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“Raiders Win a Thriller; Grades, Atlanta, & What to do With The Defense”

 

raiders-saints
Michael Crabtree Catches Winning 2 point conversion versus The Saints in Sundays win

The Oakland Raiders scored 22 points in the 4th quarter; more points than they scored in 9 games last year; to defeat the New Orleans Saints 35-34 @ the Super Dome in a thriller.

The Raiders found out that they are gaining a winning attitude, a new running game and an excitement that is building. They also need to address why the defense gave up over 511 yards and got only 1 sack.

http://www.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Cant-Miss-Play-Carr-finds-Crabtree-for-2-pt-conversion-to-take-lead-late/dfcdb276-fbf5-4321-8d88-f8d657e25125

Quarterback:

Derek Carr was sluggish in the first half but rebounded in the 4th quarter. A bad coaching decision by Saints DC and former Raider coach Dennis Allen helped open the door. With the Raiders down by 11 in the 4th quarter, Allen switched to a prevent defense.   The Raiders quickly went downfield and scored. Carr took full advantage of the coaching blunder.

In the entire game Carr called only 2 audibles. Fans ripping on OC Bill Musgrave can’t give Carr a pass because he’s the coach on the field. The Raiders offense in the first half was pretty basic.

In the 2nd half the Raiders smartly threw two quick passes to Michael Crabtree. Carr has a tendency to look to Amari Cooper deep way too much and he did a good job of moving the ball around to other players.

Grade: A

The Saints defense is awful so this isn’t exactly a Super Bowl win but Carr looked more over the middle and to his tight end more than he has in a long time.   They need to do it more and it was encouraging.

Offensive Line:

Carr goes as the offensive line goes. If Carr is rushed he struggles; if he has a lot of time he slices and dices defenses. Two more injuries yesterday coupled with 2 previous injuries and now the Raiders are scrambling for bodies.   They played their hearts out and were the players of the game. They just kept grinding. Carr had little pressure on him and they eventually wore out the porous Saints defense.   A group of mentally and physically tough players.

Grade: A

Great game that should set the tone for the rest of the year.

Running Backs:

As I wrote previously, the Raiders DO NOT have a franchise RB but if you add all of them together, they do have one. The Raiders did not rely on Latavius Murray who was only 15th in yards per game in the NFL in rushing last year (even though he lead the league in % of carries by a RB for a team). It proved he’s not an elite back but he has his moments. Jalen Richard’s 75 yard TD run through a nice hole showed how important the run game is in the NFL even during this passing crazed times.   All the RB’s ran hard including Jamize Olawale who crashed into the end zone on a short run.  Three Rushing Touchdowns.  In my last article I was 100% spot on about the RB situation.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/murray-rbs-tight-end-musgrave-real-answers-to-raider-fans-questions/

Grade: A

Solid game; Bill Musgrave and Jack Del Rio finally have it out of their heads that Murray is a franchise back. He’s not; and they gave everyone a chance to run. Fresh legs look good against a tired defense.

Wide Receivers:

Carr throws way too much to Cooper sometimes and it was good to see them get Crabtree into the game in the second half with 2 quick short passes.   Carr needs to distribute to these guys more and not just looking deep to Cooper. Derek has a little Daryl Lamonica in him. The “Mad Bomber” also loved going deep. There were actually a few Clive Walford sightings which is a need against good teams.

Grade: A-

An excellent game by a talented group. Crabtree is healthy and looks like he did when he was a clutch player for the 49ers.   Other than one play, Walford looked great. Roberts and Coopers dropped balls but came back to help win the game. Still shaking my head at the Raiders and some fans that were happy Crabtree wasn’t drafted and said give DHB time. (OK I’m not over it yet).

Defensive Line:

With it so easy to pass the ball due to the ridiculous rules, you can’t win big in the NFL without a pass rush. It was exciting early when Bruce Irvin caused a turnover with a sack but after that, there was nothing. Irvin was near invisible the rest of the game. Khalil Mack made some tackles in the run game but he was no where near the QB.   This is a huge problem. Mack was a slow starter in his last 2 years so I’m not worried about him. But as I’ve said in the past, is Irvin the answer at the other end? Against the Saints, no. The only other edge rusher is rookie Shilique Calhoun. If only Aldon Smith could stay out of trouble.

