As many longtime Raider fans feared, this team was not quite ready to beat an elite NFL opponent. But the real problem with this 31-19 loss is not simply that they were defeated, but the fact this loss might have been averted if the Raiders played smarter football. Let's break down what went so terribly wrong.
Huge surprise, right? Penalties were absolutely brutal for the Raiders—when are we going to stop saying this?
Does it sometimes feel like the referees are unfair to the Raiders? Absolutely, especially when you look at that awful third-quarter pass interference call in the red zone the refs overturned. Jacoby Ford was clearly interfered with, and a flag was thrown, but then quickly picked up. A truly horrendous call.
That being said, the Raiders still didn’t help their cause by making all kinds of mental mistakes. Had Richard Seymour not thrown Tom Brady to the ground on the Patriots’ first drive, Oakland would have gotten off the field and forced a three-and-out. After that penalty, New England had no problem moving the ball up and down the field—it was a big momentum shift.
Not enough pressure
I harped on this in my piece about how the Raiders could win this game: pressure, pressure and more pressure. I knew the Raiders absolutely had to blitz and send more than four pass rushers. So what did they do? They refused to blitz. What is wrong with you people?
After the Raiders pulled within 24-13 at the end of the third quarter, they insisted on a four-man pass rush, and guess what happened? Brady shredded them like it was seven-on-seven practice, and ended a five-minute drive with a touchdown. Sometimes I hate being right.
If a four-man rush isn’t working, why do you continue to do it? Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result; based on that definition, Raider defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is out of his mind.
If you get beat by a better team, so be it—some games you just can’t win. But losing a game because of poor game planning is unacceptable. Because of Bresnahan’s refusal to blitz, the Raiders had no chance to keep Brady in check. He wasn’t a good defensive coordinator during his first stint with the Raiders, and apparently he didn’t learn anything while he was gone. Unforgivable.
Bringing a running game to a pass fight
Because the Raiders could not hold Brady down, they were forced to try and outscore the Patriots—which is impossible. This was another of my keys to the game last week. I hate to say I told you so...
I like Jason Campbell, I really do, and I can’t stand pretty boy Brady, but there is no doubt Brady is a superior quarterback.
Look no further than the second quarter. Campbell gets the Raiders six yards away from a touchdown, then throws an indefensible interception to Patrick Chung. In contrast, Brady then gets the ball with two minutes to go, and easily leads the Pats to a field goal as the first half expires.
Will the Raiders make the playoffs?
I don't know on what planet Campbell could keep up with Brady, but it's not Earth. Brady's quarterback rating: 100.1. Campbell's: 79.4. Brady had two touchdowns, Campbell had two picks. It's not a fair fight.
So... what now?
This team has shown some promise, but it has a very long way to go. The penalties need to be controlled. Penalties are a Raider problem nearly as old as Al Davis, so I don’t know what you can really do, but Hue Jackson needs to use that creative mind of his to figure something out. Bresnahan either needs to get with the program or be shown the door. This is a new NFL, where passing is easier than ever. If you don’t blitz, you will not win.
There is enough talent on this team. I believe in Hue Jackson as a head coach. But if the Raiders are going to return to the playoffs, there’s a lot of work left to do.