By Ryan Leong
Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was, without question, a MUST win game for the Raiders. Okay, it’s an overused cliche given that there are only 16 games in the regular season, but when your team is 1-4 playing against another team with an identical record and statistically worse than you, that’s a game you have to win.
Most everyone who follows the Raiders also agreed that the team’s effort at Atlanta against the falcons in Week Six showed much improvement despite the close loss. Oakland had played only two games at home this season and the team’s last victory was also a game-winning field goal. Would it be déjà vu all over again?
This wasn’t exactly head coach Dennis Allen’s finest hour, but his final hour wasn’t too shabby. Allen is a defensive minded coach and although the defense continues to struggle, they did manage to score just enough points to get the job done against a mediocre Jacksonville team.
But you have to give credit where credit is due. After the Jaguars jumped out to a 20-6 lead, the Raiders defense did their very best limiting the offense as the Raiders outscored Jacksonville 20-3 the rest of the game. Allen didn’t change his strategy. He figured the Jaguars couldn’t get anything going without running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who left the game after the Jaguars second offensive play, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who was knocked out of the game on a hit by defensive tackle Tommy Kelly in the second quarter.
Gabbert had an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, but the pain was enough to prevent him from continuing. In the first half, Jacksonville had 155 yards of total offense. They finished with 209 yards, gaining only 54 yards after halftime.
Final score: Raiders 26, Jaguars 23 in overtime. Grade: B-
The Raiders sure rack up the yardage, but not the points. That’s the enigma of the entire season. Carson Palmer, week after week, is passing for roughly 300 yards per game. The Raiders amassed 351 total net yards Sunday and only managed 26 points.
Once again, the running game was nearly non-existent. Darren McFadden had 19 carries for 53 yards, just 2.8 per carry. That is just not acceptable, but it’s a regular occurrence these day for D-Mac, who is averaging a career-worst 3.2 yards per carry.
The passing game is better because of Palmer and the nine different receivers who caught passes. This included fullback Marcel Reece, who had four receptions for 58 yards. Denarius Moore caught the lone touchdown pass, an 8-yard slant that Moore ran into the end zone. Three turnovers accounted for 13 of Jacksonville’s 23 points. OUCH! Grade: C
The Raiders showed up big time after a porous first half. It helps that the Jaguars had a huge drop off without quarterback Blaine Gabbert and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Jacksonville backup quarterback Chad Henne for the longest time could not complete a pass and while he finished 9-of-20 for 71 yards, so he was a non-factor. Rashad Jennings, the backup for Jones-Drew, had 21 rushes for 44 yards but 30 of those yards in the first half. With the Raiders giving up only six points to the Jaguars in the second half, that’s a big plus. Okay, so the Jaguars have the worst offense in the league coming into this game averaging only 13 points a contest, but results are results. Grade: A
Special teams overall:
With the solid kicking game provided by placekicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler, if the game is close, you can rely on those two to be key contributors. Lechler had six punts totaling 264 yards, averaging 44.4 yards. Janikowski fell far short on what would have been an NFL record 64-yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter, but he made four field goals overall including the 40-yard game winner in overtime. Grade: B+
The win puts the 2-4 Raiders just one game back of San Diego and Denver, who are both 3-3 in the AFC West.
Special mention to the Raiderettes, who celebrated their 50th anniversary. All five decades of former Raiderettes joined the current squad with a special halftime performance. Created in 1961, it’s one of pro football’s oldest cheerleading squads, so perhaps it was the hundreds of cheerleaders willing the Raiders to victory. Congratulations to them and to the next 50 years of Football’s Fabulous Females.
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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.