By Ryan Leong
Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra has many famous sayings. One of them is, “It gets late early out there,” referring to the sun conditions at the old Yankee Stadium. In this case, it applies to the Oakland Raiders who have lost their first two games of the season to beatable opponents. The last time the team started a season 0-2 was in 2007.
That means while only 1/8th of the season has been played, this disappointing loss could just be the beginning of a downward spiral.
They led 10-7 at halftime but were outscored the Miami Dolphins in the second half, 28-3, resulting in a 35-13 Miami victory.
Offense: Grade D
It is unacceptable to have a team that is as inexperienced and injury riddled as the Miami Dolphins simply embarrass the Raiders. The Raiders and Dolphins each have a similar type running back, but Oakland’s Darren McFadden had just 22 yards rushing. Overall, the Dolphins out-gained the Raiders in rushing yards, 263-23.
Carson Palmer passed for 373 yards but he only managed to throw for one touchdown and that was on a screen pass to Mike Goodson who really did all of the work himself, scoring on a 64-yard catch and run. Palmer at least connected with nine different receivers, but the end result looks too much like former Raiders quarterback Jeff George (1997-1998), who threw for a ton of useless yards and ended up with a mediocre win-loss percentage.
A key drive late in the second quarter was wasted when Palmer blew a 1st and goal on the 7-yard line. He double clutched after rolling to his right and the pass intended for McFadden bounced off his shoulder pads. The Raiders cost themselves four points on the scoreboard by settling for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
A positive sign was the return of receiver Denarius Moore from a hamstring injury. The explosive playmaker caught three passes for 67-yards. Tight end Brandon Myers led the Silver and Black with six catches for 86 yards. But the fact remains that the Raiders have scored 27 points through two games – no team wins scoring so few points. For now, the Raiders rank 15th out of 32 teams on both offense and defense. Right now, veteran offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s playbook isn’t fooling anyone and this needs to be corrected immediately.
Defense: Grade D
When Reggie Bush can go off and run for 172 yards and two touchdowns on a career-best 26 attempts, you’re not doing the job on defense. Bush had the second-best game of his career. He had one touchdown run of 65 yards and has rushed for 100 or more yards in five of his last six games. Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed remarkable improvement, one week after he was intercepted three times in the second quarter. Tannehill went from a QB rating of 39.0 to 91.0. He was 18-of-30 for 200 yards and a touchdown.
The defense was on the field far too long. Time of possession was 34:41 for Miami, and 25:19 (42% of the game) for the Raiders. Miami wide receiver Brian Hartline had a career-high 111 yards receiving. And adding insult to injury, Joe Philbin earned his first career win as head coach of the Dolphins and given a Gatorade bath for the accomplishment. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen has to wait another week for an opportunity to post his first victory with the Raiders.
Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said it best to reporters.
“We left our game in the locker room, it’s as simple as that,” Kelly said. “I guess we left our tackling in the locker room too. It was very embarrassing and discouraging. I know we’re better. We’ve got 14 games left, this has got to get fixed. I mean that team (Miami) is oh my god…but you know you take your hats off to them, they got the job done.”
Special Teams: Grade B-
This has been a strength for the Raiders thanks largely in part to kicker Sebastian Janikowski, punter Shane Lechler and long snapper Jon Condo. Janikowski scored nearly half the team’s points with two field goals and Lechler punted nine times for 422 yards averaging 46.9 yards per punt, although the number of punts is a bad sign indicating the Raiders failed to keep drives alive.
After playing two beatable teams, the Raiders don’t have that luxury again anytime soon. They host the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers at home next week followed by a road game the following week in Denver against Payton Manning and the Broncos. If the Raiders play this poorly again, it’s likely they’ll be 0-4 heading into their bye week. They have to beat the Steelers if they’re to salvage the season.
One other note, no team since 2008 has made the playoffs when losing their first two games.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.