Sunday, November 2, 2008

Raiders' latest loss one for the ages

I know it won’t be easy, but I’m going to try to put the Raiders’ 24-0 loss Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons into its proper, humiliating perspective.

Let’s start with a few of the final numbers. The Raiders were outgained 453 to 77. They had three first downs to the Falcons’ 30. They lost the time of possession battle 45:15 to 14:45.

They gained the fewest yards by a Raiders team in any game in the Al Davis era, which began in 1963, and the fewest yards in the NFL since Dec. 12, 2004, when Cleveland gained 26 against Buffalo.

The Raiders set a franchise record for fewest first downs in a game.

Are you getting the picture of exactly how gruesome it was Sunday at the Coliseum?

“During the week we look like we’re a Super Bowl team, and we come out there and we’re damn near the laughingstock of the league, and it’s ridiculous,” Raiders safety Gibril Wilson said. “I’ve never been in a situation where it’s been like this, and I don’t know what it is. I really don’t know what it is.

“The coaches are getting us prepared. That’s not a problem. The people in this locker room have to look at themselves in the mirror and see exactly what they’re bringing to the table, and if they’re not bringing anything to the table, then get off the ship, period.”

You can understand Wilson’s culture shock. A year ago, he was on his way to winning the Super Bowl with the New York Giants. This is still all new to him.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is in Year 6 as a Raider. He has some history with the team.

Was this as bad as it gets?

“In the first half, probably as bad as it gets,” Asomugha said. “I think we played Jacksonville and Green Bay last year. Those were pretty bad. I’ve had some bad ones, but in the first half, that was bad”

NFL laughingstock bad.

The Raiders fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and 24-0 by halftime. Atlanta gained 309 yards in the first half. The Raiders “gained” minus-2. The Falcons amassed 20 first downs in the first half. The Raiders totaled zero. Atlanta held the ball for 24:08, the Raiders 5:52.

Atlanta’s Michael Turner rushed for 82 yards and Jerious Norwood 50 in the first half. Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan completed 13 of 16 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns.

Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, meanwhile, hit on 2 of 7 passes for nine yards and was sacked three times. Justin Fargas carried three times for 5 yards.

“Very disappointing,” said Raiders interim coach Tom Cable, whose record dropped to 1-3 and odds of keeping this job in 2009 continued getting longer.

You had to see this to believe how ugly it was. Unbelievable. This looked like professionals against amateurs, men against boys, NFL vs. high school.

The Falcons’ offense had the Raiders’ confused and flummoxed from the outset. Atlanta opened with a no-huddle attack and marched 88 yards for a score, Ryan hitting Michael Jenkins on a 44-yard touchdown pass. Yeah, Jenkins beat cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Was there any doubt?

The Falcons did whatever they wanted against the Raiders’ defense. They hit the Raiders with a mixture of Turner’s power running and Norwood’s slashing blows. Ryan threw deep, midrange and short passes, hitting six different targets.

Invariably, there was a Falcon wide open somewhere on every play, and Ryan found him.

“They had a rhythm, they got hot,” Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison said. “Once you get hot, it’s hard to break that.”

Apparently, so.

The Raiders’ problems on defense began early when they couldn’t stop Turner or Norwood. When the Raiders thought run, Atlanta passed. When they thought pass, Atlanta ran.

“They pretty much did the type of stuff we saw, and they did some of the stuff that we had been seeing in other weeks that they had never done,” Asomugha said. “It’s a copycat league so you see someone else do it and it works, then they’ll start doing it. Those were the plays we got.”

In other words, the Raiders’ defense has been exposed and an expect more of the same.

You’ve got to give Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey plenty of credit for a great game plan. And Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan? Let’s just say that Lane Kiffin is probably having a good laugh.

It’s not as if Atlanta is an offensive juggernaut. The Falcons came into the game ranked 11th in total offense, third in rushing and 22nd in passing. Good, yes, but not nearly as good as the Raiders made them look, especially in the first half.

I don’t want to just pile on the Raiders’ defense. The Raiders’ offense was equally awful.

Atlanta entered the game ranked 25th in total defense, 22nd against the pass and 23rd against the run. Against the Raiders, the Falcons’ ‘D’ looked like the the 21st century’s Steel Curtain.

The Raiders couldn’t run. They couldn’t pass. They couldn’t do anything.

Fargas said he never saw this disaster coming.

“Not at all. We had a good week of practice. I thought the energy was good. I thought we were ready to play,” Fargas said. “It didn’t show.

“I don’t know how it happens, but it happened. We didn’t look good in any phase of our game. We have to do something to get it right.”

The contrast between the two young quarterbacks on the field, Russell and Ryan, was stunning. Ryan was cool and calm, making the proper reads and finding open receivers. He was also accurate. His 44-yard touchdown pass to Jenkins early in the first quarter was a laser. Jenkins had a step on Hall along the right sideline. He reached up at the 10, and the pass basically hit him in the hands.

Russell is in his second season, but he looked much more like a rookie than Ryan. Granted, he rarely had open receivers, but when he did, he usually missed them or threw uncatchable balls, as in 100 mph rockets from short range.

One of the lowest points for Russell came midway through the third period when he went to pass and had the ball slip out of his hands for a fumble. Later in the half, he forced a pass to a blanketed Javon Walker in the end zone. Erik Coleman came up with what had to be the easiest interception of his career.

The Raiders didn't get their first first down of the game with 9:26 left in the third quarter. The fans erupted in what clearly was a mocking Bronx cheer. For most of the day they simply booed the home team.

By the end of the game, there were almost more seagulls circling the Coliseum than fans in the stands. Vultures would have been more fitting.

Now the Raiders face that familiar danger of having their season implode with eight games still to play.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Fargas said, “and we can’t let it fall off. We just have to keep fighting, keep working and doing whatever it takes to get a win.”

What exactly is that? And how do the Raiders keep this bad loss from snowballing?

“I don’t know,” Asomugha said. “Is that a fair answer? I don’t know. I just hope it doesn’t.”

1 comment:

  1. What a sorry excuse for a team the Raiders were today. They don't deserve any compassion with the way they played. They deserve to be a laughingstock.