I was thrilled to see a more than 1 score victory by my beloved Oakland Raiders as they took care of the Jacksonville Jaguars, 33-16, at EverBank Field in Florida.
It wasn’t an easy game, despite what the score may show. To begin with, it was warm. The game started at roughly 70 degrees, and went up to a high of 79 degrees. On the field and in black jerseys, it seems that Jacksonville was angling for an advantage wearing their road white over black uniforms.
There were other struggles. First of all, I saw a lot of underneath throws again. I don’t mind them, but we can’t rely on yards after catch. On a 3rd and 7, we need a 7 yard pass. Offensively, on our opening drive, when we should be making a statement, we went 3 and out. Our 2nd possession, we stalled at the Jax 7 yard line, settling for a field goal. Clive Walford needs to figure out a way to hang on to the ball, especially in the end zone if he wants to remain a target for Derek Carr. I know it wasn’t an easy ball to catch, and it looked tipped, but he had both hands on it. Our 3rd possession was highly disappointing. We recovered a muffed punt at the Jax 17 yard line. We managed only 3 yards on 3 plays, and ended up with another 3 points. When we get the ball in the red zone courtesy of either a defensive or, in this case, special teams play, I expect the offense to do something with it. I do not find a 15 second possession that ends in a field goal acceptable.
I expect drives like we had after the Jags scored their first field goal. That was a 7:05, 75 yard drive for a touchdown. They did not employ a no huddle. They ran more than they passed. They used a lead blocker, rather than just going over a guard and hoping there’s a hole. They took what they wanted. They were not assisted by any penalties. The drive they had at the end of the 2nd quarter was a thing of beauty, with the big play being a 56 yard pass to Michael Crabtree. This is what is needed more. We can’t hesitate to go deep. We need to keep mixing things up, using a lead blocker on some runs, other times keeping that game player back to block as Carr drops back.
I have been saying that as Carr goes, so goes our offense. He just needs to unleash more. In the 2nd half, after we ended the 1st half with a 20-6 lead, it was almost as if they offense started thinking they could mail it in. In the 3rd quarter, we punted twice and managed one Sebastian Janikowski field goal. One of those punts was a 3 and out. In the 4th quarter we had another 3 and out after the defense stopped the Blake Bortles led offense on their 40 yard line. But they did come back alive, and ended up with 10 4th quarter points, which put the game essentially out of reach for the Jags.
This game is’t about taking a lead, then matching them score for score. One never knows when a turnover will occur. A receiver could fall on what is a perfect pass and the ball could be intercepted. A normally sure handed running back can get hit just right and turn the ball over on a fumble. The offense has to take advantage of EVERY opportunity to score, and they need to do it. That doesn’t mean field goals. Derek Carr was saying in his press conference that he is encouraged to cut loose. He needs to cut loose more. That doesn’t mean make throws into triple coverage, but it does mean going more than 3-7 yards yards in his passing game.
Special teams held us up this game. There were 4 Janikowski field goals. Even after having to kick off 3 times in a row, SeaBass was able to kick it deep. The officials blew one kick off dead, so that one didn’t count. Then Andre Holmes made a great play and pushed out Arrelious Benn at the 12 yard line, which was only a 5 yard return. Unfortunately, Daren Bates committed a hold, so SeaBass had to kick for a 3rd time. He just booted it in the end zone, and the ball ended up on the 25 yard line. Their drive stalled out on the 5 yard line, so they settled for a field goal. Also on special teams, again, Andre Holmes came up big and it stuck. Rashad Greene Sr. muffed a punt, and Holmes set up the offense nicely by covering up the loose ball on the 17 yard line. They didn’t give up any huge returns. Marquette King was booting the heck out of the ball. That isn’t all he did. The offense was choking big time. They were playing conservative, trying to milk the clock. After 2 run plays that left us with a 3rd and 7, center Rodney Hudson was called for a false start. That left us with a 3rd and 12. We managed a short 3 yard gain with a completion to Seth Roberts. However, Jax went after one of offensive line men and Donald Penn came in to help him out. As they say, the 2nd guy gets caught, and Penn was tagged for a 15 yard personal foul. We were 4th and 24, when Jon Condo didn’t snap so great to King. Jax had the wrong set up for them, the right one for us. They had everyone up front going for a block. King scooped up the ball and ran for 27 yards, giving us a much needed first down. That drive ended with a Latavius Murray touchdown, his 2nd of the day.
