Raider Nation is exhausted with Saturday night fever after the Oakland Raiders went to Kansas City to beat the Chiefs in a nail-biter. The game and the Raiders predicament can be summed up with that old BGs disco hit featured on the movie Saturday Night Fever.
"Ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive—stayin' alive," sorry, back to football.
The Raiders playoff hopes are still alive thanks to the Raiders using an overtime to edge out the Broncos 16-13. In a colossal game like this, close, with the playoffs on the line, against a division rival, you always learn plenty about a team.
Today was no exception.
Turn the page to see what we learned today.
The Raiders offensive line didn't allow a sack, but quarterback Carson Palmer was under plenty of pressure. I'll still give them a good grade for protection but this unit will never make the Raiders bullies.
Running back Michael Bush ran extremely hard, but had only 70 yards on 23 carries to show for it. When Bush has only three yards per carry, and the Raiders average 2.8 as a team, the problem is on the offensive line.
Early in the season I spoke of how the Raiders need to improve their offensive line and Raider Nation didn't like it. They said, "McFadden is getting his yards so you have to say that the offensive line is playing well."
They didn't see that McFadden led the league in runs getting stuffed and made up for it by leading the league in runs over 20 yards. Some of it was whom the Raiders were playing, and some of it was McFadden's individual effort.
When McFadden got a hole, it usually went for a big gain, not a 4-6-yard gain. He also made people miss in the backfield, or broke a tackle, taking it a long way there after.
Bush is a beast but doesn't have the wiggle or speed, so Raiders' flaws on the offensive line have been exposed of late.
This isn't the same offense without McFadden, the best football player on the team on the field. Even when the blocking isn't there, he has the ability to turn a loss of two into a 42-yard touchdown run.
With that type of ability, opposing defensive coordinators will consistently put eight in the box. There's at least a risk involved in throwing a pass to get 20 yards as opposed to handing a ball off to get it.
That isn't the only way McFadden draws attention, he draws attention in the passing game too. When McFadden splits out wide, more times than not, a linebacker follows McFadden out there.
That makes the safety on his side automatically help the linebacker over the top. That opens things up down the seam with one of the Raiders' track star receivers with one-on-one coverage.
Bush did a good job in pass protection today, but McFadden is better in that area.
An offense just runs smoother when one player can do all of these things.
Can someone tell me why the Raiders don't get the ball to Marcel Reese more?
He had only two carries for one yard and one reception for 10 yards, and a first down. A few more running plays would be good, but the 4.4 40 running fullback is a big play waiting to happen in the passing game.
That speed mixed with a receiver's skill set from his collegiate days makes him uncoverable for a linebacker. Throwing the ball to Marcel Reece with a linebacker covering him is like stealing candy from a baby.
He's a great screen runner to.
The Raiders have always been a bump-and-run, man coverage team, and that doesn't need to stop now. This team has been put together by Al Davis, and he always looks for corners that can bump and run.
Most of the time, when there's a big play in the passing game against the Raiders, they were in zone coverage. Raiders corners aren't good at zone coverage and you can at least tip your hat to the opposing player if he makes a play instead of wondering if that was the right coverage you called.
Davis was always about players, not schemes winning games.
Please don't change that now.
Denarius Moore started out as a training camp star, being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. From there, he became a preseason star that looked like no one could cover him.
Then he looked like he was really that guy, as he shined in the second game of the season in a loss in Buffalo. After that, Moore disappeared as Jason Campbell seemed to prefer Heyward-Bey on shorter routes.
Campbell then goes out with injury, Palmer is traded for, and he starts a connection with Moore. Moore then gets hurt, misses three weeks, and Raider Nation wants to see what he can do coming off of the injury.
The result today was four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown that should have been the game winner.
To me, it doesn't mean so much when a quarterback that's already having a good game makes a play in the clutch. It means a whole lot more when a quarterback comes back from having a bad game to making it happen in the clutch.
I didn't like the way Palmer performed in the clutch against the Detroit Lions, so I had my questions coming into today. Palmer answered those questions in overtime, throwing a dime to Darrius Heyward-Bey to set up the game-winning field goal after throwing two interceptions earlier.
That's how Jim Plunkett used to do it.
It was just days ago that I said in an article that Heyward-Bey isn't a go-to guy just yet. I thought that finishing the season and ending up with 1,000 yards would give him the confidence to be that guy next year.
After exhibiting no traces of clutchness up to today, it looks like last week's 155-yard game gave him the confidence to be a go-to guy. The Raiders got the ball first in overtime, needed someone to make a play, and Heyward-Bey was there for Palmer to make a 53-yard catch to set up the game-winning field goal.
The last time the Raiders went to Heyward-Bey in the clutch in Kansas City, he jumped for a pass thrown at his belly, and tipped it up into the air to be intercepted. No one has been more skeptical than I have been about Heyward-Bey, but he has come a long way.
Today, he exercised a huge demon.
He did it on a deep ball too.
In my opinion, if the Raiders win next weekend, they will go to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Of course, if the Denver Broncos lose next weekend, the Raiders will go as the AFC West champions.
With Pittsburgh breathing down their backs, the Ravens can go from the No. 2 to the No. 5 seed with a loss. I can't see where the Ravens would go in wanting to rest guys with such a big drop at stake.
This article was exhausting.
The Raiders are exhausting.
What other way would it be for this team to need to win next week to get into the playoffs?
As I said before, I don't see the Cincinnati Bengals beating a hungry Baltimore Ravens team. Put that together with a Raiders win and the Raiders will be heading to the 2011-2012 playoffs.
The high-horse seems to have bucked the Broncos off, so it is possible that the Broncos lose to the Chiefs next weekend. That would send the Raiders to the 2011-2012 playoffs as the AFC West champions.
What I'm saying here is a win gives them a strong possibility to get in.
In the end, that's all that matters.
Just win baby!