Grade: D

When you give up over 511 yards of total offense in the pro’s, you had a very bad game. One sack and few pressures against a hall of fame QB doesn’t cut it. The Saints ran for 88 yards at 4 yards a carry as well.

Linebackers:

Again, as I previously wrote, this group is an issue. Ben Heeney struggled and I just don’t think he’s a starting LB. Malcolm Smith again wasn’t much better on running plays side stepping blocks instead of going through them. Making tackles 5-10 yards downfield isn’t good. He also was poor in pass defense.

Grade: D

This group struggled all day

Defensive Backs:

Sean Smith is making 10 million a year but it looked like money wasted as he was burned so often, coach Jack Del Rio benched him. Some fans tried to say he was hurt but Del Rio admitted he wasn’t.   Smith was beaten bad on 2 pass plays in the pre season and it’s carried over. He was not physical against the Saints. A CB with no confidence is a huge liability. DJ Hayden came in and gave up 2 TD’s, 2 pass interferences and was picked on often by Drew Brees. David Amerson was turned around on 2 plays and looked lost. One of the worst games for DB’s in a long time. The safeties were slow to react and also looked overwhelmed.

Grade: F

Cringe.

Special Teams:

The return game was nothing special but King and Janikowski played well. King had 2 great punts and one inside the 5.   Janikowski hit on 2 field goals and had a huge kickoff late in the game that helped fix the dumb celebration penalty by Crabtree. Coverage was good as well.

Grade: A-

The return game has to improve but this isn’t a bad unit.

Coaching:

The Raiders immediately got Crabtree into the game with 2 quick passes in the second half and that was great. They finally realize Murray isn’t Jim Brown and gave all of the RB’s the ball. Olawazale looked great in a TD run and Richard hit the hole hard and made a key 75 yard TD jaunt. They didn’t throw to the TE until 1 minute left in the first half. Walford needs to get 5-10 looks a game. You can beat bad teams without a TE but you have to have a balanced attack, something the Raiders did not have last year.

I didn’t like Jack Del Rio trolling ESPN on twitter giving himself props for his call to go for two. Some in the local press have said the Raiders have read too many headlines about how good they are and it’s gone to their heads and you wonder. The same people cheering how gutsy and great a call it was to go for two are the same ones that would have had pitch fork and torches in hand if the Raiders didn’t make it. It’s a long season coach.

Grade: A-

Excellent game; offensive line coach Mike Tice motivated the OL through a little turmoil and adversity and every coach seemed to have a good game.

Outlook:

I know the Saints aren’t a good team but this is a big win. The Raiders have 4 fairly easy games to start the season and they have to go 3-1 at least. In the last 8 games the Raiders play the Colts, Panthers, Denver twice, and at Kansas City. Every game is key for the Raiders to get into the post season. The Falcons are up next. Their defense isn’t very good and their offense is alright. Julio Jones is going to be a problem defending so look for lots of double teams against their star WR.

How to Fix the Defense:

Drew Brees is a master at handling a pass rush but it was still apparent that the Raiders did not get much pressure on him. I said it when the Raiders got him. Irvin has never shown himself to be an elite pass rusher; just an ok one. I’m not sold on him.

I still would love to see Dan Williams and Jelly Ellis play together.   Play more 4-3. If you don’t have the talent at LB you DON’T play a 3-4.   You play a 3-4 when you have fast playmaking LB’s. The Raiders don’t have that.

The Raiders played straight up yesterday and it didn’t work. They need to get way more aggressive, something Jack Del Rio isn’t a huge fan of. They need to blitz much more. Be creative and bring a safety or CB once in a while. Heeney and Smith are good blitzers and they HAVE to get pressure on the QB to hide their weaknesses in coverage.

This defense is no where near a great defense and isn’t a Super Bowl defense.   You can’t blame this on coaching either. The players are in the right position, they are just a step late or are just getting burned.

The Raiders can get away with a win yesterday against a bad team but against the elite ones they will need to play a lot better.

Next Game:

Atlanta Falcons (0-1) @ 1:25 pm on Sunday, September 18 @ Oakland

I see a big win for the Raiders at home against another team that isn’t very good, the Falcons. Nothing is for sure though and the injuries on the offensive line are a worry.