Oakland Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns: Full Report Card Grades for Oakland
The Oakland Raiders had to have this game against the very beatable Cleveland Browns, and it was there for the taking. But as has been the case all season, they weren't able to make the plays that ultimately made the difference, and the team now finds itself at 0-7.
This was a frustrating game for many reasons, but the biggest is that it wasn't so much that the Browns won. It was more that the Raiders lost.
It was another difficult-to-watch performance for the offense as it was unable to generate any points despite finding some success moving the ball. At this point, it's becoming almost amusing to see all the ways in which this team can't score. Almost.
The defense played well enough to win, especially against the run. Unfortunately, the offense was never able to take advantage of the opportunity. With the the offense unable to sustain long drives, it was just a matter of time before the defense broke, and eventually it did.
The Raiders could've won this game. They should've won this game. But they didn't, and they were once again their own worst enemy.
Here are the grades for each position group following Sunday's game.
Despite having a rookie starting quarterback, the Raiders have passed on a higher percentage of their offensive plays than any other team in the league. That continued against the Browns. Derek Carr had 54 pass attempts, compared to only 20 true rushing attempts.
It has to be noted that as quarterback, Carr's success is highly dependent on the players around him making plays. Darren McFadden could've had a big game, but he had only 12 carries. As for the receivers, they were unable to win their one-on-one matchups. Carr consistently made catchable passes, but the receivers never stepped up for him.
But Carr also missed some throws. At times, he decided before the play where he was going with the ball, and he forced the pass rather than going through his progression. This led to him missing wide-open receivers. He also had a costly fumble that the Browns converted into a game-ending touchdown.
Most importantly, he once again failed to lead his offense into the end zone when it counted. He played well overall, and he made some nice throws, but without the points, none of that matters.
Darren McFadden could've had a good game, but a lack of touches kept this from happening.
He averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and when he ran it, the Cleveland defense was on its heals. McFadden was running downhill, and the potential was there for him to have a major impact. He didn't have the opportunity, but he was effective when his number was called.
However, he did have a big fumble, and it was clearly the turning point in the game. Down only three points in the second half, Oakland was in the midst of its best drive of the game. After starting inside the team's own 10, the Raiders had held on to the ball for more than six minutes and were in Cleveland territory.
But McFadden's turnover killed all that momentum, and the Browns went on to score 14 straight points, including a touchdown off the fumble to put the game away.
Still, Oakland's lack of commitment to the run is baffling. McFadden had over 20 yards on his first two carries, yet he finished with only 12 carries for the game. It's now become a recurring theme, but the fact remains that until he gets at least 20-25 rushing attempts, the running game won't be effective.
Mychal Rivera had his most effective game of the season, finishing as the team's top receiver with 83 yards on seven receptions. This included a one-handed grab that showed off how good he can truly be.
He was able to get open throughout the game, coming up with key first downs and big receptions in the middle of the field. Although the offense wasn't able to score points, it was able to move the ball at times. Rivera was a huge reason why.
Rivera's biggest issue this season has been his inconsistency. He's disappeared for long stretches in games, eliminating a key option in the passing attack. But when he's on, as he was on Sunday, he showed how much he can add to the offense.
Oakland's group of wide receivers has potential. But the biggest knock against it has been the lack of a true No. 1 receiver, a player who can go out and make a play. Against Cleveland, it was evident just how big of an absence this is.
The top three receivers on Sunday—Andre Holmes, James Jones and Kenbrell Thompkins—had nice games, but their impact was minimal. They were efficient, but they weren't game-changers.
Carr gave them plenty of chances to make plays, throwing catchable balls when they were one-on-one. But none of them was ever able to beat his man and make a play for the offense. Holmes did score a touchdown, but it came with seven seconds left, and the game was already over by then.
The coaches did make a strange decision when they decided to move Thompkins ahead of Butler on the depth chart because of his performances in practice. Even with limited touches, Butler has made an impact on game days. Thompkins had a decent performance, but Butler should've had more touches. He's earned it with his performances in games.
The Oakland offense desperately needed a receiver to make a play, to do something that would swing momentum and lead to points, but not one of them stepped up on Sunday.
This had been one of the Raiders' top units this season. Although it had struggled in run blocking, it had been solid in protection. But that wasn't the case against the Browns, and it had a huge impact on the offense's performance.
After allowing only four sacks all season, the offensive line allowed three against Cleveland, and it was a major reason why the offense had so many three-and-outs.
Carr was constantly under duress as the Browns consistently got into the backfield and disrupted the offense. The offensive line caved more and more under the pressure as the game wore on, and it was ultimately a deciding factor.
The run blocking was a little better, but with only 20 true rushing attempts, it wasn't enough to make a difference.
Overall, this was a disappointing performance from a unit that has been one of the team's best.
The defensive line had been Oakland's most ineffective unit this season. It hasn't been able to generate any pass rush, and it has been regularly torched by the run.
