The Oakland Raiders are a football team under renovation, and there are holes all over the place and key parts missing. When the Raiders took on the souped-up Denver Broncos on Thursday night, no one really expected that they would be able to win the game. The Raider Nation was just hoping for the team to show signs of life after five straight losses.
Characteristically, the Raiders played well in spurts but ultimately buckled, and the much better team pulled away in the second half. The Raiders are now 3-10 after losing 26-13, and the weight of each loss is making the fan base understandably restless.
Unlike some of Oakland’s recent losses, the team did show signs of life, which is a positive sign for the future. For the first time in weeks it seemed like the effort was there, but the team couldn’t overcome itsown errors and deficiencies against a vastly superior opponent.
The roster is still full of dry rot that must be cut out and replaced before things can turn around, and there are also serious questions about some of the men responsible for putting all the pieces together. General Manager Reggie McKenzie will have to address as many of these issues as he can in the offseason, but there are too many for him to possible fix all at once.
Carson Palmer turned the ball over twice, which resulted in at least a 10-point swing in the game. Palmer’s interception was an under-thrown pass in the direction of Champ Bailey—a mistake he simply can’t make in such a pivotal moment. The interception squashed Oakland’s threat, and the Broncos would drive to get three points on the next drive.
Palmer’s fumble wasn’t entirely his fault as Von Miller blew passed right tackle Khalif Barnes and knocked it out of his hand. Palmer could have been smart and gotten rid of the ball, but he had no time to make that decision with Miller coming so quickly off the edge. The Broncos had to go less than five yards to get the score and go up 23-7.
Why offensive coordinator Greg Knapp didn’t have a running back or tight end helping Barnes against one of the NFL’s premier pass rusher is puzzling. In the first half the Raiders did provide Barnes with a lot of help, and just as the help evaporated so did Oakland’s chance at an upset.
The other offensive issues weren’t Palmer’s fault at all; the offensive line sabotaged drives with penalties and receivers dropped passes. The Raiders had trouble sustaining drives because of these mental errors and lapses in concentration.
With Darren McFadden healthy, Knapp also went away from using his most versatile offensive weapon in Marcel Reece. Reece touched the ball just five times and produced just 15 yards. McFadden didn’t run particularly well, but he did produce 36 of his 52 rushing yards on one big play.
McFadden also re-injured his ankle and couldn’t finish the game, according to head coach Dennis Allen (via the team’s official website).
Defensive mistakes included penalties, blown coverage assignments and poor technique. The penalties included defensive holding, defensive offside, illegal use of the hands, pass interference and illegal contact. The Raiders made just about every mental error a defense can make.
Peyton Manning took advantage of Michael Huff in coverage repeatedly before Huff left the game with a wrist injury. With Huff out, Manning just found other players to pick on, like Ron Bartell on the opposite side, as well as free safety Matt Giordano. Bartell's technique was often poor, and Demaryius Thomas routinely took advantage of him.
Oakland’s effort was better than it has been in recent weeks, and that was evident throughout the game. The Raiders were able to pressure Manning, and they generated three sacks and an interception in the first half.
Phillip Adams came in to play for Huff and had a nice diving interception. Adams was solid in coverage and also was willing to help support the run. Adams did enough this week and last week to merit more playing time over the final three weeks.
The Raiders also did a nice job of keeping the Broncos out of the end zone. The Broncos scored just two touchdowns in their seven trips into the red zone. The next step for the defense will be stopping the opposing offense before they get to the red zone and getting the ball back to the offense with better field position.
Rookie wide receiver Rod Streater has his first 100-yard game on four catches and is slowly becoming one of Palmer’s go-to guys. It’s noteworthy that most of Streater’s production came when the score was still close and was not inflated by a defense that was playing soft because it had a big lead.
The Raiders did some positive things, just not nearly enough of them to overcome all of the negative ones.