I admit, some of my recommendations were simply common sense. What’s most important is that Jackson learned from the mistakes made in the loss to the Denver Broncos and adjusted accordingly. Aside from some defensive lapses in the second half, this Raiders team may have played its best game of the season.
"Excuse me, guys, I have reservations for six,"
Hue Jackson used to be a well-regarded offensive coach before he took over the Raiders, and when an offensive guy is well-known, it’s usually because he’s creative and/or effective. And let’s face it, how creative can you be running the ball? What I’m saying is, good offensive coaches (such as Jackson) like to throw. They love to chuck it downfield—is it any wonder the late Al Davis made Jackson his head coach?
But the Raiders must be a run-first team if they want to be playing meaningful games in December, and they remembered that Thursday night. The Raiders’ three backs (Michael Bush, Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reese) combined for 38 carries, rushing for nearly 200 yards in the process. Big boy Bush was given a heavy workload (30 carries) and did not disappoint, going for 157 yards and a touchdown.
The most important thing Jackson did was run the ball on first down—and did he ever. Oakland ran a whopping 21 times on first down, setting up shorter second downs and putting the offense in better position to convert.
The constant runs also allowed Oakland to control the pace of the game, and it held a five-minute advantage in time of possession (32:37 to 27:23).
"Oh, so just because I threw ANOTHER interception, you're going to give me the silent treatment? Come on, Norv, I'm sorry!"
I am convinced that defense in the NFL is about one thing: pressure. If you disrupt the quarterback, everybody else’s job gets a lot easier.
And for a team like the Raiders, the secondary and linebackers need all the help they can get. With multiple defensive backs injured, Rolando McClain hobbled and Aaron Curry resuming the inconsistent play that got him booted from Seattle, it was imperative for the defensive line to smack Rivers around.
Although Rivers threw for 274 yards, his completion percentage was a pathetic 48 percent and he was sacked six times. Rivers also added to his NFL-leading interception count by throwing No. 15 to Matt Giordano in the end zone. Norv Turner and his struggling quarterback have now lost three in a row to Oakland.
"Playmaker? Oh, I'll show you how to make some plays, Michael." Moore did his best Irvin impression Thursday night, with a couple of spectacular catches.
I love the vertical passing game as much as anyone, but it has a time and a place. In the loss to Denver, Jackson was calling passing plays far too much (40 attempts). We've already covered how Oakland smartly went run-first against San Diego, but the offense was also smart about how it used the pass.
Jackson called only 22 passes Thursday, and Carson Palmer showed why Hue was so in love with him in the first place: boy's still got some zip on the ball. Palmer was mobile in the pocket, avoiding pressure and making some fantastic throws to rookie sensation Denarius Moore.
The fingertip grab Moore had in the second quarter was sensational and destined for SportsCenter's Top 10, and the physical specimen has clearly become one of Palmer's favorite targets. Palmer has looked to Moore constantly in his first two starts, and Moore has racked up nine catches for 184 yards the last two weeks.
While the national media is just starting to notice this talented Tennessee product, dedicated Raiders fans will remember that Moore has been turning heads since his first practices with the Silver and Black.
The best thing about Moore is where he was drafted: Although he has the blazing speed Al Davis coveted, the Raiders didn't reach at all for Moore, swiping him in the fifth round.
Jackson wisely used Moore to stretch the field Thursday, but did so in moderation. I'm sure he wishes he could chuck the ball around at will like the Green Bay Packers, but using the long ball sparingly and focusing on the run will be Oakland's formula for success.
"I'm sorry, Campbell who?"
Technically, every game the Raiders have played this year has been 60 minutes, but they’ve rarely shown up for the entire game. Usually, either the offense or defense decides to take a couple of quarters off, and it has cost Oakland deeply.
In the Denver game Sunday, the defense was nonexistent as Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee ran wild. Oakland’s offense didn’t show up at all for the Kansas City loss, when Carson Palmer and Kyle Boller combined for six picks and zero points.
But in a refreshing change, both units played complete games Thursday. The offense scored in each of the first three quarters, and probably would have scored in the fourth if Palmer hadn't throw an interception in the red zone (in fairness, he was blindsided as he threw).
The defense was absolutely lights-out in the first half, limiting the Bolts to just three first downs and forcing numerous three-and-outs. Things got a little scary to start the third quarter, when the Chargers came out after halftime and marched right down the field for a touchdown. It seemed like the Raiders defense would fall flat in the second half yet again. But the team adjusted, and kept the Chargers from scoring on four of their final five possessions.
Overall, it was a very solid performance by the defense, the kind we should be seeing every week. If it can put together more 60-minute performances like this one, the AFC West is Oakland’s division to lose.