The Raiders and Chiefs played yet another closely contested battle today at Arrowhead, with the Raiders pulling out a victory after a late touchdown drive that saw an offense stuck in neutral the entire day finally get it going when it mattered.
History will show that JaMarcus Russell showed well on the winning drive, going 3 of 6 for 58 yards with a couple of key first down conversions after penalties had mired the team in difficult situations. History will also show that before this drive, Russell had one of the worst quarterback performances I've ever witnessed.
That the Raiders were on the winning end of a drive in the final minutes is not lost on me, nor the rest of Raider Nation. Russell came through when it mattered, and Darren McFadden, bottled up most of the day, found no resistance on the left end to waltz in for the game-winning touchdown with 1:07 left to cap the drive.
It was a great feeling as a Raider fan to finally see a victory after trading scores in the final minutes. It far more often than not for far too long has gone the other way. The collective feelings of joy and relief across Raider Nation were tangible, and I know it was one of my best football moments in quite a while.
Up until the point that the clock read 0:00, I was unhappy with Russell's performance. He's engineered two go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter in two weeks, and that's to be commended. But his erratic passing that we all hoped was an anomaly against the Chargers turned into an utter nightmare against the Chiefs.
Starting out 0-5, he never seemed to be able to get in a rhythm. When he connected with Darrius Heyward-Bey for the kid's first NFL reception it was his first really good on target throw of the day down the field, it seemed a good bet he was about to get going.
But, he then proceeded to misfire constantly in the 2nd half. He missed a couple by just a touch, such as the potential Louis Murphy touchdown pass that was just out of reach.
He also was the victim of some excellent D-Line play from the Chiefs, who batted down a couple of balls that were intended as screen passes, one of the few plays that the Raiders had any success with all day.
Until the final drive, in which he zipped a couple of bullets right on the money, Russell looked very poor. He's still showing better pocket presence, and the line once again gave him time for the most part; but he simply must get better at putting the ball on target. We cannot continually blame others for his inability to hit open targets.
The Chiefs showed that if you dare Russell to beat you, then you can stop their running game. We need the run game to be effective, because the defense cannot keep playing as much as they did today and continue to hold up as well as they did.
Without having to worry about defending the pass, the Chiefs were free to send run blitzes and put eight and nine in the box to stop McFadden and Bush. The two backs combined for a hard-fought 70 yards on the ground, a far cry from the 138 yards the Raiders gained as a team against the Chargers on Monday night.
That can largely be attributed to Russell's ineffectiveness today, as the Chiefs found out early that they had little to worry about from the Raider passing game.
It's maddening to watch him at times because he'll miss easy throws or overthrow a simple screen like he did today to McFadden; and then he'll come out and zip throws down the field right on the money like he did with Watkins and Murphy on the final drive. He teases you with his ability to make amazing throws, and then makes you crazy by missing the simplest targets.
His accuracy problems can largely be attributed to him not knowing how to throw the ball in every situation; he fires the ball hard almost all the time, when touch is required on many of the throws he needs to make.
He's regressed as far as his accuracy goes, but he's definitely progressed in his leadership and his clutch performance. Those tendencies are of infinite importance, and no matter how hard you try you cannot truly simulate game situations in practice.
To know he can execute with the game on the line is comforting, but it would help the team if he could do it consistently for four quarters. Accuracy is all about repetition, and he obviously needs to work more with his receivers and put more time into his game.
Other than the final drive, there is little positive to say about the offense today. The penalties had gotten better, but three times on the final drive the old albatross reared it's ugly head. Cornell Green has got to go. Just...has...to...go.
The defense bent but didn't break today, and showed well when it counted. I was disappointed that they were getting pushed around more than doing the pushing this game, but they fought back and fought hard.
The late touchdown, given up when Nnamdi Asomugha was out of the game and Stanford Routt was left to cover Dwayne Bowe, was a blemish in an otherwise impressive performance considering they got zero help from the offense all game.
In the first quarter the Chiefs offensive line were bullying the Raiders front, something we didn't expect to see after the beating the Raiders put on the Chargers last week. The Chiefs had an impressive 17-play, 74 yard drive that ate up over nine minutes of the clock in the first quarter, but the Raider defense held them to a field goal.
Despite the fact that the defense held us in the game, and Michael Huff came up huge once again with a two-turnover game, grabbing a couple of picks from Matt Cassell, the run defense once again looked suspect at times. The bullying, in-your-face presence shown last Monday was nonexistent today. But that's understandable.
Coming off a short week after a highly emotional game, they can be forgiven for being a little sluggish. It's a testament to their will and talent that they kept the team in the game despite a tidal wave of three-and-outs from the offense.
I said before I felt this was a must-win game, and I meant it. This team, although not as fired up as they were on Monday, still showed we have the will to win and the want to fight for every game.
Now that we've won, it's a must that Russell bounces back next week against Denver, who he has played well against in the past, and puts the fears of a Nation to rest. We are all feeling that with our defense and the potential of our running game we have a chance to be a good team if we can get consistent production from our quarterback.
I still have faith in JaMarcus and his talents, but I must say my faith is getting thinner by the week at this point. I have given him the benefit of the doubt, but today was a nightmare, and one more repeat performance will have all Raider Nation cringing every time he drops back to pass.
A few thoughts:
- Why rotate Richard Seymour out of the game so often? He was a force last Monday. He needed to be on the field more today
- I like Matt Shaugnessy and Desmond Bryant; we suddenly have a deep D-Line
- How much does JaMarcus Russell miss Chaz Schilens right now?
- Heyward-Bey is getting better at selling his routes, but still has a long way to go. Congrats on catch #1 kid
- Louis Murphy is eventually going to be very, very dangerous
- We need to call more running plays to the outside
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