Sunday, September 18, 2011

Raiders Lose A Thriller In Buffalo

Two things were missing for the Raiders today. Special Teams and defensive cornerback Chris Johnson's coverage skills. On special teams the once speedy #89 Nick Miller looked slow, off-balance and indecisive as he fielded at least four returnable kick-offs and a few punts for little gain. Seemed he was always either slipping down, diving down or just plopping down untouched for little gain at the end of every return. As much as I've praised the potential threat of Nick in the past, he showed not an echo of threat in this outing.

The experts were right, the Raiders will sorely miss the services of pro bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. His replacement in the defensive backfield, Chris Johnson, couldn't cover a wheelchair without getting a penalty today. He just couldn't play the Bills speedy receivers one-on-one.

The Raiders defense as a whole were exposed. Very little pressure on the quarterback, unable to tackle effectively in open space, allowing big runs and passes throughout the afternoon. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like Peyton "freakin" Manning shreddding the Raiders defense with precision passes.

On 4th and 1 with 14 seconds left in the game, Fitzpatrick connected for a six yard touchdown straight down the middle to yet another wide open receiver. The play was designed to lead the defensive backs away from the middle of the field. It worked so well I'm surprised the receiver didn't drop the pass out of shock from seeing no Raiders within fifteen yards of him.

The positive of this game was the offense. Great quarterbacking, great running, great coaching and great protection up front as the Raiders put up 35 exciting points. The problem was Buffalo putting up 38. Penalties were down as the Raiders showed outstanding discipline and resilience on the road in a loud stadium. Still, there's no excuse for not finishing the game. The Raiders didn't finish what they started.

The game was a thriller of the week with many lead and momentum changes. Buffalo's Fred "WHO" Jackson ran like a running back who hasn't gotten any respect or love from the media. After romping for 117 yards today and doing it with toughness and speed, Mr. Jackson should get his just due respects.

The Raiders had some new guys step up. WR Danarius Moore showcased his special receiving talents with a long jump ball for a 50-yard touchdown and another beautiful play where he jumped and snatched a ball away from a defender who was on the verge of intercepting it. Other receiving spotlight was on Derek Hagan who continued what he'd started in preseason being the sure hands goto guy for QB Campbell.

Bush, McFadden and Reece all did enough out of the backfield to sustain long drives. Red Zone execution was near perfect. Again, RB Darren McFadden powered, snaked and sprinted over, around and through defenders. McFadden is basically the nuts and bolts of the Raiders offense. DMac finished the game with no blown parts.

In a game where the Raiders led 21-3 early, the 38-35 loss has some positives to take from it. But in order to avoid a repeat of this painful letdown, the Raiders must focus on fixing their defense. Maybe its time to abandon the on-on-one match-ups and play more zone. The Buffalo Bills made adjustments on offense at half-time, the Raiders must learn how to adjust their defense accordingly.

Good fight Raiders, but the outcome is simply unacceptable. The only reason I was able to watch the Sunday Night NFL game in which the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 35-31, was because the team across the bay let one get away in overtime to America's Team. They led the Dallas Cowboys by 14 points early, before QB Tony Romo got juiced by the large Cowboys fanbase occupying seats at Candlestick. Way to go Niners, way to go.

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