Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:
San Diego Chargers 31 (1-4)
Oakland Raiders 34 (4-1)
In a crazy game in Oakland, the Raiders outlasted the San Diego Chargers 34-31.
There are some years where everything seems to go right and so far all the bad years in Oakland are forgotten for the moment. The San Diego media; usually very soft on their teams; sliced and diced the Chargers like a Ginsu knife commercial while the Raiders and their fans basked in the California sunshine. The Chargers have been train wrecks late in games. Add a punter who has now played key roles in losing 2 games, and the fervor for the city of San Diego to want to have the Chargers stay has waned a bit. With another fourth quarter fail which has been the downfall of QB Phillip Rivers career, the Raiders again did just enough to chalk up their 4th victory of the season. Rivers is a good QB but I don’t like when they say all time great because he isn’t.
Don’t look now but the Raiders are now tied for first place with the Broncos who found out quick Rookie QB Paxton Lynch holds onto the ball longer than a 4 year old on Christmas morning. As for the Raiders, the magic goes on.
Carr had a pretty good day. In the first 4 games of the season, Carr had been TOUCHED only 7 times. (Colts QB Andrew Luck has been sacked 20 times and touched 39 times). The offensive line has been amazing. In the Chargers game they blitzed Carr often and he struggled at times. Carr made a poor throw on the interception during the screen, and also avoided another interception when San Diego backup CB Steve Williams flat out dropped an easy pass. On the good side Carr calmed down and clicked with Amari Cooper much of the day, and his long throws were great.
The Chargers brought up a safety much of the game to help with the run defense and that freed up Cooper in a lot of easy matches against backups due to injuries. Easy pickings for a quality WR like Cooper. If they play 2 deep, throw to Crabtree; if they try to stop the run, go to Cooper.
GRADE: B –
Carr’s connections to Cooper were nice to see. He was sacked 3 times and his throws were rushed in the first half. I like Carr and his poise. The key though isn’t Carr, the key is keeping people off of him.
Most fans don’t notice it but wow, do the Raiders miss TE Lee Smith who is maybe the best run blocking TE in the NFL. The Chargers game plan was to rush Carr and stop the run. They now have the 13th best run defense in the NFL. The Raiders rushed for 89 yards but their RB’s also caught 12 passes for 97 yards. Their pass blocking wasn’t bad as well having to deal with the blitzes of the Chargers. They looked fast out of the backfield and were a key part to the win.
In the 3 key facets of the game, they played well. They didn’t have a lot of breakdowns in pass blocking. The Chargers wanted to stop the run so they improvised. I liked the effort, speed and the results of everyone.
The Raiders are now #1 in sacks allowed in the NFL. The Raiders OL continues to be the glue that holds this team together. The Chargers really came after Carr and disrupted his rhythm at times. The OL also had several penalties that still are a problem. Not the best day of the season for this group but they got the job done.
They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than any other game and the Chargers weren’t bad stopping the run. The penalties eventually will catch up to the Raiders if they don’t fix them.
Overall this was another quality game from this group. As long as Crabtree and Cooper don’t start worrying about their TD’s and catches, this is a solid tandem that is as good as any in the game right now. Crabtree had a drop but in the end came through with the key TD grab. Cooper was given one on one coverage more than at any time this year and he made the Chargers pay. Andre Holmes and Seth Roberts contribute as well.
The Chargers defensive backfield is a mess with so many injuries but this was still a quality performance and break out game for Cooper.
I’ve been saying for a while that Dan Williams needs to be playing more and rookie Jihad Ward a lot less. The Raiders listened and their run defense improved. Williams played 28 plays; by far the most he’s played all year; and Ward’s playing time was cut in half. Williams even had half a sack. San Diego only had 72 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The pass rush was a little better getting to Rivers twice, but overall he had time to throw for most of the day. The Raiders are now 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 7 in 5 games.
The Raiders were good against the run and not so good against the pass. This pass rush isn’t scaring anyone right now but with Williams playing more their run defense is much better.
