Oakland Raiders Squeak By St. Louis Rams: 10 Raider Players That Got It Done
In the Oakland Raiders' 16-14 win over the St. Louis Rams Sunday, Darren McFadden looked great, Jason Campbell struggled, and Bruce Gradkowski came in and saved the day—again.
It wasn't pretty, but it was effective.
The Raiders' run defense looked pretty good against Steven Jackson, the secondary was solid, as usual, and the pass rush finally showed up.
The only statistic that really matters is the win/loss column, but some interesting things took place in The Black Hole that need to be discussed.
The Raiders still have some concerns moving forward, but this article is intended to point out only the positive.
Let's have a look at 10 players that did a good job and helped propel the Raiders to this much needed win.
Hang with me...
Darren McFadden—NOT a Bust!
This is two weeks in a row that Darren McFadden has shown up big for the Raiders.
In Week 1 against the Titans, McFadden was the lone bright spot for the offense. This week, against the Rams, McFadden showed that he is indeed for real.
Thirty carries for 145 yards for an average of 4.83 yards per carry is a great day for a running back that has been listening to harsh criticism for three straight seasons from the media and fans alike.
If you add his two receptions for eight yards, McFadden totaled 153 yards for an average of 4.78 yards per touch.
Raider fans will take that every week.
If McFadden can continue to play this well, the future of the Raiders' offense is bright indeed.
Darius Heyward-Bey—Also Not a Bust!
Coming off a rookie year in which he only caught 9 passes for 123 yards, Darius Heyward-Bey has shown that the rumors of his drastic improvement are not exaggerated.
Six catches for 80 yards against the Rams is nearly two-thirds of the production he showed all of last season.
What's the difference? I would say that it has a lot to do with relieved pressure, a year of maturity, and a much better quarterback throwing him the ball.
Whatever it is, Raider Nation will take it.
I'll be watching to see if Heyward-Bey can repeat this performance and show some consistency in future games.
Louis Murphy Is For Real
One of the big bright spots for the Raiders' offense last season was the emergence of wide receiver Louis Murphy.
This season, Murphy is proving to be everything the scouting department thought—and more.
Murphy had six catches for 91 yards and the Raiders' only touchdown on Sunday afternoon.
If the offensive line can play better in pass protection, they have some legitimate downfield threats in Murphy and Heyward-Bey.
Bruce "Almighty" Gradkowski—The Better Option?
What can I say about Bruce Gradkowski that hasn't already been said?
Against the Rams, Gradkowski came off the bench and did what he always does—rally the troops!
Sure, 11-of-22 for 162 yards, one touchdown, and one interception isn't a great day, but it's a solid half of play—and it proved to be enough for a Raider win.
This begs the question: Is there a quarterback controversy in Oakland? Should there be?
Only time will tell, but I'll be watching closely.
Sebastian Janikowski—Not Perfect, But Good Enough
Everyone knows that Sebastian Janikowski is one of the best kickers in the league right now. Most won't admit it, but they know.
On Sunday afternoon, Janikowski made three of four field goal attempts to lift the Raiders over the Rams.
Janikowski's kicks proved to be the difference in a tight fought win to bring the Raiders' record to 1-1.
Raider Nation has come to expect no less from this great kicker—and Janikowski almost always delivers.
The Defensive Line, As a Whole, Played Well
I realize that this is not just one player, but the entire defensive line played very well and deserved some recognition.
John Henderson, Tommy Kelly, Trevor Scott, and the rest of the defensive line did a nice job limiting the running lanes for Steven Jackson.
The Rams were held to just 75 rushing yards on 21 carries.
The lack of a running game put the pressure on the Rams' rookie quarterback to win the game—he was unable to do so.
Tyvon Branch Made Up For The Missed Tackle on CJ2K's Big Run Last Week
Last week, Titans' running back Chris Johnson made Tyvon Branch look pretty bad on his only big run. CJ2K made a move and Branch whiffed badly.
This week was a lot better for Branch. He did his usual great job supporting against the run, and earned four tackles and one assisted tackle.
The Rams' tight ends only combined for two catches. He did okay when asked to cover the tight ends, but struggled a bit when playing over the top of the wide receivers. This can be fixed.
Branch also did his part to rattle rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, recording one of the Raiders' three sacks.
Raider Nation needs to hope this game, rather than last week's game, is more indicative of Branch's play in the future.
Kamerion Wimbley Is Getting More and More Comfortable in The System
One of the high-profile acquisitions the Raiders made this offseason was getting linebacker Kamerion Wimbley from Cleveland for just a third-round pick.
Wimbley was brought in to make the Raiders tougher at the linebacker position and pressure the quarterback.
Wimbley has made a noticeable difference in the toughness department, but hadn't made an impact in the pass rush department—until now.
Not only did he tally four tackles and an assist, Wimbley also got a sack.
There was more to Wimbley's game than just the stats that made the paper—he applied some pressure on Bradford.
The Rams were forced to keep tight ends and backs in to help pass-protect against Wimbley. That threw their gameplan off, and it showed.
Lamarr Houston—The Rookie Is Settling in Nicely
Lamarr Houston was pretty quiet against the Titans. This was not the case against the Rams.
The Rams were forced to double-team and chip on Houston with a running back to keep him from wreaking havoc in their back field.
It didn't help.
Houston still managed to get a couple of tackles, and more importantly, a sack.
I like the progression I've seen in this talented rookie, but he still has a long way to go. His performance against the Rams shows me that he's on the right track.
Stanford Routt Played Much Better
I've been openly critical of Stanford Routt. His lack of consistency has concerned me for some time.
Against the Rams, we saw the "good Routt." He played solid coverage most of the day.
Quick feet, good position, and great awareness led Routt to creating the Rams' only turnover—his interception sealed the deal for the Raiders at the 9:50 mark of the fourth quarter.
There were more players that played well, but these were the 10 that stood out most to me.
The Raiders should feel good about getting this win, but can't dwell on it. The Rams are better than last year, but not great by any means.
If Oakland wants to call themselves contenders, it is going to take better play in future games against the much better teams that still remain on their schedule.
Football is "the ultimate team game" and the Raiders played like a team for the first time since their upset win over the Steelers last season.
There were some causes for concern as well.
Jason Campbell never looked all that good. He seemed to be pressing and looked to be easily panicked. He may have opened himself up for rumors of a quarterback controversy to crop up.
The offensive line looked excellent in run blocking, but still has a lot of work to do in pass protection—a LOT of work.
Let's remember, this was the Rams—not the Chargers, Colts, or Broncos. The Raiders must still face all of these teams.
If the Raiders continue to play like they did Sunday, they will lose to better teams.
What's the word, Raider Nation? Anyone you'd add? Anyone you'd take out? Let me hear it in the comments.
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