For the fifth time this season the Oakland Raiders built a lead they couldn’t hold. The continued meltdowns in the second half might point to even bigger issues for coach Dennis Allen and his staff than just figuring out who the starting quarterback will be.
For the record, Matt McGloin will be the starter for the fourth straight week. Allen confirmed that when meeting with reporters a day after the team’s 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
Allen also continued to stand by his team despite a fourth loss in five games that dropped the Raiders to 4-8—just one win better than they were at this time a year ago.
Here are the roster report card grades from Oakland’s game against Dallas.
McGloin had a few shining moments on the big stage, but the overall performance was probably his roughest since taking over for Terrelle Pryor as the team’s starting quarterback. The offense continually stalled out, with only three drives going longer than 36 yards.
Turnovers, something McGloin had been able to avoid, were his biggest stumbling block. The fumbled exchange from center was costly, as was the interception he threw in the end zone.
Still, it seems as if the coaching staff is willing to ride it out with the undrafted rookie. For Allen’s sake, he better be right.
The Cowboys crowded the line of scrimmage and made it difficult for the Raiders to get much going on the ground, which forced the offense more on the shoulders of McGloin. In the end, it played out perfectly for Dallas.
Running backs Rashad Jennings (17 carries, 35 yards) and Darren McFadden (five carries, 13 yards) were held in check all afternoon, though Jennings did score on a pair of one-yard runs before leaving the game with a concussion.
Fullback Marcel Reece caught a pair of passes but was once again relegated to a minor supporting role. It didn’t help that Oakland had only 21 plays in the second half, though offensive coordinator Greg Olson is running out of excuses for why Reece continues to collect dust most games.
Andre Holmes was a beast all game, setting career highs for catches (seven) and receiving yards (136). That’s why the decision to throw a jump ball in the end zone to smallish Jacoby Ford instead of the taller, bigger and stronger Holmes was a head-scratcher.
With Denarius Moore out with a shoulder injury, Holmes has begun to show how effective a player he can be. Rod Streater has also returned to the form he had earlier in the season, which is another encouraging sign for the offense.
Ford caught a season-high three passes but wasn’t much of a factor. No other Oakland wide receiver had a single catch.
Mychal Rivera was able to bounce back from the concussion he suffered against Tennessee in Week 12 and played significant minutes. The problem was that neither he nor Jeron Mastrud were able to get much done in the passing game.
Mastrud was held without a catch for the seventh time this season, while Rivera made a pair of receptions for 30 yards.
As has been the case most of the season, the Raiders needed their tight ends to help with the blocking up front for the running game and in pass protection. Until those two issues get resolved, Rivera and Mastrud will be scrambling for breadcrumbs in the passing game.
Kind of a mixed bag of results for the front five, though the majority wasn’t so good.
Oakland managed just 50 yards rushing and averaged just 2.0 yards per carry. There were also four false starts, three from backup right guard Andre Gurode who went in after Mike Brisiel was knocked out of the game.
The good news? McGloin wasn’t sacked at all and was hurried just twice. Part of the credit goes to left tackle Jared Veldheer, who helped hold Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware to just three tackles.
Oakland focused much of its defensive attention on trying to stop Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. Instead it was the Cowboys’ running game that set the tone and had the Raiders on their heels.
Not a single member of Oakland’s defensive line had a sack or made more than three tackles. Pat Sims, the run-stopper in the middle, gained more recognition for the encroachment penalty and roughing-the-passer call he was flagged for than anything else.
Dallas dominated Oakland at the line of scrimmage and racked up nearly 150 yards on the ground while averaging 4.8 yards a carry. As a defense, those kind of numbers will add up to a loss more days than not.
Like the defensive line, Oakland’s linebackers bear a large brunt of the responsibility for allowing Dallas’ running game to be so effective. Far too often tackles were being made downfield and going backward rather than at or near the line of scrimmage.
Middle linebacker Nick Roach still had an outstanding day with 11 tackles. He also had the Raiders’ only two sacks and forced a fumble as well. Things could have gotten a lot worse for Oakland had Roach not been on point like he was.
The other two linebackers, Kevin Burnett and Sio Moore, didn’t have much of an impact, although Moore did get flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty.
Romo did a good job spreading the ball around and keeping Oakland’s secondary from getting comfortable. Although Dez Bryant was his favorite target, Romo effectively kept the Raiders guessing most of the game.
It helped, too, that he wasn’t getting much pressure from Oakland’s defensive line. That allowed Romo to sit back comfortably and wait for a receiver to get open.
Nevertheless, when a quarterback goes 12-of-12 in the second half like Romo did, it’s the defensive backs who have to shoulder the blame. The Raiders managed to knock down three passes, one apiece by cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter.
The plan was to start Usama Young at strong safety in place of struggling Brandian Ross. That strategy went awry when Young was knocked out of the game twice with injuries, the second time after hurting his neck.
Ross has had his moments over the past two seasons, but he’s clearly a second-tier safety whom opposing quarterbacks are targeting. Romo was no different, completing five passes in Ross’ direction for 52 yards.
If there’s any good news to come out of the game for Oakland’s secondary, it’s that Tyvon Branch could return to practice this week. Branch has been out since injuring his ankle early in the season.
The game got off to a good start when Greg Jenkins recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and returned it for a touchdown. Though Oakland wasn’t able to sustain the early momentum, the turnover and score was yet another feather in the cap of special teams coach Bobby April, whose unit has gotten better with each passing week.
Taiwan Jones continues to give the team a lift on kickoff returns, and punter Marquette King put together another solid afternoon while averaging 53.0 yards on five kicks.
Even Sebastian Janikowski made it through the game flawlessly, making good on his only field goal of the day.
All information and quotes contained in this and any report by Michael Wagaman are obtained firsthand.