Sunday, September 21, 2008

4th Quarter conditioning a big factor in the Raiders loss to Buffalo

In looking around Oakland Raider forums and blogs this evening it looks like the majority of Raider faithful want to blame the defense or Rob Ryan specifically for the last second loss to the Buffalo Bills today. Though, the fact is the defense was the only reason the Raiders even had a chance to win the game and almost carried the Raiders to a victory.

The Raiders were up by 16 points at one point and it would have been 23 points if not for a turnover, giving Buffalo a short field to work with and capitalize on for a touchdown.

Not that blame should be assigned for mistakes made by anyone or plays that did not go the Raiders way. This was a tough game to win. It's not easy to travel across country to a hostile environment in Buffalo and play well. Though at the onset, the Bills did not look ready to play and the Raiders did.

The fact that the Raiders almost went the distance in this one shows a lot of grit and character. It is also proof that the Raiders can overcome adversity and be competitive with anyone in the NFL.

I'd like to see the Raiders who played Buffalo today rewind and play Denver next week but I'll take San Diego as a good second choice.

For most of the game the Raiders defense played with a ferocious intensity, like a team desperate to prove their worth. They played like a team willing to put it all on the line for the win. That was great to see. It really did remind me of Raider teams of old.

So I will give credit where it is due to Rob Ryan for making the necessary changes in his game planning and allowing his guys to really play.

The defense got after it and effectively shut down the Buffalo offense in the first half. Except for a few decent gainers of under ten yards, Lynch was having trouble running all game.

The Raiders have shown now in two consecutive games they can throw an offense out of sync with a strong pass rush and potentially even knock a QB out of the game.

Ironically, the Raiders defense today and last week is a perfect example of the Al Davis defensive philosophy, "The quarterback must go down and he he must go down haahd." Though they did not get to Edwards enough to rough him up. That's what was missing from today's contest.

What this loss also proved though was that you can't go full throttle with the pass rush all game. You wear yourselves out and have nothing left for your other assignments. I suspect this was why the defense let up late in the game. I suspect this was also why DeAngelo Hall was playing soft on his corner in the later stages of the contest.

The Raiders defense is at their best when they are collapsing the pocket. This gives receivers less time to finish their routes. It also gives the QB less time to find the open guys. Where the Raiders lost the game was giving a good QB in Trent Edwards time to find his receivers late in the game. In fact, the Raiders let up at the worst possible time - in the clutch.

So the real difference was full game conditioning. It's very tough to play at top speed in the 4th quarter. The Bills scored 17 points in the 4th quarter. They wanted the game more it seems and they willed themselves to victory though it was never a sure thing.

Had the Raiders full game strategy worked to perfection it would have give them two road wins early in the season. Would have been nice but I think the team is on the right track.

I also suspect if McFadden was available at full strength, they may have had more success on third down conversions and kept drives alive. Oakland was 2-12 on third down conversions. McFadden is not the same player trying to cut on the foot wearing a steel plate in his shoe.

Remember Kiffin's training camp comment how Johnnie Lee Higgins was the kick returner only because he couldn't find someone better. Today Higgins was a difference-maker against the Bills with long kick returns giving the offense good field position. Higgins also caught a home run TD ball from Jamarcus Russell, the first big play from the offense all season.

If WR Ronald Curry has lost his mojo and Javon Walker isn't really able to play as advertised, then the Raiders need to let the receivers capable of producing get into the game. Why is Todd Watkins inactive? If he has great hands and made the team by virtue of his skills then he should be on the field.

San Diego is a winnable game next week. The Chargers are not doing much to scare anyone as of late. They are on a short week playing the Monday night game. The timing could be good for the Raiders to take this one at home.

Mario Henderson is turning out to not be the disaster Lane Kiffin said he was at Left Tackle.

For a team that has had it's O-Line maligned for several seasons, they appear to be blowing teams off the ball as of late. The Bills D-line did not get penetration often and running lanes were there all game.

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