Defense definitely did its job this game. After dropping their first 3 games, the Jags had gained some traction winning their last 2, and were looking to bring their record to 3 and 3. Blake Bortles isn’t a slouch at quarterback, and they have tight end Julius Thomas, a former Denver Bronco, who harbors no love for the Raiders, and may have thought he was familiar with our defense. However, the defense blanked Bortles in the 1st quarter, allowed 2 field goals in the 2nd, allowed only 1 field goal in the 3rd, and finally gave up a touchdown in the 4th quarter. The bummer about that td reception was it was so close to being an interception. It was one of those “ties”, that the receiver wrenched away from Malcolm Smith, who should have an interception. It gave up only 344 yards. Comparatively, that’s very good, considering we have been giving up an average of 450 plus a game.
We also only gave up a few big plays. Some of those were in what Coach Jack Del Rio referred to as “garbage time”. Unless we are leading by 4 touchdowns with 2 minutes left in the game, there IS no such thing as garbage time. I have seen a team score 3 touchdowns in less than 2 minutes. I am getting a clue now as to where those conservative offense and defense calls are coming from. I hope he learns we need to nail that coffin shut. Jack needs to understand that you don’t sit on a 20-6 lead at half time and wait to see if they score to open up your offense. You nail that coffin shut. You drive the length of the field and get in the end zone. The same goes if you’re leading 23-9, or even 26-9. If it gets to 26-16, you had best score. By that I mean not thanking the heavens that your long snapper messed up the snap and your punter saved the day. The offense needs to be successful. Reggie Nelson had the right idea by returning his interception the way he did.
Considering both teams got flagged to heck and back, I won’t talk about the flags and the penalties for the most part. I will just mention that one of the heroes of the game, Michael Crabtree, has had a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties against him, fortunately not in the same game. He needs to be more aware so he doesn’t get ejected. I have been proud of his play, and I think the call for this game re: throat slash was a stretch at best, completely uncalled for at worst. I hope Donald Penn realizes he can’t come in late and shove anyone. Rookie wide receiver Johnny Holton needs to learn to keep his hands to himself. He doesn’t give the team the boost that @KingCrab does, so that kind of knucklehead move, fighting, can end up getting one benched for a game.
Overall, this, in my mind, was the most complete game we have had as a team. Defense did its job, special teams did their job, and offense put up points on the board. We more than doubled the score of Jacksonville, and that’s what I thought we should have been able to do. We did this game what we should have done. We need to do more of that. We need to nail that coffin shut when given the opportunity, or just take the damned opportunity. Play-off wins don’t go to the teams that are trying to sit on leads, they go to the teams that put the pedal to the metal for 4 quarters, allowing no leeway, never letting up. Players that showed this today get the game balls: Marquette King, Michael Crabtree, with honorable mentions to David Amerson, Andre Holmes, and Sebastian Janikowski.
What the team can’t afford to do is feel cocky. The team can’t think , “ok we’re over a hurdle, everything is in place now.” It isn’t. There is work to be done still. Not every team is in the midst of some struggles like the Jaguars obviously are.
Next game we go up against Jameis Winston , Luke Stoker, a 6’5” TE that’s averaging 11.3 yards per reception, WR Adam Humphries, averaging over 10 yards a reception, 6’5′” WR Mike Evans, also averaging over 10 yards a reception. Am I making my point yet? This is a home game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they are now at .500, after beating one team from California already. This is a game we should win, but we can’t go flat at any time during the game. No conservative play in any phase of the game, no let up, balls to the wall, Raiders football for the full 60 minutes of the game. That’s what creates a championship team.
Win, lose or tie, RAIDERS tile I DIE!