Oakland Raiders Week 10: Pressures, Hurries and Knockdowns

Justin SmithCorrespondent INovember 10, 2011

Oakland Raiders Week 10: Pressures, Hurries and Knockdowns

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    The Raiders blew a golden opportunity to seize control of their destiny last Sunday with a meltdown in the second half that was almost beautiful in its ugliness.

    Once Carson Palmer's high pass to Jacoby Ford was tipped and intercepted, nothing went right for the Raiders. It would be comforting to blame the powers that be or some kind of freak kismet for the Raiders struggles, but truth be told they simply beat themselves in every way possible.

    The self-immolation was as sadistic as it was masochistic, as Raider Nation saw hopes of yet another season circling the drain as the team packed it in and let the Tim Tebow-led Broncos run all over them in the second half. It was painful and hurtful to watch, and too reminiscent of Raider teams of recent vintage.

    It's not time to push the panic button quite yet, as despite the Raiders ridiculous implosion the Kansas City Chiefs suffered an even more embarrassing loss, and the Chargers remained the Chargers and lost to a juggernaut Packers squad. Things are still even Steven at the top of the AFC West, with the Raiders traveling to San Diego tonight with first place on the line, and their season in the balance.

    Will Carson Palmer bounce back and play well under pressure? Will the Raiders stop gifting their opponents third down conversions with stupid, ill-timed penalties? Can this sinking feeling that the season is going down the toilet be quelled?

    Let's find out.

Pressures: Carson Palmer

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    As I said, Palmer made some nice throws on Sunday and, in the beginning, led the offense quite well. It's fun to think what could be accomplished with him and McFadden in the backfield, but alas, that's not to be yet again tonight.

    While he made some nice throws, and throws that Palmer fans and Campbell critics would say Campbell couldn't make, he also made some really bad decisions and missed on a few as well.

    It's understandable; he's a little rusty after not playing for a while, and getting timing and such down with receivers. All told, he played passably; but six interceptions in six quarters of action isn't going to win many games for anyone.

    Palmer has shown that he still has the ability to thread the needle and run a prolific offense; but he's also shown the propensity to turn the ball over and try to do too much that has led to his team's struggles in the past.

    With Michael Bush set to run the ball again tonight, Palmer needs to step it up and make smart, effective decisions. He's too often looking for the big play, and then something goes wrong.

    I have faith Palmer can continue to put up numbers, but he's always turned the ball over a lot, and thus far it's not encouraging in that respect. The fact that he all but ignored DHB didn't make a lot of sense, either.

    The bottom line is Palmer has to be better, and now. Whether that's fair or not doesn't matter when a season hangs in the balance and the farm was given up to bring him in. He's under pressure to play smart, effective football and put his own team in the best position to win, which he hasn't really done thus far.

Pressures: The Raiders' Common Sense, Football Sense and Discipline

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    I'm tired of this recurring theme. There are many in the Nation who celebrate our penalties, and when we win I can understand that mentality. I can also understand those that say "the occasional 15-yarder to send a message isn't such a bad thing."

    What I can't understand is a team that continually makes plays for their opponent at crucial junctures of the game by losing their cool and acting like children.

    Despite the pick and the punt return TD by Eddie Royal, the Raiders still had a chance to win this game. But they couldn't get off the field on third down. On the game-sealing TD drive, the Raiders had Tebow dead to rights, but the ever undisciplined Richard Seymour—I love the guy but he's been as detrimental as positive at times—got a hand full of facemask and wouldn't let go, even though he clearly could have.

    Then, Aaron Curry waits until Tebow is clearly in a danger zone before hitting him out of bounds. The referee was almost laughing as he called penalties on the Raiders toward the end of the game, no doubt bemused at the lack of discipline being shown at home by a supposedly good football team.

    This team beat itself on Sunday through a combination of shoddy and sloppy play, penalties, a lack of football awareness in some cases—not holding the edge and constantly rushing upfield against a QB like Tebow was very stupid and cost them many times—and just plain bad football.

    Well, after 10 solid years of bad football and hopes for a brighter tomorrow, I'm tired of it. It needs to stop, and tonight. If the Raiders don't get those third down penalties and essentially pack it in as a result, who knows what could've happened?

    What I know is I'm sick of seeing a team that beats itself as often as it is beaten. Through coach after coach and player after player, the theme is the same. And it's a losing dirge.

Hurries

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    Hue Jackson has to be better, and the team has to reflect that. Teams are a product of their coach, and despite his continued insistence that he's working on discipline, it continues to get worse.

    Jackson has really put himself in a position of difficulty. He was celebrated for what he did for the Raiders offense and how he changed the culture here. But his panic-button trade for Palmer and the team's struggles in clock management, football acumen and discipline have taken some of the sheen off his halo, and he no longer has a free pass.

    That's how I see it anyway. I still like Hue, but his glad-handing and superlatives are a little hollow recently given the team's utterly lifeless performance on the field.

