“Raiders on the Right Track Even with Setback Loss To Chicago”

raiders bears

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Chicago Bears; Week 4:

Chicago Bears 22 (1-3)

Oakland Raiders 20 (2-2)

Two steps forward, one step back. The Raiders took a step backwards with a bad loss to the Chicago Bears on the road. The Bears last win was on November 23, 2014 against Tampa Bay.   Last years team was atrocious under coach Marc Trestman and this was a nice win for the Bears and a tough loss for the Raiders. Many people including myself had the Raiders winning this one going into the Denver game.

Anyone that reads me know’s I’m not rah rah.  I tell it like it is even if it’s not that fun for homer fans to read.  I try to be honest; so when I’m saying things aren’t as bad as people are making it out to be, you should listen.

We found out 3 things with this game;

-Oakland is an improved team on the way up

-the Raiders aren’t as good as some say they are

-they play more conservative in the second half

If you are one of those people that live and die every week with your team, I hope that you have your counselor on speed dial. Not every loss is tragic, and not every win is epic. The NFL season is a marathon and you have to have a short memory whether you win or lose.  The sky isn’t falling after the loss to the hapless Bears but it is raining.

The Raiders are definitely a better team which is really a good thing for their fans and the NFL. If you expect them in the playoffs going 11-5 or 10-6 though, you are going to have some rough times. I think this is a .500 team. Considering where they came from, this would be very positive.   Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  If you expect them to win every game then you are going to have some bad moments.  This isn’t your fathers and grandfathers Raiders.

It’s encouraging to see the great effort the players are putting in and it’s obvious this team has improved greatly over the past 12 years. I’m also realistic though, and good teams don’t lose to the likes of Chicago. I think they are on the right track though even with this setback.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr didn’t have a great day but it wasn’t bad either. He made a very nice throw to Amari Cooper for a touchdown but wasn’t as accurate as he was in the past 2 weeks. The Bears came after him more with a better pass rush and I’m sure that had some effect on him. He only threw for 196 yards.

People put all the blame for the conservative play calls on Raiders OC Bill Musgrave but I guarantee you if Brady or Rodgers doesn’t like the play, they change it. Bears DC Vic Fangio had a pretty clear mindset; take away the first down run and make the Raiders throw. It worked like it had so many times last year. The conservative nature of the game in the second half has to fall partly on Carr who can audible at any time.

The mindset of Carr, Musgrave, and the Raiders offense on the last drive seemed to be lets get a field goal.   The Bears were aggressive on defense and Cooper had man to man coverage on the entire final drive. A play action deep pass had to be tried. When your defense is really good you can get the field goal; when it isn’t, you go for the touchdown.

GRADE: B

Again, it wasn’t like the last 2 weeks but it wasn’t a bad game. The improved pass rush made him hurry a few throws and his accuracy wasn’t what it was. Crabtree made some really nice catches on a couple of them. I like Carr’s development but he has to audible when so many defenders are on the line of scrimmage on first down.

Running Backs:

I’ve said it before; the Raiders are taking a huge risk putting all their eggs in the Latavius Murray basket.   I think Marcel Reece needs to get some snaps at running back. He’s just too talented to only touch the ball a couple of times a game.

Murray imploded. He constantly was looking over his shoulder anticipating hits and hearing footsteps. He dropped 2 passes; one which went for an interception; fumbled a simple pitch play and was off all day. It got so bad he was benched for the rest of the 4th quarter and replaced by backup Roy Helu Jr. who played well in his absence. Helu Jr. made some nice runs and caught the ball well.

Grade C

Helu Jr. was a nice change of pace and Marcel Reece; on one of his few touches; made a great grab for a nice pass reception. Murray was brutal and he played like he did not want to be there. A good NFL player shows up every week. Murray didn’t show up.

Offensive Line:

Most of the networks picked up on what the strategy of the day for the Bears was; take away the first down run. Trent Green (who other than his worship of NFL QB’s is a really good analyst) pointed out a few times on first down that the Bears safeties were about 8 yards off the line of scrimmage.   The Bears dared the Raiders to throw, but in the second half they continued to run on first down. An audible with a play action pass and throwing a long one to Cooper was there all day long, including the last drive.

People are quick to blame the offensive line for the run struggles in this game but you can’t run the ball against 8 defenders near the line of scrimmage while trying to run on first down all the time.

The Raiders are not going to be able to run the ball if they don’t keep teams honest and throw on first down. Against the Ravens especially, they did play action on first down often and it opened up the field and the run.

Carr had a moderate rush at times and was sacked twice. Not a great day but not as bad as people say. Again if the stars don’t shine on an NFL team, Fan speak 101 says blame the coaches and the offensive line. If the stars shine, give the stars all the credit. Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be offensive linemen.

Grade C+

This group can play better.   Carr still had time to throw but the Raiders have to throw on first down more and keep teams honest or they can’t run the ball. The OL has had better games and will continue to improve and gel.

Wide Receivers:

Crabtree twisted his ankle but he came back and made two great grabs and lead the team with 5 catches for 80 yards. Cooper had a nice route and catch on a touchdown but other than a drop in the first quarter, he wasn’t much of a factor either way.

Seth Roberts almost made a great catch for another TD but his foot was out of bounds.

GRADE: B

A gutsy performance by Crabtree. The Raiders didn’t have the ball all that much and when they did; especially in the 2nd half; they were fairly conservative.

