With a nine point lead and over six minutes left in the game, one would have thought that the Raiders were up by four touchdowns. Suddenly Rob Ryan’s defensive backs were giving up the underneath, allowing Edwards to get the ball to his receivers in space. The Bills’ offense was suddenly turning 5-yard slants and hitches into big gains.
As unpopular as it may be with the fans, there is a time and place for the Prevent defense - when your up by four touchdowns and there is less than five minutes to go in the game - not when your up by nine points with six minutes of football left to play. While they weren’t in a traditional "Prevent", you’d have thought that the Raiders were up by 28 with the way that their defense went from rabid...to submissive.
The pass rush was suddenly non-existent, and with all day to throw, talented quarterback Trent Edwards patiently took what Rob Ryan’s defense gave him - which was more than enough for the Bills to score 10 points in just over four and a half minutes to win the game.
With Dick Jauron’s troops keeping Oakland’s running attack in check, it was the Raiders’ defense that carried them to a 23-14 lead into the fourth quarter, and ultimately - it was that same defense that deviated from a successful game plan and cost the Silver and Black what would have been a huge win on the road against a good football team.
The Raiders’ intensity level and pursuit on defense was as good as I’ve seen in a long time. Often there were three and four defenders around the ball carrier.
Four three-and-a-half quarters, the Raiders’ defense harassed Trent Edwards, never allowing him to get comfortable in the pocket and set his feet. Diverse blitz packages brought heat from the outside, and Marshawn Lynch was held to a 3.6 yard-per-carry average on the ground.
JaMarcus Russell’s 84-yard strike to Johnnie Lee Higgins was a thing of beauty. Russell stood tall in the pocket and delivered a perfectly timed strike to a well-covered Higgins, who turned on the speed and won the foot race to the end zone.
Oakland’s offense moved the ball consistently only to settle for field goals as opposed to touchdowns. Field goals alone do not win games against good football teams on the road.
JaMarcus Russell was often faced with third-and-long, not a good situation for any quarterback, let alone an inexperienced signal caller like Russell. The result - the Raiders converted two of 12 third downs for a 17% efficiency rating.
Two catches for 18 yards hardly justifies the over-inflated contract that was supposed to motivate Javon Walker to become the deep threat to help the Raiders stretch the field. With a suddenly sterile receiving corps, opposing defenses key on Zach Miller, and the back seven have successfully shut down the Oakland passing game.
I’ve been a staunch supporter of both Lane Kiffin and Rob Ryan, but once Marshawn Lynch picked up seven yards to the Oakland 32-yard line with just under two minutes left to play, as the head coach you have to realize that the opposing team is in field goal range and the clock has become YOUR enemy. Of course you have faith in your defense, but you have to prepare for your offense having to take the field needing a field goal to win.
Had Kiffin used the two time outs that he had remaining, he could have...
1.Given his defense much needed rest and time to regroup, and possibly disrupted the newfound rhythm of the Bills’ offense.
2. Most Importantly - Had another shot at his offense taking the field. With Russell’s arm strength, and Janikowski’s leg strength, the Raiders may well have set themselves up for a possible game-winning field goal if they had 30 seconds on the game clock. Thirty seconds that Kiffin allowed to go up in smoke with Buffalos’ final drive.
We’ll never know.
Why did Rob Ryan’s defense back off after playing their best football in well over a year? There is an old saying - "If it ain’t broke - don’t fix it". Suddenly the corners were backing off and allowing Bills’ receivers to make plays in space, and the aggressive, pin-your-ears-back and rush the quarterback-philosophy that allowed Oakland to dominate for most of the game mysteriously disappeared and allowed the Bills to march down the field.
If not for all of the in-house finger pointing between Kiffin, Ryan and Davis that has become par for the course in Oakland, there would be a lot for the Raiders to feel positive about heading into next Sunday’s game against the Chargers.
Last year’s 4-12 Raiders went on the road against a physical, smash-mouth Bills’ team, stood toe-to-toe with them, and damn near came out with a win. With the Chiefs’ coming apart at the seams, and a suddenly vulnerable Chargers’ team still looking for their first win, Oakland could achieve 8-8 if Russell could continue to show improvement and the defense could consistently match the level of intensity that they showed against the Bills.
But with all of the off-the-field issues that haunt them, the fragile house that is the Raiders is in jeopardy of falling as a result of their shaky foundation.
and the Kiffin watch begins again.....
God Bless America and our brave men and women fighting for freedom around the world!