) to an ankle injury and quarterback Blaine Gabbert soon after, they were in position to win because the Oakland gave them three turnovers that led to 13 points.
What's more, the penalty bug returned to the tune of eight for 53 yards. After looking so good in that department in the first four weeks, it's been the same old Raiders the last two, with an average of 10 penalties against Jacksonville and Atlanta.
To add to that, Darren McFadden again was shut down in the running game. Just 53 yards on 19 carries, fewer than three yards per carry. Amazingly, his average of 3.2 yards entering went down. However, Carson Palmer endured a beating to throw for 298 yards and accounted for two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). He was the star of the offense today.
Somehow, someway, the Raiders rallied from a 20-6 deficit to win and improve to 2-4. The defense was outstanding in the second half, regardless of who was playing. That is what I will take away from today on the positive.
Recapping my five keys to the Raiders winning today, it seems I had the most important one out of order. Oakland had woes in the Red Zone for much of the game. They scored two touchdowns and kicked three field goals. In the end, the points added up. But let's recap the other four.
Who deserves the game ball today?
No fluky Special Teams plays. So much for that. A muff by Phillip Adams led to a touchdown. The Jags executed an onsides kick. A 28 yard punt return by the Jaguars' Micheal Spurlock led to points. It's those types of mistakes and breakdowns that lead to losses.
Keep Blaine Gabbert in the Pocket. Well that is really a wash since Gabbert exited in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury. But while he was in, Gabbert was effective, going eight for 12 with 112 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders did not ratchet up the pressure until late in the game when Chad Henne was playing.
Don't Make Penalties a Regular Thing Again. Nine more penalties is not a good thing. Really, it's not so much the penalties, but the type of penalties. Offsides, false starts and the like are mistakes made by mental midgets. The Raiders still lack consistent focus and escaped today. When will this be addressed?
Use Everyone Defensively to Stop Maurice Jones-Drew. Two carries for six yards before MJD exited and still, the Jaguars very nearly won the game. Let's give the Raiders credit, they did stop his replacement Rashad Jennings for the most part (21 carries, 44 yards, 1 TD). The defense did what they needed in the second half and they do deserve credit. I have seen games where Oakland just went in the tank. That did not happen. It wasn't pretty, as a matter of fact it was John Merrick ugly, but they won. Lamarr Houston's strip of Cecil Shorts in overtime was symbolic of the effort the Raiders need for four quarters to win in 2012.
Now, the Raiders are 2-4. They have a rivalry game against the dreaded Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday evening. Having won five straight at Arrowhead Stadium, a win improbably thrusts them back into the AFC West picture. For now, let us all just give thanks for the Houdini like escape this afternoon. They just won, baby.