By Ryan Leong
Yes, the Raiders lost, but the way in which they played should bode well for their next home game. Playing in the Georgia Dome against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, the Raiders played tough throughout the contest. They played with a lead and were ahead 13-7 at halftime.
Matt Ryan, the Falcons all-pro quarterback, was intercepted three times in the first half. That was big for the Raiders. who hadn’t recorded an interception all season long. However, the Raiders were their own worst enemy. The Falcons would recover from that six-point deficit, eventually tying the game at 13-13 and would pull away to win it 23-20.
Head coach Dennis Allen said the team would do some soul searching during the bye week. They did exactly that, evaluating their deficiencies in all phases. Certainly the defense needed to do better and that was addressed.
But at the end of the day…the Raiders lost. Third down efficiency was poor, just 2-of-9 for 22 percent. That’s been a major problem all season long and it continued in this game.
One problem that is synonymous with the Raiders reared its ugly head after weeks of containment…penalties. The Raiders had 12 of them, costing them 110 yards. The Falcons by comparison had just two for 25 yards. Grade: B-
Carson Palmer had another Jeff George like game. He passed for over 300 yards and a touchdown with a QB rating over 100…and lost.
Palmer found Denarius Moore in the second quarter for a short pass on which Moore eluded the tackle and turned it into a 25-yard touchdown reception. Moore finished with five catches for 104 yards.
Anytime you can go over 100 yards receiving or rushing, you’re having a good day. Also contributing on the offense, tight end Brandon Myers had five catches for 62 yards. Derek Hagan added four receptions for 85 yards. Overall, Palmer passed to eight different receivers but Darrius Heyward-Bey did not catch a pass.
Darren McFadden had a better ground game than he’s had in recent weeks, 27 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. Still, that’s only an average of 2.6 yards per carry. Mike Goodson had four carries for 43 yards for an average of 14.8 yards, and Heyward-Bey had one run for 20 yards on a reverse.
The offense did show more than it has in every game except the home win vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, but 20 points isn’t going to cut it in the NFL. The Raiders need to score around 28 points a game if they’re to have a realistic chance to win any game. Grade: C+
The Raiders recorded their first three interceptions of the season. That’s a major plus. They also held the high-scoring Falcons to 286 yards of total offense.
They pressured Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan into throwing those three picks, all in the first half. The Falcons only had the ball for 23:34, but 12 penalties for 110 yards is a KILLER. Grade: B
Solid kicking once again from Sebastian Janikowski, who kicked two field goals from 52 and 22 yards. He made both his extra point attempts after the two touchdowns.
Shane Lechler punted five times for 241 yards, averaging 48.2 yards per punt.
As far as the return game, Goodson had two returns for 25 yards. Grade B+
The turning points of the game came in the second half, when a questionable fumble call went against Palmer and the Raiders. That would result in a game-tying Matt Bryant 20-yard field goal.
But the real dagger was the interception by Palmer that was run back by Asante Samuel for 79 yards late in the fourth quarter. Adding insult to injury was Palmer being the last line of defense; Samuel just ran by him and taunted him on his way to the end zone. While Palmer would engineer another drive that would tie the game 20-20, the Falcons had enough time on the clock to win it on a Bryant 55-yard field goal with one second left to send the Raiders home with another loss.
It’s the team’s 10th loss in a row coming off a bye, the most by any NFL team since 1990 when byes were instituted. Oakland hasn’t won coming off a bye week since 2002.
But given the way in which the Raiders competed, it bodes well for their upcoming home game against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, who are also 1-4. Moore became the first Oakland receiver this year to have a 100-yard game and the Raiders ran for a season-high 149 yards.
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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.