Defensive Line:

Dan Williams and Justin Tuck continue to play well. Aldon Smith and Kahlil Mack played well, especially Smith who had 6 solo tackles, a pass batted down, a tackle for loss and a sack. The Raiders again blitzed often in the first half but didn’t as much in the second half. On the final drive they mostly rushed 4 men and had a mild blitz on only one play.

Matt Forte is a great running back and even though he did get 91 yards rushing, it took 25 carries to do so.   Not a great game but not bad either.

In the second half though the lack of pass rush has to be addressed. The Raiders have to continue to send blitzes. Right now this group isn’t good enough to just rush 4 players yet.

Grade: C+

At times they played really well and at other times they could not get the pressure on the quarterback that they needed to. The Raiders need to mix in blitzes throughout the game to keep teams honest.   They continue to be too conservative to want to blitz near the end of the game.

Linebackers:

Like I’ve said before, the LB’s have their strengths but all of them have weaknesses too. Curtis Lofton had a bad game though. He’s usually really good against the run but he was inconsistent. He is not a cover guy and he struggled mightily in pass coverage.

I’m still not sold that Ray Ray Armstrong is a starter. Malcolm Smith is a good blitzer and pass defender but not much of a run stopper and it showed at times. This group is going to have good and bad days and this was not one of their better days.

Grade C-

The Raiders LB’s struggled at times and seemed lost against the pass.

Defensive Backs:

Jay Cutler couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at times but he still carved up the Raiders defense for 281 yards and 2 TD’s and an interception. The Raiders pass defense is just awful at times. Part of it is that they are so depleted with injuries, but in reality they really don’t have a quality starting cornerback. Carrie again had to be moved over to safety due to injuries. DJ Hayden again struggled and to be honest I’m tired of picking on him. He’s just not a starting NFL CB and with 4.9 million due him next year, he’s all but gone. David Amerson was a surprise at CB with 2 nice plays knocking down passes in coverage.   He also was second on the team with tackles at 7.

The Raiders safeties can’t guard tight ends. The Raiders have tried everything; even covering tight ends with linebackers; but it’s just not happening. If the Raiders pass rush struggles, so will the DB’s.

Grade D  

The Raiders are 31st in passing yards against and 31st in total yards. They are now 26th in scoring defense.

Even with the Bears having so few weapons, this was another rough day for this group. Without Alshon Jeffery, the Bears do not have a #1 WR.   This group took it to the Raiders at times. In fact, Cutler threw only to 4 players all day.

Coaching:

The Raiders on offense were much more conservative than in the past, and it was really seen in the second half. The Raiders were afraid to pass on 1st down and they struggled mightily running the ball with the Bears putting many people in the block to stop it. In almost every first down play in the second half, the Raiders ran the ball. Carr also has to audible more on first down. Cooper often had clear man to man coverage on first down which should have meant play action pass, and then throw to him deep.

Musgrave did well by benching Murray because he just was somewhere else.

On defense, the Raiders again rarely blitzed in the second half. No matter what the publicity says, the Raiders 4 man rush can’t rush the passer on every down and harass the QB enough to disrupt him right now. The Raiders needed to blitz more. I watched the Denver game and the Broncos blitzed often in the final drive against the Vikings and it worked with a fumble recovery after hitting Teddy Bridgewater which secured the win. The Raiders have nothing to lose and you have to look at the risk v.s. reward.

I also think with the Raiders having so little talent and depth at cornerback that having TJ Carrie return punts was a huge mistake. It came back to bite them when Carrie had to leave the game after returning a kick.

Grade C-

Too conservative again in the second half. Some though are trying to blame the coaches in regards to the opponents tight ends dominating the Raiders, but they’ve tried everything. Woodsen is getting his interceptions but he struggles a lot in coverage. With all of the injuries at safety and the struggles of the linebackers in coverage, the Raiders are going to be vulnerable to tight ends all year. If Carrie can get back on the field, maybe have him stay at safety and take over the role.

Special Teams:

TJ Carrie getting injured on a punt return was discouraging.

Sebastian Janikowski and Marquette King were as solid as always. One of the most consistent groups in the NFL.   The return game wasn’t much of a factor and it was hard to lose a starting DB during a punt return.

Grade A-

King and Jano are solid as always. Return game not much of a factor.

Next Opponent:   Denver Broncos (4-0); last game, win @ home against the Minnesota Vikings 23-20)

Outlook:

The Raiders are an improved team and this loss should not discourage that. What it should do though is give them a reality check.   They are an average team; which is good from where they came from; looking to become a good one.

No matter how you spin it though, this was a bad loss against a team that hadn’t won a game since last November. The AFC west is not what it once was so that helps the Raiders some, but Denver’s aggressive defense is for real.

Peyton Manning is on his last legs, but he still has weapons in the likes of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos offense isn’t what it once was and has struggled this year. Their defense though might be the best in the NFL. They have 4 solid pass rushers and an aggressive style that is constantly finding ways to get to the quarterback. I like them a lot and love their aggressive nature.

The Raiders are just 7-17 against the Broncos since 2003 and 0-7 in their last 7 meetings. Denver’s margin of victory in those 7 wins is 22 points. They have controlled the Raiders by stopping the run and rushing the passer on passing downs. On offense, they’ve been able to do pretty much what they wanted against the Raiders so this will be a good test for the defense.

The Raiders will have their hands full against Denver next week. They hope to continue their improved offensive performance while enhancing their ability to get to the passer which will be imperative against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

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