Raiders vs. Panthers: Knapp's Nauseating Offense Obscures Improved Defense

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystDecember 24, 2012

Matt Leinart didn't fare much better in Greg Knapp's offense than Carson Palmer.
Matt Leinart didn't fare much better in Greg Knapp's offense than Carson Palmer.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

What can you say about the 2012 Oakland Raiders that hasn’t already been said?

The defense has been expectantly horrible, but the offense has been even more offensive. On Sunday in Carolina, the Raiders failed to score an offensive touchdown for the second straight week while the defense played well.

Carson Palmer was knocked out of the game with an apparent rib injury in the first quarter. Under some circumstances losing the starting quarterback is a good excuse for playing poorly, but it’s not just the quarterback that’s the problem in Oakland. The play-calling was so bad that Tim Brown started calling his own plays in the huddle. That’s obviously not right, but it was that bad.

Matt Leinart relieved Palmer in the first quarter and moved the offense, showed off his poor arm strength and threw an interception. Leinart did just enough to demonstrate that Terrelle Pryor should be getting an extended look and yet the Raiders continue to waste good opportunities.

Oakland’s coaching staff clearly doesn’t trust Pryor or think he is a capable quarterback, but they aren’t taking the opportunity to show the world. If Pryor never starts a game for the Raiders, the fans will always be left wondering. The Raiders have nothing to lose at this point and Leinart has no business playing in or starting any games.

Not only is Oakland’s quarterback position a mess now, but they can’t run the ball. The Raiders struggled running the ball early in the season, but had been improving until Sunday. Darren McFadden had 17 carries and just 33 yards rushing for a 1.9 yards-per-carry average.

That’s horrible production from the guy who is and was the Raiders’ best offensive weapon coming into the season. It’s easy to blame the struggles of the running game on scheme, play-calling, blocking or McFadden and the reality is that all of these are contributing to Oakland’s horrid running game. It’s a failure across the board.

Expecting anything from Leinart (or Palmer) without a good group of receivers probably isn’t fair either. Nine different receivers caught a pass, but only eight passes were completed to wide receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey had 31 yards to lead the team. Of Leinart’s 16 completions: 10 of them went to a running back, fullback or tight end. Quarterback play is an issue, but the receivers aren’t helping.

The only reason offensive coordinator Greg Knapp should keep his job is continuity, but everything else points to the need for a change. Bad defense can be an excuse for poor offense at times, but the last two weeks has demonstrated that not to be the case in Oakland.

Oakland’s defense shook off a rocky start and limited the Panthers to just 17 points. Seven of the 17 came after Leinart’s interception gave the Panthers the ball at Oakland’s 29-yard line with 1:21 remaining in the first half.

The final three points were added via a 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter shortly after the offense failed to convert on third or fourth down with just four yards to gain.

With a better offense the Raiders might have only allowed one touchdown against an offense that had scored over 30 points in three of the last four games. The defense picked off Cam Newton and the special teams recovered a fumble to give the offense extra opportunities that it promptly squandered.

Ugly football in Oakland is nothing new, but there are no signs of improvement on offense that would merit more patience with Knapp.