Monday, September 29, 2008

The Raiders can't hold a 4th quarter lead for the second straight week

The sold out crowd at Oakland Coliseum was cautiously optimistic about how the Raiders would fare against the Bolts today. From my vantage point the Chargers looking uninterested out of the gate, like they would rather phone the game in.

That's the best excuse I can think of other than San Diego simply not taking the Raiders seriously. Maybe they're bored beating Oakland twice a year for so long. Today was no different but the way it unfolded was a bit of a surprise. The Chargers never panicked when they were down by five points. They appeared to finally feel some pressure when it became 12 and then 15 point deficit. In fact, the Chargers were stymied most of the game and did not gain the lead until the fourth quarter.

This game was actually decided in the last two to three minutes oft he game. It was a tie score and then a special teams break down by Oakland led to great field position. If San Diego needed a plot ending script the Raiders provided one. The Silver & Black just did not have the gas in the tank to do anything about giving up ten points in the last two minutes.

That's how it ended but let's look at how it started.

I want to believe in Greg Knapp's offensive system but I'm not doing a good job if it. The way the first series went for Oakland gave me some hope that perhaps Knapp was opening things up. All of a sudden, instead of trying to grind a team down slowly with the run, they went for and connected on some nice open field strikes. One of which went to Javon Walker with perhaps his best catch and run as a Raider.

The only problem was this type of fearless play calling deteriorated as the game progressed. Javon Walker was nowhere to be found. Jamarcus had less and less time in the pocket, the majority of Raider receivers were just not up to the task. Even Zach Miller wasn't money on every play.

Though with final game stats of 22-for-37 for 277 yards, Jamarcus earned his "progressing" label. I think he was frustrated with how the game went though. His body language when coming off the field revealed JR to be unsatisfied. You can't blame him considering how poorly they did on third down conversions. They were 3-15 today. They were 2-12 against Buffalo last week. Jamarcus needs more time in the pocket.

The reasons for this comes back to the longstanding problem of the offensive line. The zone blocking scheme is better suited to run block than pass block. Still, that is not an excuse for not having a left tackle who can play. If that is the best he can do, Kwame Harris is not going to make the grade. Put Mario Henderson back in.

On the flip side to that, I understand how the defense would cave in. When your offense is not making third downs that means your defense is spending a lot of time on the field, doesn't matter how beautiful a punt Shane Lechler lays down. You get fatigued being on the field and with just a few exceptions, the Raiders are not a well conditioned defense. They are going to fade down the stretch if they have to play intense through the fourth quarter. Maybe that will change but that is what the Raiders have shown the last two games.

The highlight of the defense has to be the line. DE Kalimba Edwards has been playing outstanding. He is one of those former first rounders Al picked up on waivers from the Lions. Edwards does have a rehabbed knee in his history though he is exhibiting real potential as a true free agency find (as Derrick Burgess was) if he can stay healthy. If Burgess can get healthy and they have Edwards and Jay Richardson rotating in on the opposite edge that is what you want.

I was also impressed with Terdell Sands making two sacks. He's playing like a beast in the middle. If Gerard Warren gets healthy, he is a force and thus far, Tommy Kelly is also playing well.

Ronald Curry is not the same player has been in season's past. Whatever the problem is has to end. He is just about completely useless out there.

Why is Todd Watkins still inactive? He is not injured. He earned a roster spot by having a great camp but the coaching staff apparently does not believe he can contribute. Why else would he not even suit up? The Raiders need good WRs so there is a problem somewhere especially since a guy who catches well is on the bench and guys who are not making plays (Curry) are on the field.

There were a few of those "would of, could of" moments, such as what if the Raiders scored a TD on the opening drive instead of a FG? What if the offense had managed the clock better and got into FG range to close out the first half?

Lane Kiffin has no notion of game time management. He's been missing that talent for as long as he has been a head coach. That is one reason how lack of experience can bite you. Kiffin is just plain awful at working the clock to the team's advantage and he's not learning to do it well either.

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