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Chiefs vs. Raiders: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Oakland

Joe LevittContributor IIIDecember 16, 2012

Chiefs vs. Raiders: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Oakland

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    Week 15 game action between the Oakland Raiders and AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs is now over.

    The Raiders shut out the Chiefs 15-0 en route to their fourth win of the season. It was an incredible defensive performance and one that brought happiness to the city of Oakland for the first time in months.

    Let's take a look at the Raiders' final player grades and evaluations.

Quarterbacks

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    Carson Palmer — C+

    Carson Palmer did not produce impressive individual statistics. Going 18-for-29 with 182 yards and zero touchdowns is about as milquetoast as it gets in the NFL.

    That said, Palmer didn’t turn the ball over and made the majority of his throws after the first quarter (including five consecutive late in the game). His decision-making was up to acceptable standards for the later three frames as well. He executed a successful game plan behind Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson and at least targeted all of his playmakers.

    We also should not forget how nimble he played in the pocket and how he used his legs on two third-down conversions—all while battling a nasty flu.

    Overall, quarterbacks do not earn anything higher than a C-level grade without accounting for any touchdowns. Fortunately, Palmer’s turnover-free performance—however average—was a winning one, and one that the Raiders desperately needed.

     

    Terrelle Pryor — F

    Terrelle Pryor took over for Palmer in the opening drive of the second quarter. Excitement soon dissipated when the offensive line was called for yet another false start with Pryor behind center. He couldn’t convert on a third-down pass, either.

    We’ll unfortunately have to give him an F for his efforts in a brief three-snap outing. 

Running Backs

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    Darren McFadden — A-

    The heart and soul, yet oft-injured Darren McFadden lived up to his reputation on Sunday.

    And only the good kind.

    McFadden rushed for 110 yards on 30 carries. His 3.7-yard average was unremarkable, but the sheer volume and yard total fueled the Raiders’ victory. He remained on the field throughout the game, contributed 39 yards in the passing game (including a 15-yarder on 3rd-and-12) and established the base of the team’s offensive attack.

    DMC deserves a knock for his fumble and improperly executing at times behind the zone-blocking scheme. However, his skill set does not lend itself to that type of offense, especially when the Chiefs defensive line clogged all rushing lanes between the tackles.

    A purported franchise player finally gave his franchise some life, hope and, inevitably, a win. And that deserves an A-level grade.

     

    Mike Goodson — A

    Mike Goodson is a formidable second option at running back and he proved so in Week 15.

    The first-year Raider produced his best outing to date with 13 carries for 89 yards and a superb 6.8-yard average. Remove his electric 43-yard run and he still effectively totaled four yards per carry.

    What impressed most about Goodson was his willingness to drive the pile, elude would-be tacklers and simply not go down. He possesses big-play ability and is a legitimate weapon in the passing game.

    He really could fulfill the starting role for a number of teams.

    The Raiders, though, are fully satisfied with him as their backup, and would surely be amenable with him as the No. 1 guy if McFadden ever goes down.

     

    Marcel Reece — C-

    So, running backs receive passing marks for never touching the football, you ask?

    To be sure, Marcel Reece is officially a fullback, despite what his on-field work has suggested otherwise in previous weeks.

    Against the Chiefs, coaches asked him to block in front of McFadden and Goodson, and that’s exactly what he did.

    And quite effectively at that.

    Reece is a jack-of-all-trades offensive weapon. Part of that dynamic skill set involves blocking—it’s a critical part of his work in the Raiders offense.

    He cleared consistent rushing lanes for his RB brethren when asked and added a six-yard catch in the passing game. His only legitimate shortcoming was a dropped pass with Kansas City defenders breathing down his neck.

Wide Receivers

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    Darrius Heyward-Bey — F

    This grade is pretty simple.

    Zero catches, zero yards, five targets, one penalty—we don’t often witness as ineffective a day’s work by a wide receiver as Darrius Heyward-Bey’s performance on Sunday.

    Worst of all, he nearly caused an interception when he completely shied away from attacking the ball in midair.

    DHB played tentative and scoffed at any notion of contributing in the passing game. If not for his fumble recovery and occasional block in the Raiders’ run-heavy game plan, Heyward-Bey was a complete non-factor.

    His overall regression continues.

     

    Denarius Moore — C-

    A C- in the context of Denarius Moore’s dropped pass, fumble and scant 46 total yards would seem highly generous.

    On the other hand, he made a key contribution with an 18-yard catch on 3rd-and-9 that propelled the Raiders into Kansas City territory. The drive ended with a field goal and 12-0 lead for the home team.

    Moore also ran a few quality routes on slant patterns.

    For a matchup nearly devoid of any passing game, Moore did just enough to avoid a failing grade. He’s lucky his previously mentioned WR counterpart was so awful.

