Oakland Raiders Fall to Buffalo Bills in Heartbreaking Manner: Same Old Raiders?
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Well, that didn't take long.
A lot has happened in one week. To name one, the Oakland Raiders, after opening the 2011 season with a win over the Denver Broncos, have their record blemished, falling short against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. Because of this, in one week the fans' perception of the team has shifted.
Just a week ago, the outlook for the upcoming season was promising. Now? Fans, analysts, the coaching staff and the players themselves are looking for answers to the monumental collapse that allowed Buffalo to crawl back from a 21-3 deficit at halftime.
Doubt starts to creep in. Is this the same old Raiders?
We've seen it many times before. The Raiders are holding a lead and allow their opponents back into the game. They can't seem to put them away. You can point to any number of events as to the reason of why they lost: Darren McFadden's fumble, the defensive line getting zero pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chris Johnson getting abused by Steve Johnson (no relation), the two dropped interceptions, Rolando McClain's seven missed tackles, the injuries or Nick Miller's futile kickoff and punt returns.
Finger pointing, however, does the team no good. You cannot look back and think to yourself "What if the Raiders had stopped the Bills on fourth down in that final drive?" or even "What if Denarius Moore came down with that Hail Mary throw?" None of these questions does anyone any good.
Fact of the matter is that these things didn't happen. Dwelling on does nothing. McClain's and Kamerion Wimbley's blown coverage assignments on that touchdown throw by Ryan Fitzpatrick did happen, no matter how hard you wish that it didn't.
That does not mean that we cannot analyze what exactly happened in the game. First, let's take a look at the positives.
It starts with the offense, namely Jason Campbell. All week, he has been asked to step up to the occasion, to show that he can win a game on his own. The injuries that prevented wide receivers Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and tight end Kevin Boss from suiting up did not make matters any easier for Campbell. In their stead, fan favorites Derek Hagan and Denarius Moore got the nod.
But the passing game stepped up and was all that the coaches could have hoped for. Campbell completed over two thirds of his passes, finishing with 323 yards and three touchdowns, two of them coming through the air.
Hagan was the possession receiver the Raiders desperately needed and Moore showed that the preseason was no fluke with two stupendous grabs. Each of them compiled five catches.
Moving forward, more trust needs to be placed on Campbell. Even though the Bills' secondary is not particularly strong, he was able to show that, if needed, he can move the ball through the air.
The biggest point of emphasis comes at the receiver position. With all of the injured wideouts looking to make their return to the field next week, the only one who should be guaranteed a starting spot is tight end Kevin Boss. There is nothing to indicate, as of this point, that the combination of Hagan and Moore cannot get the job done at the two flanker positions. They need to be given every opportunity to repeat their Week 2 performances.
The running game looked solid once again. While McFadden did not crack one hundred yards on the ground, he was able to gain 72 yards rushing and added 71 yards receiving. He also had two scores. Michael Bush added 23 yards and one touchdown.
Overall, the offense performed well. The only weakness that is apparent at this point is the right side of the offensive line. McFadden did not look comfortable running towards the right. Even though the line did an excellent job of protecting Campbell, Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes need to do a better job of opening up running lanes for McFadden on that right side.
As we continue to look at what went wrong for the Raiders, considering they let up 38 points, it is no wonder that most of the breakdowns happened on defense. On one hand, as the signal caller of the offense performed marvelously, the signal caller on defense, Rolando McClain, was just the opposite. He probably had his worst game as a professional.
This is where stats can be deceiving. Upon initial inspection, McClain had ten tackles to go along with three passes defensed.
What doesn't show up is how many tackles he missed (seven) and how many times he was engulfed by a blocker and completely taken out of a play. It doesn't show how many times McClain botched a coverage. It doesn't show his complete lack of effort on Fred Jackson's 43 yard touchdown run.
I challenge you to look at a replay of that run, look for McClain and not throw your TiVo remote at the television screen in disgust.
The defensive line, after being touted as one of the best in the league after recording five sacks against the Denver Broncos, regressed and allowed Fitzpatrick to carve up the defense for 264 yards passing unscathed.
Richard Seymour was neutralized and proved to be a non-factor in the game.
Defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston were unable to instill any fire on this unit and provided no penetration on the edges.
The blitzes that defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan dialed up in order to generate some sort of pass rush were all picked up by the Bills' offensive line with ease.
Before we get to the secondary, which I know all of you are dying to lambast, let me first say my peice on kick returner Nick Miller. With the speed and athleticism on this team with players like Jacoby Ford, Taiwan Jones and Denarius Moore, it is mind-boggling that Miller is the one manning return duties.
If he is not replaced after this lackluster performance, there are going to be a lot of questions concerning Hue Jackson's personnel decisions. As head coach he has the prerogative to make any decision, but his reluctance to put the speedy Jones or Moore back to return kicks is puzzling.
Now, let's take a look at the secondary. The only player who gets a pass is cornerback Stanford Routt. He played brilliantly once again and even added an interception. He looks like he is capable of stepping into Nnamdi Asomugha's shoes and becoming the team's top cornerback.
On the other side, there are now a lot of question marks.
Chris Johnson had the most brutal game you can imagine, consistently getting picked on by Fitzpatrick. As completions piled up against him, he looked more and more uncomfortable. He even had a chance to seal the game in the final minute with an interception in the end zone that was knocked out of his hands. He looked overmatched throughout the game and while I think he can be a solid player, I'm sure the Raiders are hoping DeMarcus Van Dyke or Chimdi Chekwa can step up and take the cornerback spot opposite of Routt.
The safeties did not look any better. Tyvon Branch looked lost, regardless of whether it was a run or a pass, taking poor angles and doing a terrible job of coverage on the back end. Key reserves Matt Giordano and Jerome Boyd could not do anything right. After this Sunday afternoon, I am sure the Raiders are hoping to have Mike Mitchell return so he can take their place in those coverage packages.
However, like I mentioned in my match up by match up analysis of this game, short passes was the way to beat the Raiders and the Bills executed it to perfection. The question is whether or not the Raiders can realize this and adjust to it as the year goes on.
Although being 2-0 would have been a tremendous boost for this organization, a loss here is not the end of the world. Oakland had to travel to visit a much improved Buffalo team on a short week and played in a competitive game. Blowing the lead certainly is troubling, but if the team can use this loss as a learning experience, it could be just as valuable as a win.
This game may or may not define the team. We will find out in the next three weeks. As a former head coach used to say, the Raiders have to "just cut it loose." It starts at home next week against the New York Jets.
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