One hates to use the term moral victory, but for the Raider Nation, the game was oh-so-sweet until the final quarter.
There were a number of key areas in which we outperformed the Bolts, including time of possession, total yards, rushing yards, yards per carry, and third down efficiency. We also avoided our old nemesis, and only had six penalties for 40 yards.
However, there were some key areas that the team needs to focus on this week prior before facing Kansas City.
Everyone has good days and bad days, and unfortunately for the Raiders, JaMarcus Russell was off his game on Monday night. This was surprising since the Raiders’ pass blocking limited the Chargers to just one sack and one hit on the quarterback.
It was obvious that Russell's aim was off, as he threw way too many uncatchable balls. He wound up completing 12-of-30 passes for 208 yards, one TD (actually two, but we won’t go there again), and two interceptions. This was a dismal 40 percent completion rating, and 47.6 QB rating, well below his performance last season.
In 2008 he completed 53.8 percent of his passes with a 77.1 QB rating, with 13 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. And that was with a banged up wide receiver corps.
This week, the coaches and players are rallying around JaMarcus Russell. He needs to develop confidence in his passing and let his natural talents take over, much like he did at LSU. It’s fortunate we are playing the Kansas City Chiefs, who in Week One only had a single sack and no QB hits against the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco.
I anticipate the Raiders will start the game by mixing in some high percentage pass plays designed to build Russell's confidence, and then progress to longer routes, especially if the Chiefs' safeties begin cheating up on the line, to attempt to stop the Raiders' ground attack.
In the first half of Monday Night Football, the Raiders’ offense and defense were dominant, and the silver and black scored a touchdown followed by a field goal. However, special teams laid an egg on both of the kickoffs following those scores, which kept the Chargers in the game.
In the first quarter after the Raiders went up 7-0 on Michael Bush’s four-yard run, Sebastian Janikowski then kicked the ball off to the one-yard line, only to have Darren Sproles return it 66 yards to the Oakland 33. Fortunately, LaDainian Tomlinson subsequently fumbled the ball away to Michael Huff on the Oakland nine-yard line, killing that drive.
Janikowski kicked a go-ahead field goal with 43 seconds remaining in the half, and then drove the ensuing kickoff to the goal line, where Sproles once again waltzed through the Oakland kickoff coverage for 59 yards to the Oakland 41, before Janikowski drove him out of bounds. The Chargers drove 12 yards and kicked a tying field goal as the second quarter expired.
Against the Chiefs, we can expect even more kickoffs (due to more Raider scoring), and the silver and black coverage team needs to stay in their lanes and not give up big returns. This should be an easier task since the Chargers' longest return in Week One was to their own 26-yard line, except for a squib kick at the end of the game that they returned to their 34-yard line.
Late in the game, the Raiders were unable to protect a 20-17 lead with 2:34 to play, and Phillip Rivers led the Chargers 90 yards for the winning touchdown. Rivers exploited the prevent defense with an array of short passes, including dump-off passes to Sproles that allowed him to skitter up the field for crucial first downs. During the drive, he completed passes for seven, 12, 15, 23, and 13 yards.
Decreasing the linebacker drops off the line would seem to be one logical solution to try and contain runners like Sproles from capitalizing on short dump-off passes, but that would compromise the downfield coverage on the tight end and wide receivers. Like many football fans, I hate prevent defenses, and hope our performance in this area improves.
Fortunately, the Chiefs don’t have a Phillip Rivers or a Darren Sproles.
Right Tackle Play
Overall the offensive line did a great job, only giving up the one sack and one QB hit, and opening running lanes for Darren McFadden and Bush. Right tackle Cornell Green played fairly well throughout the game, which was not an easy job against the very active Charger front seven.
Unfortunately, Green was personally responsible for half of the Raiders' six penalties. This included a false start penalty in first quarter, and a false start and holding penalty in the last four minutes of the game. It was fortunate that none of the penalties killed big plays, but these mistakes can't continue if the Raiders hope to succeed this season.
To be successful against the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday, and throughout the season, the Oakland Raiders need to continue the things they did well during Week One, and improve their performance in the areas noted above.
I am looking forward to a great game on Sunday.