     

    Rod Streater — B+

    Another Raiders playmaker, another dropped pass—does it ever stop with these guys?

    Fortunately for the Raiders, Rod Streater overcame his rookie gaffe with the top performance of any receiver on the field (the Chiefs included).

    Streater compiled 62 yards on five catches. One went for 18 and advanced Oakland to near midfield on an eventual scoring drive. Another set up Janikowski for an easy 30-yard field goal.

    He displayed total viability as an NFL receiver and won’t have any trouble retaining a roster spot for future seasons.

Tight Ends

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    Brandon Myers — C+

    If the Raiders had lost this game, Brandon Myers would have been a source of serious derision among Raider Nation.

    He mishandled a difficult, but catchable deep ball from Palmer and was almost completely absent from the box score (two catches, 15 yards). This would normally be unacceptable from a team’s leading receiver and the AFC’s No. 2 rated tight end (No. 1 with 70 catches).

    Myers, though, sprung McFadden for multiple big runs and salvaged a pivotal Raiders scoring drive. His fantastic 14-yard catch-and-run brought Oakland just inside KC territory and within Janikowski’s range for a 57-yard field goal.

    The Raiders delivered the knockout blow to Kansas City at the end of the first half due to Myers’ clutch play.

     

    Richard Gordon — C

    The Raiders’ No. 3 tight end played well on special teams (one tackle) and added a block for McFadden when Oakland employed a jumbo package early on. He did his job.

Offensive Line

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    LT Jared Veldheer — A-

    Jared Veldheer was either the lead blocker or mostly responsible for 59 of McFadden’s 110 yards rushing. He also sprung DMC for his longest run of 19 yards and Goodson for a six-yard gain.

    Oakland’s left tackle was immaculate in pass protection as well. He, along with the rest of the Raiders front five, did not allow a sack or QB hit to any Chiefs rusher.

    A rare blunder by Veldheer occurred when Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson crashed into the backfield and stopped Goodson rushing left for a six-yard loss.

     

    LG Cooper Carlisle — C-

    The Raiders left guard contributed somewhat to McFadden’s gains off the left side. He also showed some athleticism by pulling to his right in front of a quality six-yard run by Goodson.

    Overall, though, Cooper Carlisle succumbed to the powerful right side of the Chiefs front.

    His failure to gain leverage in the trenches helped cause two offensive failures with McFadden running. One occurred on a 3rd-and-1, while the other involved safety Eric Berry halting McFadden for no gain.

    Carlisle graded out in the bottom two of Raiders offensive linemen.

     

    C Stefen Wisniewski — A

    Stefen Wisniewski was an absolute mauler for the Silver and Black on Sunday.

    He led the way for 78 of Goodson’s 89 total yards, most notably his big runs of 43 and 11. He also deserves some credit for a 15-yarder by McFadden.

    The Raiders center dominated in the middle of the trenches—something that fully presented itself upon additional postgame review. Palmer’s two first-down QB sneaks were just another indication of Wisniewski’s mauling tendencies.

    He was the best of the bunch on Sunday.

     

    RG Mike Brisiel — B-

    Mike Brisiel produced a solid outing from the right side of the line.

    His most notable effort involved helping propel McFadden to a 15-yard burst in the first quarter.

    Referees flagged him for a false start penalty at the start of the second, but one could easily attribute much of that blame to Terrelle Pryor and his lack of experience in the Raiders offense. Plus, Brisiel cleared an opening for McFadden’s six-yard rush on the following play.

    It was an otherwise quiet and effective day for the Raiders’ right guard.

     

    RT Khalif Barnes — D

    The Raiders did not find any success running off right tackle.

    Khalif Barnes failed as the lead blocker to the tune of three negative plays. Berry and Tamba Hali outmuscled Barnes and dropped McFadden twice for a total of negative-two yards. Goodson was stopped for no gain on another play as well.

    He doesn’t deserve a total failing grade because McFadden isn’t adept at running stretch plays behind zone blocking schemes. And Palmer stayed upright throughout the game with Barnes’ help in pass protection.

    All that said, Barnes really wasn’t in the business of positive contributions on Sunday. We couldn’t give him anything higher than a D.

     

    T Tony Bergstrom — C

    Oakland’s rookie backup tackle nearly had himself a stellar day at the office.

    Tony Bergstrom came in as an extra blocker for McFadden’s runs of 15 and eight yards, two of Goodson’s six-yard gains and one of Palmer’s first-down sneaks.

    He also helped create a clean pocket for Palmer’s deep pass attempt to Moore in the second quarter.

    Unfortunately, Bergstrom provided false hope followed by serious dismay for Raiders fans near the end of the first half.

    His holding penalty wiped out a 22-yard Goodson run and pushed the Raiders out of field goal range. McFadden helped make up for some of the loss but Janikowski ultimately missed a long FG try.