The Raiders LB’s played well against the run. In the blitzes they did though, there was only occasional push. Cory James struggled all day covering the pass. Newly signed Perry Riley Jr. lead the team in tackles. He was beaten on a couple of pass plays but his forced fumble on Antonio Gates was a huge play early. The Raiders overall struggled with the tight ends again giving over 100 yards passing and 2 TD’s to Hunter Henry and Gates.
I said it at the start of the season; there are going to be plenty of highs and lows with this group. Riley Jr. played instead of Malcolm Smith and he was a burst of energy to the team but at times its a struggle.
The Raiders defensive backs are going to also have ups and downs all year. They struggle against fast WR and they did again Sunday. They gave up 3 plays over 50 yards and Rivers threw for 359 yards total and an amazing 17.1 yards a reception. Amerson was beat deep twice and Travis Benjamin juked him for a long pass and run. Sean Smith had an INT but he also was torched often. The last 2 weeks Oakland played 2 teams with little team speed at WR and they looked good. Against New Orleans, Atlanta, & San Diego who have fast WR, they struggled. Not a coincidence. The 2 starting WR for the Chargers caught 12 passes for 234 yards and a TD. Smith and Amerson really struggled all day.
Karl Joseph several times played 5-8 yards near the line of scrimmage for much of the game to stop the run and the short TE pass. It also freed up their WR’s though for the long ball with one less safety. I’m not a Reggie Nelson fan; he takes a lot of bad angles when he helps. Joseph got his first INT when Rivers just heaved one.
They will struggle against speed, and thrive against teams that lack it. Giving up 17.1 yards a catch in today’s game is bad. Really bad.
I didn’t get why the Raiders were so worried about the running game of San Diego when it’s ranked 20th in the NFL and really isn’t that great. I also don’t get if you have a good offense why they just lay back. Playing bad teams you can get away with that but they need a killer instinct. With 4 turnovers and 4 drives starting in San Diego territory, this is a game you need to hang a 40 on them and send a message. It’s just too conservative on offense for my taste. Some fans want Rocky Road and the Raiders are serving Vanilla. It’s not a huge issue but I dont like playing good enough to win because eventually you won’t.
With the rules of today, there is no reason why the Raiders should not be hanging 40’s on these bad defenses. What good is having a Hemi if you are driving the speed limit all the time; take it to the track and let it go!
Marquette King is a force. Janikowski was awful on one FG try; not close; but redeemed himself. The return game wasn’t a big factor and the coverage teams were fine.
Solid day all around other than the missed field goal.
Already in 4 losses this season Rivers had chances to seal the games or win them with 4th quarter drives and his offenses failed several times; the story of his career. The Raiders played well enough to win but there still is work to do especially on defense.
Explaining the Raiders/Chiefs Rivalry:
Kansas City Chiefs:
When everyone was screaming the KC Chiefs will win the West, I said no way. There are 3 reasons why; no pass rush, Alex Smith and Andy Reid. I told 49er fans at the time after the 49ers beat the Saints in the playoffs that you are not going to hoist any trophies in the NFL throwing 1-3 yard passes with Alex Smith. Reid and Smith are just too conservative. Their unwillingness to take chances throwing to WR is of legend. The Chiefs running game also has suffered and with an aging Tamba Hali and an ailing Justin Houston who will probably miss most of the season, this team has no pass rush and are now 31st in sacks.
Raider fans hold on to your seats because this is going to be a wild one. Nothing is going to be easy but the Raiders should be favored for almost every game looking ahead. Look for another close game with the Chiefs. The Raiders defense has holes but this offense is good. With Kansas City and Carolina struggling, the Raiders schedule is a lot easier than first thought. Other than Denver the Raiders don’t play any elite team. No Minnesota, New England, Dallas, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. All of a sudden this really is turning into a magical year. Fans can afford to go overboard but teams can’t. Look for the Raiders to take every week the same and not overlook anyone. For older Raiders fans the Chiefs are the big rival game that they look forward to every year.