Had anyone mentioned to me on Thursday of last week that the Raiders would lead for most of the game against the Chargers only to lose on a two-minute drill capped off by a touchdown in the waning seconds of regulation, I would have been content.
So now I am left to wonder why I feel so crappy about this outcome on Monday night. I am going to try and share the pain of this process.
First and foremost the source of my dissatisfaction is the fact that for the majority of the game the Raiders physically dominated the Chargers.
They won the battles on the line and seemed to be the ones doing the hitting. All of the mini battles that go on at the point of attack were going the Raiders way.
Nowhere was this more evident then in the rushing stats. Oakland gained 4.6 yards per carry while gaining 148 yards while San Diego got 3.3 yards per carry on their way to 77 yards.
The majority of Oakland’s rushing success came in the first half. Every running play was working to perfection. Even the running plays to the right behind the much-maligned side of the line.
This kind of domination in the ground game is supposed to lead to victories, but in this game it only serves as a source of frustration.
This is not a source that serves alone. The Raiders lost this game by four points. Four points happens to be the exact difference between a field goal and a touchdown.
The difference in a field goal and a touchdown happens to be what occurred when the replay booth intervened in the closing minutes of the first half.
Jamarcus Russell threw a strike to Louis Murphy, on a crucial third down play, for his first NFL touchdown. The Black Hole was insane with excitement as Murphy made his first leap into the stands celebrating.
Then the word came down that the booth was calling for a review.
This review seemed like a mere formality since Murphy clearly had possession of the ball up until the point his body landed in the endzone.
The call was overturned and the touchdown turned into a field goal. It was the kind of call that left people wondering if the young and unproven Raiders could bounce back from.
Questions that quickly gained validity as Daren Sproles promptly returned the kick-off to the Raiders side of the field and the Chargers converted a field goal of their own to send the game into half time tied 10-10.
It was a half that the Raiders had dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard. It seemed like the Raiders may have blown too many opportunities to win this game.
This was not the end of reasons that I am bathing in feelings of despair after experiencing an outcome, I had thought, I would have found acceptable.
After a defensive second half, the Raiders fell behind for the first time after San Diego managed to put together their first sustained drive of the game. This drive was sustained by a third and 13 conversion on a soft pass to Sproles who ran just past the first down line.
Not one of the Raiders back seven bothered to defense the desired tackling side of the first down line. After playing tough all night, contesting every Chargers play, the defense was in a brain scratching soft zone on this crucial third down play.
The Chargers went on to score the go ahead touchdown to complete the seemingly backbreaking turn of events.
San Diego had been stacking the box taunting the Raiders to pass. Besides a few passes to Zach Miller Russell was missing open targets down the field. Now it was obvious the Raiders were going to need some down field completions to regain the lead.
After a successful third down QB sneak sent Russell limping off the field it looked as if these completions were going to have to come from Bruce Gradkowski.
Gradkowski came in to the game, and with the benefit of a Charger defensive lineman shoving his hands in the face of Cornell Green, picked up a first down.
Gradkowski looked good enough on his two pass plays that it seemed as if the rapidly recovering Russell might be best served staying on the sidelines.
This is Russell’s team though, and on came the youngster. After another penalty by the hopefully soon to be benched Cornell Green the Raiders found themselves in a third and fifteen.
Russell made a throw, that maybe only his cannon arm can make, and drilled a perfect strike to Johnnie Lee Higgins on a deep post. Right as he caught the ball Higgins was leveled by the kind of hit that left fans understanding of his drop.
Fourth and 15 and with just over two minutes left, a punt was likely awaiting the Raiders, but the Cable guy decided to go for it.
Louis Murphy lost the coverage on a solid double move and Russell managed to not overthrow the deep ball- Touchdown and the lead went to the Raiders. Victory was now just over two minutes away.
It was the kind of play that sends a rush of adrenaline to fans, which finds them hopelessly addicted to being a fan. It can also set up the kind of disappointment that leaves one cursing their addiction while in fits of withdrawl.
With the way the defense had been playing and the best kickoff coverage of the night- victory seemed at hand. At the very least it was safe to assume the Raiders would be heading to overtime.
The defensive play calling, however, went soft and promptly let the Chargers into field goal range, followed by oh lord I hope they just get a field goal range, then to the did they really just run it up the middle into the end zone untouched with the second shortest guy in the league range.
After one last mighty Russell heave the game was over and another defeat to the Chargers landed on the tally board. This brings the tally to 12 in a row. While I would have taken this outcome on Thursday I am currently unsatisfied by it now.
And we the citizens of the Raider Nation are left to ruminate on the negatives left prominently in our minds after a defeat.
For the majority of this game Russell’s accuracy was terrible. DHB was non-existant. There was little blitzing to apply pressure on Rivers and when the game mattered most the defensive play calling went completely soft allowing the Chargers to get big yardage way too easily. Cornell Green made some potentially drive crippling penalties in the most inopportune times.
On the bright side (Danger: moral victories are the proerty of the residents of loserville) there are many positives to take out of this game.
Chris Johnson was outstanding and looks to be a solid Robin to Asomugha's Batman. Seymour’s addition to the Defensive Line is going to have a unit changing effect.
The overall physical dominance of the Raiders and their ability to take the fight to the Chargers was impressive. Russell’s calm demeanor and two accurate throws when it mattered most showed the promise that has the Raiders investing their future in him.
I hope that was as good for you as it was for me. I think I can focus a little more on the positives now. All in all, I think it was a promising display of progress.
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