The Oakland Raiders lost their final game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens today, and although they were competitive in the game, it was the same old problems that caused them to lose.
In many ways, this game summed up their season.
Firstly, the run defense was awful, allowing Baltimore 240 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Oakland has been weak against the run ever since their Super Bowl appearance, especially between the tackles. The Raiders simply have to get better in this area, as their failure here goes a long way to losing them games.
Second, the offensive line was poor again. The poster boy for an ugly unit is right tackle Cornell Green, who had his mandatory two false start penalties. This unit has to have some new blood in the offseason. Green has to go, and there needs to be some depth. You simply can’t make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and the offensive linemen are sadly lacking in talent.
The lack of investment over the last six years is clearly evident, and it is crippling an offense with some good skill players. The running attack was non-existent today. This group is a sad shadow of great Raider offensive lines of the past.
Last, but by no means least, this team is competitive without JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, and uncompetitive with him.
Charley Frye was playing well, and to the point where he went off with injury, the Raiders were very much in this game. Watching it unfold in the first half, I felt that a win was probable, not just possible. Then in came JaMarcus Russell.
While he looked okay early, he characteristically killed any hope of winning this game that the Raiders had. He did so in his usual fashion, with turnovers.
A badly thrown ball that was intercepted and poor ball security that led to a fumble recovered by Baltimore. Had he continued to move the team as Frye did, and maybe got us in the end zone, it may have been the start of the road back for him. As it is, he showed once again that when he is on the field, he hurts this team.
It really was a tale of two halves. Competitive with Frye, the opposite with Russell.
The Raider Nation in the Coliseum got ugly on Russell, and despite the small crowd, the boos were clearly audible. I don’t know any other player in Raider history who has been so unpopular with the fans.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh complimented the Raiders and Tom Cable after the game, and told the press that he thought Oakland had a good football team that played well. They did play well in certain areas, but if they don’t fix those that have plagued them continually over the last few years, they may continue to be competitive, but rarely victorious.
I think this game laid out a clear blueprint for improving this team in the offseason. Hopefully Al Davis sees it too.