Raiders-Denver: Raiders Lament

M VHCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2008

Lane Kiffin is an honest man.

Oakland's lack of performance against division rival Denver demonstrated what he’s alluded to all along.

This is no team, and the Raiders are not very good.

After an "impressive" practice this weekend, Javon Walker was an inexplicable last-minute no show.

More about him and Al Davis later.

Ashley Lelie made a decent showing, snagging passes and scoring a jump ball TD, but fellow receiver Ronald Curry set the tone for the night, whiffing on two well-placed long balls from Russell.

On one deep slant over the middle, Curry inexplicably broke his stride and awkwardly lept at a pass that deflected off his hands.

The other deep ball that might’ve changed the complexion of the game early hit him in the hands and was dropped. Curry demonstrated terrible hand positioning when trying to make the catch.

Rookie Chaz Schillens made two nice catches for 29 yards.

TE Zach Miller, usually a favorite target of Russell’s, was non-existent as a receiver in the first half and ended the night with four token grabs for 34 yards.

FB Justin Griffith led the team in receiving yardage with 39 measly yards. 24 of it came on one play late in the fourth when the game was out of reach.

McFadden had one catch for 11 yards and Fargas snagged two for 12.

Russell made mistakes, like eating a sack he shouldn’t have and letting the ball slip out of his hand on a simple screen pass in the red zone for a drive-killing fumble.

Pressure after a putrid chip attempt on a blitzing Bronco by left tackle Kwame Harris, who pulled second level too soon, allowed the muff.

Harris even managed to blow that block, too.

Harris suffered a leg injury when a rushing Bronco slid into him awkwardly.

Second-year backup tackle Mario Henderson immediately drew a crushing and stupid roughing penalty after a scrambling Russell fumbled the ball.

At least Henderson has an excuse.

Oakland drew nine flags for 97 yards in the first half alone.

Missed assignments by the usually reliable Cooper Carlisle and the never reliable and always-awful right tackle Cornell Green. Harris’ flags and spotty play rounded out a sad outing by the Raiders' O-line.

Oakland looked ok early on the ground, but the aforementioned fumble by Russell, misses by Curry, penalties and sacks crushed any momentum Oakland might’ve gained in the first half.

The Broncos torched the Raiders' secondary, with Michael Huff a non-factor. Fellow safety Girbril Wilson helped a few times against the run, but could not cover up for DeAngelo Hall’s terrible coverage of Eddie Royal.

Rookie VT wideout Royal owned the former Hall of Fame cornerback, whom Al Davis brought over from at Atlanta at a pretty penny and a second-round pick.

Hall accounted for back-to-back personal fouls that were ticky-tac flags that could’ve gone either way, but they still showed error in judgment on Hall’s part.

His play and Walker's absence gave fuel to critics who think Davis made some lousy signings this offseason.

It's early, but if tonight's an indicator...

The penalties extended a drive that put points on the board and seemed to break Oakland's spirit, while bolstering Denver's.

The Raiders' defense looked slow and confused, as QB Jay Cutler deftly tore them apart, distributing the ball evenly and giving lots of attention to Royal, who finished with nine catches for 149 yards and a TD to lead all NFL receivers this week.

I had predicted earlier that he might have a "Plaxico Burress type opening night." (Burress caught 10 for 133 yards, but no TD.)

This is horrible news for a defense supposedly predicated on superior coverage.

The Broncos didn’t even have their No. 1 receiver, Brandon Marshall.

Part of the blame can be placed at the Hobbit-like feet of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’s "vanilla defense," sans blitzes, got torched and applied virtually no pressure from their front four.

Former All Pro DE Derrick Burgess left the game late with an undisclosed injury that might involve his chest. (Later determined to be a shoulder injury.)

Replacement scrub Trevor Scott was just as ineffective.

Jay Richardson, on the other end, offered a lone bright spot with improved run defense. Unfortunately, that only forced the Broncos to throw, and once they did successfully, they kept throwing. Cutler was 16-for-24 for 299 yards and two TDs.

Oakland's fat and out of shape DTs did absolutely nothing to generate a rush and only stopped the run on occasion, due to the lack of depth in Denver’s "running back by committee" approach.

Anthony Alridge is out for the year with a foot, and rookie RB Ryan Torain broke an elbow in training camp.

They didn’t need them.

Young looked good later in the game, but it was clear, midway through the third that the Raiders' defense had given up.

Howard was a non-factor and Morrison was burned on a deep pass to TE Tony Schefler, which helped break Oakland's back.

They did look better against the run, but again, that was in part because they were so bad against the pass, and Denver didn’t need to eat up the clock and finish the game until late.

Oakland's D looked listless, confused and reactionary as Denver’s play calling befuddled them and the increasingly unlikable Ryan.

With some very talented players and a gameplan by the Broncos catered to his unit's strengths, his defense was lackluster and embarrassingly awful.

One wonders if he isn’t merely an obedient minion catering to ancient Al Davis’ dated and flawed philosophy or is simply incompetent at getting his players to understand or perform.

Probably a little from column A, a little from column B.

With massive penalties, sloppy play, stupid mistakes—by coaches and players—poor performance, and key injuries piling up, the hapless Oakland Raiders could be just the thing an awful and banged up Chiefs team needs to boost their confidence this Sunday.

This mess had Raider fans praying for the end.

Russell ended the night with a token touchdown drive, and his passing was one of the few offensive bright spots.

He threw 189 yards on 17 completions and two TDs, with no picks, but as expected, he made some "rookie" mistakes.

With WR Drew Carter and FB Oren O’Neal gone for the year with knee injuries, Javon Walker’s mystery hamstring (personally, I think it’s a mental issue), McFadden’s game-ending injury, and the possible loss of pass rusher Derrick Burgess, the lack of depth Kiffin whined about recently seems to have come home to roost sooner than even he imagined.

The Raiders could come back and put something together; the season's young, but this Monday night opener could not have been more unsettling, disturbing, and disappointing.

They better learn to talk to each other, because whether they realize it or not, football IS a team sport.

Final score: 41-14.


And it wasn't even that close.


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