    Palmer has never won anything of significance, and that's worrisome. The fact that this team seems to play a lot less passionately since he joined the team may be a coincidence, and I hope so. The responses of Jacoby Ford and McFadden when Palmer was brought in don't speak to that, though. I worry that mortgaging the future and effectively ensuring Campbell's departure—and Campbell is very popular amongst his teammates—may have hurt locker room chemistry

    Of course, I hope the struggles of the last two games can be chalked up to an offense adjusting to the loss of Campbell and McFadden, and a defense that as a result has to do too much. But that's disingenuous; this team had two leads on Sunday and a defense that couldn't hold it.

    DHB needs to show up this weekend; what the hell happened on Sunday, anyway? One target, and he wasn't on the field that often. Housh better not have stolen any reps from him.

    Nice to see Jacoby Ford back in action, and what a catch. If he, DHB, Housh and Boss can step things up, with Chaz and Murphy out there, this offense can once again be dynamic.

    But McFadden is the catalyst; this offense simply doesn't go the same way when he's not in there, and you can tell the team isn't as confident overall.

Knockdowns: The Raiders Run Defense Has Improved

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    Well slap my face and call me Charlie. One week after praising the Raiders for improving their terrible run defense, they go and lay an egg against the Broncos and allow Tebow to look like Randall Cunningham and Willis McGahee to look like Bo Jackson.

    Not fun.

    Gap discipline, staying in their lanes, assignments. All met in the first half.

    Something happened, though, in the second half. Call it giving up; that's what I call it.

    After getting scored on, losing the ball to an unfortunate INT, committing stupid penalties and allowing the Broncos to score yet again, the Raiders simply gave up. I thought this team didn't do that anymore, but I saw it as clearly as I saw Tim Tebow smiling on the sidelines as he realized this is what people meant by just hang around, the Raiders will beat themselves.

    They showed improvement, but the one step forward was followed by a mile-long sprint backward, and with Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert on tap tonight, the Raiders need to get their run defense shored up, and quickly.

    It's simply discipline and doing your job. The Raiders got out of their heads on Sunday and allowed that to colour their play. As a result, the Broncos rushed for almost 300 yards!

    I hope these men have more pride than that and smash the faces of the Chargers backfield tonight, because if they can and put it in the hands of Rivers, they'll have a good chance to win.

Knockdowns: This Team Has Taken the Next Step

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    I know it seems like a recurring dirge in this article, but I truly believe this team has regressed back to its old ways and it scares the life out of me.

    Sunday's loss was the most painful yet this season, as it wasn't just the loss or the opponent, but HOW the Raiders lost. They gave up; they packed it in, and showed utterly no faith that they could win the game in the fourth quarter.

    Is it Palmer's presence? Campbell's absence? A lack of D-Mac? Al's death finally settling in and casting a shadow?

    Whatever it is, it's ugly, it's painful and it makes me want to scream. This season was so much fun for a while; and it's been so disappointing the last three weeks.

    I'm doing this: I'm going forward from tonight. Based on what I see, I will go forward. But this is a team that has changed. It was different, confident, swaggerful and ready for all comers with Campbell at the helm. Since he's been hurt, there's a very distinct feeling of doom and gloom, and it's manifesting itself on the field.

    All I ask is for a team that plays hard, plays smart and puts their heart out there every week. This was that team—until the KC game. They need to rediscover that mojo, or else this is going to be the most heart-wrenching season of them all, because it began with such promise.

    Beat the Chargers tonight, or even lose but play hard, well, and with heart, and I have confidence in this team that they can right the ship. But it's all about the effort, not the end result, and it's something that's been sorely lacking lately.

Conclusion

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    For anyone who reads my articles regularly, you know that this one was quite negative, but I'm pissed, and everyone in Raider Nation should be as well. At this point it looks like the whole "build a bully, create a winner" mantra was a bill of goods that was all based on the house of cards that is the health of Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden.

    This team simply hasn't been good since those guys went out, and the defense has somehow, someway decided that they won't show up unless they have an offense they can be confident in.

    This defense has lost us two games I can think of—Buffalo and Denver—yet has not made a single catalytic play to win us any games at all. It's time for them to step up.

    The offense has struggled under Palmer, but he did throw for more than 300 yards and three TDs last week, so it's not like he's Russell or Boller. He's moving the ball; he's just throwing it to the opponent too much.

    The vibe, feeling and dynamic of this team has changed drastically since the Palmer trade; it's like an albatross hanging over the team, and until they win and show that Palmer can help them and was worth remotely what they paid, it'll be that way.

    Jackson mortgaged the nice, calm and quiet season by making a huge splash on trade day that has thus far negatively affected the team's chemistry and done nothing to improve them on the field, and the feeling is palpable and the results speak for themselves.

    This ship needs to be righted both on and off the field, and now. They cannot afford to lose tonight; they have blown two golden opportunities to seize control of the division, and cannot blow a third.

    I don't know who this team is anymore; I hope to rediscover them tonight.

    Thank you for reading as always. Comments encouraged and appreciated. GO RAIDERS!!