Last night was an exciting night in many ways.
We were led up to our game with a terrific come-back from the Patriots as the Bills choked away another game. It was the perfect way to get pumped up for our opening night game in the bay.
I, like most others, thought we were going to lose. Not because I'm a "hater," but because it's what we've come to expect from this team against San Diego.
As soon as the kickoff occurred, my thoughts soon changed.
In the first series, Oakland's running attack looked great. They drove down the ball with ease and Bush was producing on the ground. Despite the good vibes, that drive ended with a Russell interception. Not entirely his fault though. Murphy should have broke that route off five yards earlier, but Russell was still errant with his pass as it was way too far in front.
Regardless though, that drive showed we could hang with them. Lineman were winning at the point of attack protecting well and the side most Raiders fans worried about, amazed us- the defense.
They seemed like a completely different team with Seymour and Ellis on the line. I was completely shocked.
They got pressure, played the run excellent, and got Ladanian Tomlinson to fumble for the first time in almost 1,000 touches. Attribute that to Ellis who was going to break on Rivers, until he saw him lower his arm to a shuffling location. Ellis quickly diverted his attention from Rivers and went back to LT, and almost precisely after LT caught it, Ellis' arm met the ball and knocked it out.
It was a great start to an overall great game. Unfortunately, we just came out on the wrong end of it.
Here's my pros and cons of this whole debacle:
Michael Bush - The Raiders young RB had a great game. He produced a lot of first down's and ran the ball hard. Bush was tremendous in pass protection, despite us not seeing much of him in the second half; which was a shocker to many.
Zach Miller - JaMarcus Russell's new favorite target had a great game. Who needs WR's when you have this guy? Why not throw to him 15 times a game?
Richard Seymour - Any of you who said you didn't want him because of the whole four days after, you are now eating your words. Let's hope he can stay healthy.
CB's - A lot of you (for some weird reason) are saying we needed help here. I never understood it and last night they showed I'm right.
Chris Johnson was absolutely lights out, and you know people won't throw Nnamdi's way anyway.
Run Defense - The Raiders front seven only allowed 77 rushing yards all game. AWESOME! Anyone who's been a fan of this team for the past few years, knows I need no further explanation; especially against LT and the Chargers.
Offensive Line - Thumbs up to them because they played frigging great. They protected well and opened holes (well early, not so much late). The penalties by Green are something we've come to expect, but Barnes will be back soon to bring him back to the bench.
- Tyvon Branch. He was all over the field making great open field tackles- played great on punt coverage- and even defended some passes over the middle. I've never been high on this guy, but was shocked to see what I saw from him.
Russell - His accuracy past 10 yards is atrocious. He needs to work on that A LOT or this will be a long, scoreless season, unless we can get some massive breaks from our WR's- ala Higgins against Buffalo last season.
McFadden. Thought you had your fumbling problem under control? McFadden's fumble put the Chargers on the board (inadvertently) and turned to be very, very costly.
I saw him fall down a couple times when no one touched him and he got shoelace tackled AGAIN. I'm sick of seeing a RB get shoelace tackled. He needs more control over his lower body because that should never happen.
Offensive play calling - The whole night I was bitching and bitching that we were not taking advantage of the screen pass; which is the only thing Russell and McFadden are good for. I don't think I saw ONE screen pass last night. Not one. We have so much damn speed on this team, that we can eat up chunks and chunks of yards with these plays
Another thing I wanted, which I eventually saw, were end-around's.
Personally, I thought Bey should've taken the one that Higgins did, but look how effective it was. We need to implement more of those plays in our offense. Speed...we have it, let's frigging utilize it.
Defensive play calling - We were rushing four guys all game and it worked until the end- when we began rushing three. Why? The Prevent defense killed us. We had their offense in check for the most part, but they decide to change things up at the end.
We shot ourselves in the foot.
That's really about it.
It's funny, as I think the pros outweigh the cons. This team has given me a little more faith than I normally have in them. I'm not the only one either. Constant texts messages that were to the extent of "Damn, I'm surprised your boys look so good."
People noticed, I noticed, we noticed.
We have to hope the progression keeps up, and if Russell can't throw downfield without missing people by 10 yards, don't make him do it.
I want to see more screens to Bush and McFadden, and I want to see a wildcat-esque snap or two a game. We have the personnel to be tricky and we need to do anything we can to win.
Massive step forward last night.
Let's not also forget that this was against a team that is a favorite to represent the AFC. Another huge positive.