Oakland Raiders: Raider Fans Are Defeatists, The Raiders Are Work In Progress
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This should not be confused with a speech on the power of positive thinking. This, however, is a lecture on the power of defeatism.
After the last-minute loss by the Oakland Raiders to the Arizona Cardinals, 23-24, on Sunday, Raider fans are quick to pin the tail on the donkey, Sebastian Janikowski, because he missed a short field goal with four seconds remaining.
Believe me, Janikowski has caused me some fits over the years, which is one of the reasons I stress the importance of a clutch-kicker, and by extension, the reason that I think Adam Vinatieri was more important to the New England Patriots than Tom Brady.
If Brady had not had a clutch kicker, he would have been left out in the cold.
But I digress, as usual.
The real reason that the Raiders lost was red-zone offense. In all, Sebastian Janikowski was 3-for-6 on field goals. Usually (not always), a high number of field-goal attempts indicates the lack of a red-zone offense.
That was exactly the case yesterday afternoon.
Janikowski connected on field goals of 22, 54, and 23 yards, which should tell you that the Raiders twice stalled offensively within five yards of the end zone. He missed field goals of 41, 58, and 32. He also whiffed on a tackle of LeRod Stephens-Howling on the opening kickoff, which resulted in the 102-yard touchdown.
The miss from 58 is forgivable, while the miss from 32 technically cost the game. We could bash Janikowski for the touchdown on the kickoff, yet the Raiders paid back the Cardinals by recovering two fumbles on punts.
The goat does not represent the game. The irony is, the blame truly lies in the successful field goals by Janikowski. The last thing you want to see in a game is field goals made from under 23 yards (unless it is the go-ahead score at the end of the game), because that means the offense stalled at the 5-yard line or less.
Red-zone offense and costly penalties, such as the delay of game penalty on the goal line, is what cost the game for the Raiders. In all, the Raiders allowed over 100 yards in penalties to the Cardinals, which is inexcusable. Sometimes, slow and smart is better than fast and impulsive.
Trying to dump the blame on the kicker would not benefit the Raiders and where they need to be. Rome wasn't built in day, and sometimes, a team climbing out of the dregs must first swallow a few bitter pills.
It is how that teams reacts after such a loss that will determine their future. Do they take an honest look at themselves and what they can do, or do they look for a whipping boy?
Despite the patch-work offensive line, tailback Darren McFadden has shown Raider Nation the reason he was selected with the fourth-overall pick in 2008. In three games, McFadden is third in the league with 345 rushing yards, behind only Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson.
We could nitpick about the competition that McFadden has faced, or we could realize that McFadden has been a workhorse behind a talented yet sketchy O-line.
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has also provided some much needed piss and vinegar for a team that in previous years, looked like it was just going through the motions. Gradkowski's stats thus far don't sparkle like Peyton Manning's, yet he still makes clutch plays, which is more qualitative than quantitative.
Second year wideout Louis Murphy provided some punch with five catches for 119 yards with a long of 70.
The much maligned wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey is also showing Raider Nation his big-play ability, even if he has been inconsistent. Yet, that should be expected from a second year player. Heyward-Bey had three catches for 49 yards with a long of 21.
The big play presence of both also forced mistakes by Arizona's defense, which was penalized more than once for pass interference, one of which was in the end zone, after which the Raiders failed to capitalize on the golden opportunity by getting flagged for delay of game.
It was times like that, that I miss the presence of Zack Crockett. I say that, because I want to see Michael Bush become a short-yardage runner like Crockett was.
All in all, yesterday was a bitter pill. The last thing that Raider fans should do is hit the panic button.
We're not Jets fans, ya know.
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