What can I say?
The Oakland Raiders have to be the most exhausting team in all of the NFL to follow. They dominate the Minnesota Vikings early en route to jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead, only to end up in a nail-biter.
As frustrating as it was for Raiders fans, it was still a win for the Raiders—upping their record to 6-4 and still in charge of the AFC West. In the win, we were able to learn a lot, both good and bad about the Raiders.
Turn the page to see what.
My biggest concern about the Oakland Raiders at this time is their inability to play with a good-sized lead. The Raiders have a lot of young players, and Raiders head coach Hue Jackson is a rookie head coach himself.
In wins and losses, the Raiders have blown too may big leads this season, and that will cost an NFL team. If Jackson wants his team to stay aggressive on the field, he needs to stay aggressive himself.
The Raiders got the ball first in the second half up 24-7 with a chance to step on the Vikings' throat. Jackson calls two straight runs after a first-down run, setting up a 3rd-and-long where Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked.
The Raiders defense then forces a punt, and Jackson calls three straight runs the next series. After Palmer started to exploit the Vikings weak secondary in the second quarter, all Jackson wanted to do was run.
How about going down the field some more on those drives to kill the Vikings' confidence?
If the Raiders scored first in the second half, Vikings fans would have left the building. But the Vikings were allowed to hang around and were able to make the game way closer than what it should have been.
That's what happens when you sit on the ball with a half of a football game left.
Starting center Samson Satele darn near got Michael Bush killed on a running play, and he was thrown to the side by Kevin Williams. Then, he was injured later in the game and went into the locker room, not to return.
This goes deeper than Stefen Wisniewki being a better player—the Raiders need someone that's always there at center. You can't keep an offensive line together with the center in and out of the lineup.
Wisniewski is better anyway.
Did you see the surge he got on Palmer's quarterback sneak for a touchdown?
I've been hearing a lot of Michael Bush fans lately speak of how he should start after his big game against the Chargers. Bush actually had another good game today—rushing for 109 bruising yards on 30 carries and a touchdown.
But you have to be able to do more than run to be a No. 1 running back in the NFL. Either that, or you have to be pretty dynamic at running the ball to hold the starting spot while having shortcomings in other things.
Sure, Bush runs and catches the ball well, but doesn't protect the quarterback well—giving up a sack to a blitzing linebacker for the second straight game. In today's NFL, backs have to be able to pick up the blitz to stay on the field.
Darren McFadden does an excellent job in pass protection, and he's the more dynamic of the two anyway. There were a number of good gains by Bush that McFadden would have taken houseward, while Palmer would have had one more touchdown instead of an interception against the Chargers and an opportunity to pick up a first down instead of getting sacked today.
But I still believe in Bush as a closer even though he fumbled and didn't get the save today.
I'm really not big on mentioning penalties in my articles because they haven't decided the outcome of a Raiders game yet. The Raiders actually have a better record with over 100 yards worth of penalties than they do without.
I'm also not a big-time conspiracy theorist about the Raiders getting the worst treatment in the NFL by the zebras. But today was disturbing—seeing the Raiders get flagged for tackling the quarterback and hitting a receiver in his chest with the defender's head off to the side.
Then you have the phantom pass interference on Raiders corner Lito Sheppard with the ball uncatchable and the receiver only five yards down the field. On the other side, Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey gets knocked out, taking a forearm to the back of the head, and there's no call.
I'm not going to buy too much into the conspiracy now, but I did notice that today.
Carson Palmer is now proving that he is the guy to lead the Raiders into the foreseeable future. After a big game in his second start as a Raider, he didn't put up big numbers in his third start, but he was extremely efficient.
I only wish that Jackson allowed him to do a little more early in the second half so the Raiders could have put the game away. But with the load he was given, Palmer has posted a 100-plus quarterback rating in back-to-back weeks.
Who was the last Raiders quarterback to do that?
I obviously want to see more from rookie wide receiver Denaruis Moore. I also believe that Chaz Schilens should get more chances. Like Moore, Schilens can make catches that no one else on the team could make.
Say, for example, his 11-yard touchdown catch.
Forget 40-yard dash speed because all of the Raiders receivers have it. Schilens is 6'4", 225 pounds and has a vertical leap of 43 inches—using it to go up and over Viking defenders on his touchdown catch.
He's the ultimate outside, red-zone weapon.
I have criticized Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch big-time over the last couple of years for his coverage. Branch has considerably improved his coverage skills, and he's no longer the guy the keeps the defense on the field on third downs.
Branch showed up on fourth down at the end of the game to quell a come-back drive by the Vikings. With the game on the line, he beautifully covered his man and broke up the pass intended for him.
Got to give props when they're due.
When I first heard that Raiders star defensive tackle Richard Seymour was still hobbling, I thought I was going to need some of Hue Jackson's Irish coffee. But the defensive line actually played very well without Seymour.
Superstar running back Adrian Peterson was carted off the field early in the game, so they were able to turn their attention to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. The Raiders then harassed him to the tune of five sacks—two from Desmond Bryant, and another two from Tommy Kelly.
The heat was on Ponder, who threw three interceptions in the game.
Cornerback Stanford Routt has played well this year, as he is among the league leaders in burn percentage. But I didn't think that was good enough for a guy of his ability and salary to give up so many touchdowns.
The main job of any defensive player is to get the ball back for their offense without allowing the opposing offense to score points. Routt came through in a big way in the fourth quarter of the game with an interception.
Not only did he get the ball back, but he prevented a score from his own five-yard line.
The red-zone had been his weakness to that point.
I have raved over the performance of Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer all year after criticizing him last year. He has shut out the likes of Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Von Miller and forced Mario Williams to line up on the other side to get a sack.
I was no longer down on him going into today, but wondered if he could handle Jared Allen, the NFL's sack leader going in. Veldheer may have punched his ticket to Hawaii today by shutting Allen out and manhandling him in the run game as well.
His reward is Julius Peppers next week.
The Raiders are now 6-4 and sit atop the AFC West.
I know they only played against Ponder, the rookie, but the secondary is shaping up with the improved health of Michael Huff and Demarcus Van Dyke. The acquisition of Lito Sheppard hasn't exactly hurt the the Raiders secondary, either.
With Satele banged up, the Raiders need to go ahead and give Wisniewksi a chance to do what he was drafted to do. The Raiders will then have more size up front to run the ball more effectively up the middle.
Palmer gets another week of work in, and you know what that means for the Raiders offense. Chaz Schilens has always been the one that hasn't been healthy enough to show what he can do, but the health of others at the receiver position gives him another chance.
Then you have McFadden and Jacoby Ford out with injuries, and the Raiders are winning without them. When those two get back, it's going to be on and crackin' for the Raiders at full strength.
The Raiders run defense has now gone back to back games with having a 100-yard running back. The Vikings averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a team, but only 3.6 from the running back position.
Something needs to be done about the quarterback running, but the future looks bright for Raider Nation.