Oakland Raiders fans looking forward to a new Silver and Black era, hoping to start the 2012 season with a win against the Chargers, came away extremely disappointed Monday night. Strangely enough, considering the team’s balance just one year ago, it was the defense that kept the team in the game, and it was the offense that squandered one opportunity after another. Add to that, a very key special teams injury that just may have affected the outcome of the entire game. Suffice to say, this was not how the Raiders wanted to start their new era. That being said, here are some key things that we can take from this game; both the good, bad, and ugly.
Starting with the good, it was the defense that turned in the best performance in the first game under the new system. Their struggles against the run in years passed had been well documented, but on this day the run defense was near dominant. The Chargers were held to 32 yards on 20 carries, good for an average of just 1.2 yards per carry. The defense also held its own against the pass, and despite being given awful starting field position, was able to turn in stop after stop to force a talented Chargers offense to settle for field goals. While it is only one game, and consistency is the biggest key, we can already see a different Raiders team on defense.
While statistically speaking, the offense was not horrible, the overall creativity and explosion that they displayed was extremely lacking. Yes, both Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford were missing in the receiving core, but being a good team involves the rest of the team stepping up when players go down with injuries. The absence of their ability to stretch the field and keep the defensive backs honest was certainly felt, and resultant check down throws to the running backs saw Darren McFadden haul in a total of 13 receptions on 18 targets. In addition offensively, the running game needs to perform better. Whether it is a matter of play calling, or the offensive line’s ability to open the necessary holes for the runners, an offense that is based upon a strong running game will not succeed with rushing yard outputs like they had Monday night.
While uncontrollable, the resulting special teams play after the injury to long snapper, Jon Condo, instantly changed this game. One blocked punt and rolling snaps on two others gave the Chargers extremely favorable field position, while taking all of the game’s momentum in the process. We saw just how valuable a long snapper is to a special teams unit, and especially one of Jon Condo’s caliber. The Raiders will hope that he can return for next week’s game against Miami, as he was certainly missed when he was not in the game.
To say the least, Monday’s loss to the Chargers was a very disappointing performance from this new look Raiders squad. At the same time, marked improvement on defense does bode well moving forward, and the team still has a long season ahead of them. The hope is that key players can get healthy sooner rather than later, and the offense comes into its own in this new scheme. Starting off the season 0-1 is nothing to panic about just yet, as how the team is able to make adjustments and improvements moving forward will be a true marker of their fortunes this season. The Raiders will try to bounce back in the best way possible when they take on the Dolphins next week in Miami.
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