The switch from the strong-armed, yet slow-releasing Jason Campbell to the fiery "Polish Pop-Gun" Bruce Gradkowski, and the re-emergence of Darren McFadden further fueled the collective optimism.
The Raiders seemed determined to have a more balanced offense today as they ran the ball for over 130 yards and passed for over 230 yards. They had some key receptions on some crucial downs by their young wide receivers and tight end, but also a few very costly drops and miscues.
The sports world and many Raider fans will hang this game on the three missed field goals by Janikowski. Although they were indeed some CRUCIAL shanks to both sides of the uprights, the game could have been put away in the second half.
The Raiders were down 17-13 with over two minutes to go in the first half and punched in a TD on the legs of Run DMC to take the lead going into halftime. Instead of coming out in the second half using the momentum they had to take control of the game, they imploded.
Second Half Costly Errors and Brain Farts
The Raiders did a fairly good job of moving the ball down the field, but negated their own progress with dumb penalties.
On their second possession of the third quarter, the Raiders (courtesy of a 70-yard pass play to Louis Murphy) moved the ball all the way to the Cardinals 13-yard line when LT Mario Henderson got called for offensive holding and moved them back to the 23-yard line. They then go three and out (gaining no yards), only for Janikowski to shank his first of three misses (-3 points).
To add insult to injury, they turn around and let the Cardinals march down the field and let Larry Fitzgerald score a TD on only one of two passes caught by playing a weak zone defense deep in the red zone. WHY?
With the help of some heads-up awareness on special teams and some butterfingers on the part of the Cardinals, the Raiders were able to recover a muffed punt return at the Arizona 16-yard line. Thanks to a few defensive penalties they moved the ball to the Arizona one-yard line, but were unable to get a TD and settled for a field goal (-4 points).
On a very manageable third-and-two on the Arizona 36-yard line, LT Mario Henderson got called for a blatant false start and pushes the offense back another five yards. Janikowski later comes in to shank the second one (-3 points).
Last possession of the game...we have the ball....Arizona is up by one with no timeouts...less than one minute left and Tom Cable decides that he would rather play for the field goal rather than take some shots toward the end zone. What happens? Janikowski shanks his third of the day (-3 points).
What Does This All Mean?
Other than making his hot seat a whole lot hotter with Al Davis, Cable hopefully has learned to be more gutsy and go for the TD rather than settling for his old, faithful kicker.
He should be depending on his skilled players to get points and only go for field goals if "all else fails". He hasn't used "all else" yet. Hopefully, this means that they will go back to the drawing board and try to come up with some better pass-protection schemes to give Gradkowski (or Campbell) more time in the pocket.
I would like to ask Cable and Co. a question, though. Why aren't they using more three-receiver sets with Hey-Bey, Murphy, and Johnnie Lee? Higgins has proven that he can be a playmaker if we use him.
How Can They Bounce Back?
1. Cut down on the penalties. Being penalized for over 100 yards in a single game is hard to overcome.
2. Fix the O-line. Mario Henderson sucks!
3. Be more creative on offense and use ALL of our available weapons.