    Bergstrom recovered to a decent extent with some quality run blocking afterward.

Defensive Line

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    DE Lamarr Houston — A-

    Lamarr Houston was one of four starting defensive linemen who absolutely wrecked shop against the Chiefs offensive front.

    Houston recorded a tackle for loss in the third, helped sandwich Quinn for a QB hit in the fourth and was a consistent force up front all game long. He was tied for the lead among Raiders D-linemen with three tackles.

    It was a strong performance for the third straight week by the former Longhorn. Just not quite as strong as his fellow mates on the front four.

     

    DE Andre Carter — A

    Either statistically speaking or by the eye test, Andre Carter was one of the more impressive Raiders on the gridiron.

    He generated the most pressure on Quinn with a sack and three official QB hits. He was in the quarterback’s face numerous other times as well.

    Carter also tackled Charles for negative yardage and was a general maniac in backside pursuit.

     

    DT Desmond Bryant — A

    The fourth-year defensive tackle immediately established what would end as a brutal day for would-be Chiefs playmakers.

    Desmond Bryant got things started with a cringe-inducing six-yard sack of Brady and backfield tackle of Charles on the Raiders’ first defensive series. He helped clog running lanes for the remainder of the game.

    Like Houston, it was a phenomenal follow-up performance by a Raiders lineman.

     

    DT Tommy Kelly — A

    Tommy Kelly was an equal opportunist when it came to notching stats in the box score.

    He led Oakland’s defensive linemen with three tackles and put down a “1” in the sacks, tackles for loss, deflected passes and QB hits categories.

    He and Carter collapsed the pocket on consecutive plays in the third quarter, with Kelly driving Quinn into the turf on third down for his first sack of the season. These stops served as agents of total morale destruction against the Chiefs.

    Kansas City had just established their first double-digit gains of the entire game. And it was the fourth quarter. And this is not a misprint.

    As with Wisniewski, Kelly was the most dominant lineman for the Raiders.

     

    DT Christo Bilukidi — B

    Bilukidi didn’t show up in the box score but did bring some quality pressure on Quinn at various portions of the game. It was a solid performance by the rookie in limited action.

Linebackers

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    OLB Miles Burris — A-

    Miles Burris eased the transition into the post-Rolando McClain era.

    The rookie linebacker out of San Diego State pursued Charles from the weak wide with effective reckless abandon. In the passing game, Burris knocked Brady into the turf and later broke up a third-down throw at the goal line.

    The Chiefs subsequently turned it over on downs.

    While not producing his best outing in terms of official tackles, Burris played beyond his years—just ask the AFC’s leading rusher and the rest of the overmatched Chiefs squad.

     

    MLB Omar Gaither — C+

    Gaither did not register any official numbers on the stat sheet but was an influential presence in the run game. He helped form the impenetrable wall that was the Raiders front seven against Charles and Co.

     

    OLB Philip Wheeler — A

    Oakland’s strong-side linebacker was on the opposite end of the box-score spectrum.

    Philip Wheeler led the Raiders with seven tackles and was tied for the lead with one sack and one tackle for loss. He brought the most pressure on Quinn from the linebacker position to boot (two QB hits, among other pressures).

    Along with Bryant, Wheeler went berserk in the first quarter, highlighted by his exceptional tackle in space of the ever-elusive Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs’ dynamic receiver took the upper hand just once—but that occurred when the game was decidedly out of reach in the fourth quarter.

    Wheeler can cite this game as a huge step forward in his career as a Raider.

Defensive Backs

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    CB Michael Huff — B+

    Remember when your mom used to tell you that sometimes not saying anything is better than saying anything at all?

    Like that old adage, cornerbacks that operate unnoticed often have better overall performances than ones that do the opposite.

    Michael Huff, the Raiders No. 1 corner, did not hear his name called at all on the television broadcast until the fourth quarter. And that was only when he broke up a deep sideline pass intended for Jon Baldwin.

    Huff all too often serves as the biggest liability in Oakland’s egregiously bad secondary.

    His work in coverage on Sunday showed that he’s capable of helping shut down at least one opponent’s passing game.

    CB Joselio Hanson — A

    The Raiders’ former nickel defensive back stepped up in commendable fashion as the team’s No. 2 corner.

    Joselio Hanson cut off a Quinn pass thrown deep middle to McCluster en route to his second interception of the season. The pick led directly to Janikowski’s second field goal and a 6-0 advantage for Oakland in the second quarter.

    He later flexed some big-time Raiders muscle by wrapping up McCluster on 4th-and-1 for no gain. The tackle for loss quashed the Chiefs’ last-ditch efforts at a comeback.

    Hanson was an exceptional force in both pass and run defense.

     

    CB Phillip Adams — A-/INC

    So, what does an “A-/INC” even mean?