On Sunday, it did much better on both accounts, particularly against the run. The defense held the Cleveland running attack to 39 yards on 21 carries for an average of 1.9 yards per attempt. The defensive line was a major reason for this as it was able to penetrate the Cleveland offensive line and make plays at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield.
What continues to be missing from this group is big plays. Justin Tuck did get a sack, but it was the only one the D-line was able to come up with all game. Overall, it made Brian Hoyer uncomfortable but not enough to be truly disruptive. Hoyer still had an efficient game.
The Cleveland offensive line is still reeling from the loss of center Alex Mack. The defensive line was able to take advantage of this somewhat, but it didn't fully exploit the opportunity.
The linebackers had another good game, and the three starters led the team in tackles: Sio Moore (nine), Miles Burris (nine) and Khalil Mack (six). They also had four tackles for a loss—Moore and Mack had two each.
Mack and Moore are regularly included in the pass rush, and they continue to get pressure on the quarterback. Unfortunately, that hasn't resulted in sacks. The group was solid, especially against the run, but it also didn't do anything to affect the momentum of the game.
Burris continues to be a liability in pass coverage. But with no one else to play middle linebacker, this is going to be a reality for the defense the rest of the season.
This was another solid performance from the linebackers, but until they start getting sacks and creating turnovers, the group won't have a real impact.
Once again, the Oakland secondary allowed an average-at-best quarterback to lead his team to victory. Hoyer finished the game 19-of-28 for 275 yards, a touchdown and a rating of 111.5.
The inability of the defensive line to get to the quarterback continues to be a factor, but the reality is that the Oakland secondary in general is unable to stay with receivers. Too often the Cleveland receivers were open for big gains. Four Browns receivers had a reception of over 20 yards, and two had catches of over 30. Although this didn't lead to touchdowns, it was just enough to keep the Browns ahead.
What was also evident was the lack of a playmaker. Hoyer threw up plenty of passes that were there for the taking, but the Oakland secondary was unable to come away with a single interception. A couple of plays would've made a huge difference, but whenever there was a big play to be had, it seemed as if it was always a Cleveland Brown who came away with the ball.
Somehow, the secondary managed to keep receivers out of the end zone. But the lack of big stops allowed the Browns offense to stay on the field, and the defense eventually broke under the pressure.
Sebastian Janikowski was solid when he was called upon, going 2-of-2 on field goals. As has been the case all season, he's been reliable when he kicks. He just hasn't kicked enough.
Marquette King had another busy and effective day. He averaged 44 yards on seven punts, including one inside the 20. Much of this game was a battle of field position, and King did his part to keep the Raiders in it.
The major problem came on the fake field goal in the first quarter. Matt Schaub stepped back to throw, but he was out of sync after a bad snap, and he ended up floating a pass that was easily picked off. It ultimately didn't hurt the team too much, but it was an early swing in momentum in favor of the Browns on a pass that should not have been thrown.
Aside from that, the special teams were effective. There were no big plays. But aside from the Schaub interception, there were also no major mistakes.
Short dump-offs on 3rd-and-long. Early success on the ground but not running the ball enough. Getting a good push on a suspect offensive line but not blitzing.
Everywhere you looked in this game, there were areas where the Raiders could've found a lot more success, but the coaches never seized the opportunity.
Offensively, there doesn't seem to be any question left that Greg Olson is not the man for the job. The offense is embarrassingly inefficient, and Olson seems either unwilling or unable to do anything different. This offense is short on talent, but it's certainly good enough to score more than 14 points, something it's done only once in seven games. There's no excuse for that.
The Raiders clearly had an option they could exploit in the running game, but they never did. Despite his success early in the game, McFadden finished the game with only 12 carries. That's on the coaches.
Defensively, this had the makings of a breakout performance. The Cleveland offensive line is still trying to figure out how to play without Mack, and the Raiders were great against the run. That same push could've been used in the pass rush, but it never happened. Oakland had the opportunity to get to the quarterback, but the play-calling didn't exploit this possibility.
Still, the defense needs to be given some credit for holding Cleveland in check. The final score is misleading. The defense held the Cleveland offense to just nine points for more than three quarters. The offense's inability to stay on the field and generate points asked too much of this group, and it was only a matter of time before it broke.
As the man in charge, it falls on Tony Sparano to demand better from his staff. Until that happens, these types of losses will continue to be the norm.
|Positional Unit||Overall Grade|
That's probably the best way to describe this performance. The defense shut down the Cleveland running backs and held the Browns to less than 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, yet this somehow still got away from the Raiders in the end.
This game was there for the taking, but Oakland was unable to make the plays that made a difference, and the team couldn't keep from shooting itself in the foot. Carr passed for over 300 yards, but he had a costly fumble, and the offense couldn't score, wasting a good defensive performance.
Oakland had to win this game. Now, it's going to be awhile before the Raiders aren't a big underdog as they'll face a string of top NFL teams in the coming weeks. It's going to be awhile before they have a reasonable shot at a win.
Things will get better, Raiders fans (they have to, right?). But with the teams that are currently coming up on the schedule, including the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos, this season is going to get a lot tougher before it gets any better.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from ESPN.com.
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