The Oakland Raiders nearly pulled a huge upset against the undefeated Falcons on Sunday. It was a close game for all four quarters, but the Falcons ended up with the last score and the win. Despite gaining more than 470 yards of total offense, the Silver&Black came out of the Georgia Dome on the losing side. So let’s take a closer look at what made the difference on Sunday:
Once again, the Raiders had their best chance of winning through the hands of Carson Palmer, who played pretty well for the most part of the contest. “CP3″ completed 70% of his pass attempts (23 out of 33), for 353 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. But the interception was a crucial one. With the teams tied at 13, the Raiders were facing a 3rd&6 at the Falcons 28 yard line with just 2:50 to go in the game, and Palmer’s pass was a little behind the intended receiver (Denarius Moore), instead being caught by CB Asante Samuel who took it to the endzone. But Carson showed poise and confidence when he hit the field a few moments later, with 2:40 and 80 yards to go. He completed 5 out 6 pass attempts, operating in the no huddle and overcoming a 2nd&20 caused by a holding, despite being almost intercepted on what would’ve been another incredibly lucky play by Atlanta (the other one, the Harry Douglas reception after the ball bounced off Joselio Hanson’s helmet). That put Darren McFadden in position to seal the drive with a TD run. Unfortunately, the Falcons, with only 40 seconds to work with, were able to move the chains until kicker Matt Bryant hit the game-winning FG. Palmer had a very strong performance despite not having the best pass protection, being sacked 3 times in the game. He fumbled the ball in one of those which came from the blindside and the Falcons almost returned it for a TD. It’s hard to put the fumble on the QB’s account, but the interception was certainly on him. Palmer redeemed himself with the game-tying drive right after the turnover, though.
QB Grade: B
Darren McFadden once again didn’t have much room to work with. The zone-blocking scheme appears to be making progress but it’s still not enough to put DMC in the best position to showcase his talents. He missed a few reads here and there, but for the most part, the stuffed runs were due to no space to run. On a 3rd&goal in the second quarter, McFadden had no chance of making it to the endzone as the OL was devoured by the defense. Differently from other games, McFadden looked to be a tackle away from a huge gain a couple of times. He also had 2 nice runs, a 16 and a 21 yarders, negated by holding penalties. On the down-side, McFadden suffered a fumble early in the game that he shouldn’t have, as the DL simply put his hand on the ball. Ball-security has not been an issue for DMC as of late so hopefully it was just an isolated play. As a pass-catcher, McFadden had a really nice moment when he was able to catch a low pass by Palmer on a 3rd down, moving the chains. He finished the game with 70 yards with just 2.6 yards per carry. Mike Goodson had some really good appearances in the game, finishing it with 59 yards on just 4 carries (14.8), and also a screen pass reception good for 37 yards. He ran the ball with a little more patience than McFadden, but he also was granted with better blocking, making a good case for more playing time. His highlight was the 37 yards rush late in the game. Marcel Reece had a poor showing, with just one catch for 1 yard and also a holding call on him that negated the 16 yard McFadden run mentioned before.
RBs Grade: C
Denarius Moore had his best game of the season and it looks like his chemistry with Carson Palmer is on excellent shape. The second-year wide out caught 5 passes (9 targets) for 104 yards and 1 TD, being reliable and clearly the number one guy for Palmer throughout the whole game. The WRs continued to be consistent in terms of pass catching and are currently presenting themselves as a solid group for Palmer. Derek Hagan contributed with 4 receptions (caught all the passes thrown his way) for 85 yards, 3 of those catches happening in crunch time on the game-tying drive. Darrius Heyward-Bey, coming back from his scary concussion versus the Steelers, looked healthy when he broke a tackle with a hard hit on his 20 yard end around run (which also had a nice move put on John Abraham at the line of scrimmage), but that was it for him in the game. Despite being on the field for 50 snaps, he only saw two targets and ended up with zero receptions. On a few plays, the wide outs failed to find separation on deep patterns, forcing Carson Palmer to dump the football to closer receivers.
WRs Grade: B
Brandon Myers had a solid game once again, with 5 catches for 62 yards, missing only two targets. Unfortunately, one of these missed targers was a costly one, as the TE failed to catch a ball which was right on his numbers inside the endzone, on a 2nd&goal. On the ensuing 3rd down, Myers was part of the blocking group who got completely dominated by the Falcons’ defense right off the snap. The Raiders were not able to score the touchdown on that drive, and had to settle for the short FG. But Myers also had a pretty good blocking moment, when he nullified his man, clearing the way for Denarius Moore to score his TD. David Ausberry caught only one pass for 12 yards, but it was a nice one as the TE made a man miss and ran for the first down. He also was key on the 43-yard Mike Goodson run, helping Willie Smith with the initial double-team on the DL, then blocking the LB to clear the way.
TEs Grade: C
It was a rough day for the OL, as once again they were not able to get the running game going. They were able to reach second level a few more times than they are used to, but that’s still not enough and there’s a lot of room for improvement in the zone-blocking scheme. The pass protection was good for most part of the game, but the few mistakes were costly ones. The group surrended 3 sacks, two on right tackle Willie Smith and one on left tackle Jared Veldheer, which also caused a fumble (all of them to defensive end John Abraham). Alex Parsons replaced Mike Brisiel at right guard who left the game with a concussion, and was crucial on the big play by Goodson when he was able to perform the initial double team on the DL, and then advanced to second level to negate the LB. But the worst part was the high number of penalties, which was a first for this group that was having a pretty clean season until last Sunday. There were 3 holding penalties (2 on Willie Smith and one on Stefen Wisniewski) and 2 false starts (both by Jared Veldheer). Smith clearly has to step up his game as he replaces starting RT Khalif Barnes. Cooper Carlisle also needs to become more consistent on running plays as he’s getting dominated way too often.
OL Grade: D
Greg Knapp had a bye week to work on his zone-blocking scheme, but it’s still not going the way he envisioned. It’s hurting the Raiders since the team’s best player, Darren McFadden, is not being put in the best situations to excell. The playcalling, in the other hand, was solid and allowed the Raiders to move the ball with consistency, specially on crunch time. Dennis Allen had an excellent challenge called, turning a Falcons’ first down catch into a 4th down and, therefore, a punt early in the fourth quarter. The head coach quickly decided to throw the red flag in a play which didn’t look to have much controversy in it, but it proved to be very worth it as the referees decided that the Falcons’ WR wasn’t able to secure the catch.
Coaching Grade: B
The Raiders outgained the Falcons by 188 yards (474 yards of total offense versus 286 by Atlanta) and had possession for 13 more minutes than the opposition. But the extremely high number of penalties and two costly turnovers were enough to give the victory for the home team. The offense had a good performance, specially through the air, but lacked discipline and ability to take care of the football. Despite all that, the Raiders had a chance to force overtime after a game-tying drive led by Palmer and finished with a McFadden TD, but the defense wasn’t able to hold the Falcons.
Overall Offensive Grade: C
The Raiders will now host the Jaguars on October 21th at 1:25 (PDT).