By Ryan Leong
Legendary Raiders owner Al Davis said it best after the team won Super Bowl XVIII.
That’s right, this is when Davis coined the catchphrase, “Just win baby!” Unfortunately the more true mantra of the team is: The greatness of the Raiders is in its future. That is especially true this season. The team has gone from consecutive 8-8 seasons in 2010 and 2011 to a 4-10 record with two games left after beating the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. Final score: Oakland Raiders 15, Kansas City Chiefs 0
While it can’t be said enough that every win is critical when there are only 16 games in the regular season, having lost six in a row, the Raiders were absolutely in a must-win situation. Despite a four-year contract, first-year head coach Dennis Allen really needed to win this game for obvious reasons. There is no such thing as job security, but wins certainly keep you around longer. Given how bad the Chiefs are, their storied rivalry against the Raiders and the fact that owner Mark Davis wants results, anything but a win would have been very precarious for Allen’s future.
Allen made some decent coaching decisions but probably could have been bit more of a risk taker. He stated all week long he’d give Terrelle Pryor a chance. He did give him one series of downs to start the second quarter. Unfortunately, Pryor went three-and-out and his only pass attempt went incomplete. Other than that, the Raiders couldn’t crack the red zone, relying on sure footed kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Grade: C
As stated above, the Raiders could not score touchdowns, going 0-for-2 inside the red zone. But the positives was the combination of running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson. DMac ran for 110 yards on 30 carries for an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Goodson had an impressive 89 yards on 13 carries for 6.8 yards per carry. McFadden tried often to run around the defense and a few times it backfired as he slipped on the turf. Goodson did a great job of keeping his balance and running through holes created by the offensive line. Pryor was not impressive, but again, one series of downs is a small sample size. It was good to see Carson Palmer not have to throw the ball 50 times and more importantly, not throw an interception. Still, once again he did make some poor throws, and not scoring touchdowns brings the grade down significantly. Grade: B-
The Raiders pitched their first shutout since they blanked the Chiefs in the regular season finale in 2002. Although the Chiefs have only two wins, their run game is pretty impressive, ranking 7th out of 32 teams. Oakland’s run defense ranks 21st, so for them to shut down Jamaal Charles, who is averaging the best yards per carry of any running back in NFL history (that includes Hall of Famer Jim Brown) for a single season, is a monumental achievement. Charles had nine carries for 10 yards. That’s not good if you had Charles on your fantasy team this week!
Peyton Hillis had one carry for zero yards. It helped greatly that Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe was on injured reserve and shelved for the rest of the season. This was great job by the Raiders defense and, of course, they got the ultimate reward by shutting out the Chiefs. Grade: A+
What more can you say about Sebastian Janikowski? “Sea-bass” continues to impress with his left foot. The lefty made 5-of-6 field goals, accounting for all the Raiders offense. His one miss was a 51-yarder that was wide left, but he made up for it with a 57-yarder that went through the uprights as time expired in the first half. And it was possibly the final home game for punter Shane Lechler, who is in the final year of a four-year contract that paid him $16 million, making him the highest paid punter in NFL history. His four punts on the day averaged 51.2 yards and one was a touchback. No punt returns were made by the Raiders today and because the Chiefs were shut out, no kickoff returns were made either as the Chiefs lone kickoff to start the game was downed in the end zone by Goodson. Grade: A
Don’t read too much into this win. This Chiefs team is really awful and an embarrassment to the legacy of the great teams that preceded this bunch. The roster isn’t playing with enough pride to be wearing the famed arrowhead logo, and the tragedy caused by the late Jovan Belcher only exacerbated the situation. Romeo Crennel might be a great defensive coordinator but he’s a terrible head coach and his record proves it.
The Raiders final two games are both on the road. This next game at Carolina is another East Coast road game and the Raiders haven’t won in the Eastern Time Zone since Dec. 8, 2009. That seems like an eternity ago, when the Raiders stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-24. Since then, the Silver and Black are 0-9 and been outscored 315-155, which averages to a score of 35-17. Raiders are 5-26 in the Eastern Time Zone since losing to the Dolphins 23-7 in Miami on December 15, 2002.
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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.