Oakland Raiders: Some Harsh Words Of Kindness

Bret ArmstrongAnalyst IOctober 5, 2009

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 04:  A pink ribbon with the NFL logo is displayed on the goal post as the Oakland Raiders prepare for a game with the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 4, 2009 in Houston, Texas. Many players and officials in the NFL wore pink as part of breast cancer awareness month.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

There is enough negative attention being put on the Oakland Raiders right now without further criticism from me. Let’s focus for a second on the positive side of things.

Positive thing number one is that about half of Raider Nation realized yesterday that it takes more than a quarterback to win on offense. JaMarcus Russell threw 33 passes yesterday. Twelve were complete, Head Coach Tom Cable called nine of them wide receiver drops, and one was overturned by a referee after the side judge called it a catch.

Break that down, and you can plainly see that Russell had the potential to complete 22 of those passes. Raider Nation took the blinders off, and finally saw progress in the gunslinger. With poise and composure, Russell remained in control in the pocket in spite of being heavily pressured and harassed by the Houston Texans' defense for most of the game.

“I thought he played his best football all year in terms of where he is going with it and his presence and all of those things,” Raiders coach Tom Cable told reporters after the game. “He got sacked a couple of times and was hit a number of times.”

Wide receiver Louis Murphy praised Russell’s play on Sunday as well, “That’s the difference. You’ve got to come down with those balls. JaMarcus, he’s throwing good balls, man, and we’ve got to make those plays to give our offense a spark.”

 Russell felt that he played well, but still feels he must do more to win, “We had a lot of game left from the beginning, but once it comes down to the ending moment, you always sit back and think what you could have done differently. I think that is one of the things we come out with today. Obviously it wasn’t good enough. I really thought I got some things done out there. Whatever it takes for us to win, I guess I must play better.”

Michael Huff continued to play well. He chased down Andre Johnson on a blown coverage by Chris Johnson and saved the defense from what would’ve been a sure touchdown.  Because of Huff’s excellent awareness on the play, the Raiders were able to hold the Texans to a field goal on the early drive.

Huff also continued to play well in coverage and nearly had his fourth interception on the year. It should be noted, however, that the support of starting free safety, Hirum Eugene, is missing in the run defense.

Huff’s teammates on the defensive line played outstanding once again, and despite being on the field for a little over 34 minutes, the defense only gave up 20 points.

Richard Seymour chimed in with five tackles, including one for a loss and two quarterback hurries. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly had a career high 13 tackles, including three for a loss. Nose guard Gerard Warren had four tackles, including two for a loss, as well as a quarterback sack and hurry. Greg Ellis had two tackles and a quarterback sack, his fourth this year.

The defense held Matt Schaub to 50 percent completions. Coming into the game, Schaub had hit 64.3 percent of his passes. They also held halfback Steve Slaton to 65 yards on 21 carries, and that includes a 32-yard touchdown run.

They held the Texans to 3-16 on third down conversions. The Texans ran the ball 41 times, and the defense held them to just 2.9 yards per carry average with just one touchdown. What killed the Raiders were big plays.

Five of Matt Schaub’s 11 completions went for 182 of his 224 passing yards. Other than giving up some big ones, the Raiders' defense played great this game, given they had very little support from the offense.

What did wide out Louis Murphy think about the second catch that has been overturned on him so far this year? “That’s just another one; two now. Not that I’m keeping score,” Murphy said. “The refs made a call. I was disappointed. I really wanted that to be the spark, the momentum that we needed to get a first down and get things rolling. But it kind of backfired.”

Murphy was convinced he made the catch and prompted Tom Cable to throw the challenge flag on the play. The decision to reverse the pass was upheld.

Bill Romanowski thought it was a catch too, even after the game was over, Romo said, “I mean, the announcers saw it, we saw it, everyone saw it, and it was a catch.”

Comcast fellow analyst of Romo, Tony Bruno added, “Not only did everybody see it, the people in the stadium, and Doug Johnson and Steve Tasker (who were) calling the game on CBS, but the official was right there, running down the sideline watching it, he’s going ‘catch, catch, catch.’ Two seconds later, another official comes in and they watched the replay, we watched the replay. And again, did that play cost the Raiders the game? Absolutely not, but it did change the tone, especially for Louis Murphy, he couldn’t catch a cold after that play.”

Not only did the boys from Comcast sports give the refs the old what-for in the post game, but ESPN was none to pleased with their calls against the Raiders either. Trent Dilfer pointed out that the referee refused to throw a flag on a helmet hit to JaMarcus Russell, but when Tom Brady's helmet got slapped by a Ravens' defender's hand, it was a personal foul, unnecessary roughness, 15-yard automatic first down.

Dilfer and ESPN’s Tom Jackson had a heated consensus that league officials have been inconsistent in their calls, and are therefore ruining the game of football. Jackson said that they could talk about the bad play calls by the referees this year because, “The league can’t do anything to us.”

Dilfer said that the NFL protects its superstars like Tom Brady, but will not come to the side of JaMarcus Russell, because Russell really hasn’t done anything in the league yet. Jackson said that if the officials are going to make a call on a certain play, then they have to call it the same on all the plays after that, or it is not fair. The two conferred that the league may be deciding the outcome of games with certain calls.

Like the Louis Murphy touchdown on Monday Night Football against the Chargers? Good news, people besides Raider Nation are starting to notice the league’s discrimination. I don’t want to say it is aimed directly at the Oakland Raiders, but I will say they have ironically caught a lot of bad breaks this year.

One last bright spot I will touch on here; expectations are out the window at this point. Why is that a bright spot? It is a bright spot because the pressure is off now. Everyone expects Oakland to come out of these next four games as a one win-seven loss team.

Now maybe our offense can concentrate on just growing and learning instead of having the pressure to succeed so early in their young careers. The return of Chaz Schilens couldn’t have come at a better time. However, a torn meniscus surgery for tailback Darren McFadden will keep him sidelined for two to four weeks. McFadden had six carries for negative three yards on Sunday.

Is that bad news though? It seemed to me that Michael Bush was the more productive of the two young backs so far this year. Although he has been given less opportunity, Bush has produced only 25 less yards on 17 fewer carries. He averages four yards per carry compared to McFadden’s 3.1. He has the same amount of receptions and only eight fewer receiving yards, and Bush has three fewer fumbles, with his first of the year coming on a screen pass Sunday.

So, Bush will have the opportunity to grow with the young offense over this brutal stretch of tough defensive opponents. Is that a good thing too, or is it unfortunate?

Oh, one more thing; Cornell Green is out two to four weeks with a calf strain. Try to see the bright side, Raider Nation. The sky may not be falling after all.

Is a coaching change eminent in Oakland? http://fanhuddle.com/oaklandraiders/2009/10/05/a-coach-who-would-love-to-get-his-hands-back-in-oaklands-hat/