    Fortunately and, well, unfortunately, Phillip Adams stuffed Charles for his biggest loss of the game (negative-three yards), but knocked himself out in the process.

    His day was over with an apparent head injury at just the 13-minute mark of the second quarter.

    A- for effort, INC for playing in just one of four quarters—we believe that about sums up Adams’ performance on the afternoon.

     

    CB Brandian Ross — A

    Just when Raider Nation underwent a collective shudder as its team’s most promising corner left the field, Brandian Ross wasted no time in restoring peace of mind.

    Ross, a first-year DB, wrapped up McCluster in the open field before the slippery wideout could break free. He made the tackle on the play immediately following Adams’ departure.

    He ranked second on the team with four tackles and combined forces with Wheeler on a pass breakup in the end zone on fourth down.

     

    CB Coye Francies — F

    Francies did not register any stops. His only contribution was a 27-yard Christmas gift via a pass interference of Jamar Newsome streaking down the left sideline. He made far too much contact and did not look back for the ball.

    It was a rookie-level mistake by a second year player.

     

    SS Tyvon Branch — B-

    Tyvon Branch bucked a serious trend in surrendering big plays to opposing offenses on a near weekly basis. The strong safety kept everything in front of him and ranked second on the team with four tackles.

    He also was a thumper against Charles in run defense. A 3rd-and-1 stuff of the Chiefs running back showcased as much.

    In a bang-bang play in the second quarter, though, Branch led with his head against tight end Tony Moeaki. The refs did not hesitate in calling a 15-yard pass interference.

    Branch’s mistake facilitated the Chiefs advancing into Oakland territory. He wasn’t the Raiders most productive defensive back in coverage.

     

    SS Mike Mitchell — B-/INC

    Mitchell took a great angle and instantly dropped RB Shaun Draughn on a third-down pass play in the first. He left the game in the opening minutes of the second quarter with an injury.

     

    FS Matt Giordano — B

    The Raiders’ newfound defensive prowess was near the peak of its dominance on safety Matt Giordano’s stop of Charles in the flat. It prevented the Chiefs from scoring in the red zone on fourth down.

    Like Adams and Mitchell before him, Giordano left the field before the game was over. He sustained the injury in an attempt to take down McCluster on his 31-yard catch-and-run.

Special Teams

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    Note: The Raiders did not record a single punt or kick return. Moore called for two fair catches and RB Taiwan Jones led the coverage group with two tackles.

     

    K Sebastian Janikowski — A

    Janikowski’s missed field goal was purely inconsequential.

    Reason being?

    Without his five made field goals, this game may very well have ended in a 0-0 tie. They provided the entirety of the Raiders’ scoreboard production.

    His second FG was also the kicker’s 41st of 50-plus yards, moving him past Morten Andersen to No. 3 all time 

    Janikowski went 1-for-1 on distances of 20-29, 30-39 and 40-49 yards, and 2-for-3 on field goals from 50-plus. Missing a kick from 51 is hardly a problem when a 57-yarder goes through the uprights.

    Or when every kickoff sails to the back of the end zone.

    Or when five field goals win the game.

     

    P Shane Lechler — B+

    Shane Lechler’s opening punt in the first quarter traveled just 40 yards. It had great hang time, though, and the coverage group immediately dropped Javier Arenas for a one-yard gain. Lechler put way too much leg into his second punt (touchback) but drilled his final two inside the KC 20.

    He overcame his 2012 penchant for out-kicking the coverage unit for the most part.

Coaching

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    Overall Game Grade — A-

    Shutouts in the NFL are one of the more difficult accomplishments in professional sports. Even offensively deficient teams like the Chiefs are apt to put a few points on the scoreboard from week to week.

    The Raiders coaching staff—at least temporarily—transformed the team’s greatest weakness into its greatest strength. Dennis Allen and coordinator Jason Tarver showcased their defensive prowess in ways unimaginable for the previous 14 weeks of the season.

    It didn’t matter that their opponent sported the 31st-ranked scoring offense. Jamaal Charles—the AFC’s leading rusher with over 1,200 yards and seven runs of 20-plus—is no joke. But the Raiders made him appear as one on Sunday.

    Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp implemented a run-first scheme that, for the most part, enabled Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson to consistently push the team down the field. He clearly imparted the offensive philosophy on Carson Palmer, evidenced by his turnover-free execution.

    Scoring just 15 points without the benefit of a single touchdown brings negative implications for the bigger picture, but not for this particular game.

    Allen and his staff deserve ample credit for holding this team accountable to maintaining NFL respectability. It could easily have thrown in the towel.

    But the Raiders didn’t. And a shutout-driven fourth win of the season keeps everyone off the chopping block and Oakland out of the gutter for another week.

    Zero turnovers, zero points allowed, limited penalties and enough offense to get it done—winning game plans trump conservative qualifiers every time.


    Follow me on Twitter @jlevitt16

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