Sunday, November 9, 2008

Raiders' offense unwatchable in loss to Carolina

Quick, get Safeway on the line. The Raider Nation is in serious need of brown paper bags. No need to poke eyeholes in these babies, the way Saints fans did when their team was known as the Aint’s. Just put them over your head and protect your eyes from the Raiders' unwatchable offense.

Only a handful of masochistic Raiders loyalists and countless seagulls showed up Sunday at the Coliseum to watch Oakland lose 17-6 to Carolina. In this case, a television blackout was beautiful.

Even on a day in which the Raiders’ defense intercepted four passes and Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme had a 7 of 27 passing nightmare, the Raiders scored just two second-half field goals.

That’s six more points than they scored in a 24-0 loss the previous week to Atlanta. And unlike that game, they didn’t post a first-down bagel in the first half. With backup quarterback Andrew Walter starting in place of sore-kneed JaMarcus Russell, the Raiders actually had eight first downs in the first half and 17 for the game. Consider that your Silver and Black lining.

So what went wrong on offense? To hear interim coach Tom Cable’s explanation, penalties killed the Raiders. They led to too many third-and-longs, he maintained.

So it’s official. Cable has taken up residence in fantasyland. The Raiders offense committed only five penalties, just one in the second half, on the last drive. Here’s what actually helped kill some of the Raiders drives:

A Julius Peppers sack on third-and-six at Carolina’s 44. A Richard Marshall interception on first-and-10 at the Carolina 16. A Peppers sack on first-and-10 at the Raiders 33. A fumbled exchange between Walter and running back Justin Fargas on first-and-10 from the Raiders 15. A shotgun snap that sailed over Walter’s head on first-and-10 at Carolina’s 43. A Chris Gamble interception on third-and-4 from the Carolina 45. A Peppers sack on third-and-7 at the Raiders 44.

Then there were a handful of your garden variety three-and-outs and a few drives that simply stalled. In reality, there were just two drives that were truly short-circuited with big penalties.

There’s more proof that Cable has lost touch with reality. Consider his answer when asked if he believes he can hold this team together.

“I do,” Cable said. “Obviously the proof is the effort we just put (forth) on the field, with all the changes and everything that were made, the things we went through this week.

“Shoot, if we play like that in the second half, we’ll win more games than we’ll lose, and I really believe that.”

Good one, coach. Miami, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, New England, Houston and Tampa Bay should get a good laugh when they hear that one.

You have to give the Raiders’ defense credit. After last week’s humiliating game against Atlanta, the Raiders’ ‘D’ played with passion and, for the most part, skill. The Raiders held Carolina to 14 points in the first half. The first score came after Johnnie Lee Higgins fumbled the opening kick at the Raiders’ 16. The second came on DeAngelo Williams’ 69-yard run.

“I’m proud of the effort, but we still have to win games,” Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “It was kind of like 2006 when we’d have a bunch of turnovers and still come away with the loss. The offense played a lot better than we did back then.”

That only tells you how bad the Raiders’ offense was in 2006 under coordinator Tom Walsh.

“They played hard,” running back Justin Fargas said of the defense. “They played lights out. As an offense, we’re disappointed we weren’t able to pay back the favor and put some points on the board.”

Cornerback Chris Johnson played well in his first start, replacing the jettisoned DeAngelo Hall. Safety Rashad Baker had two interceptions (but also missed a tackle on Williams’ long TD run), while Asomugha and Sam Williams had one apiece.

Yet for all those turnovers, the Raiders couldn’t get in the end zone.

“We’ve got to find the hunger, that when we get down close to the red zone we can smell the end zone and take shots at it,” said Fargas, who rushed for 89 yards on 22 carries.

Walter, seeing his first action of the season, completed 14 of 32 passes for 143 yards with two interceptions. He had a passer rating of 31.1.

What went wrong?

“Penalties. Penalties, for one,” Walter said, promoting the Cable-inspired fantasy. “We can’t catch a break, whether it’s a receiver catching feet with a defensive back for an interception and then penalties. I mean, we haven’t been able to catch a break.”

Yeah, I guess it’s a bad break when Peppers goes wild, racking up three sacks, making seven tackles and forcing two fumbles.

Delhomme apparently lost his groove during the bye week. He was off-target from the outset, over- and under-throwing receivers all over the field. The Raiders’ defense, of course, had something to do with Delhomme’s bad day.

The Raiders intercepted passes deep in Carolina territory on back-to-back drives to open the second half. First Baker, then Williams came up with picks.

The Raiders went three-and-out both times, gaining five yards each time before settling for field goals. Damn those penalties.

The Panthers kept begging to be beat, but the Raiders kept refusing. Early in the fourth quarter, the Raiders drove into Carolina territory. They had a promising drive going until Walter tried to hit wide receiver Javon Walker on a third-and-4 slant and Gamble cut in front to intercept.

How about that coaching change? Before Lane Kiffin was fired, the Raiders averaged 19.5 points per game. Since Cable took over, they’ve averaged 7.0.

That’s reality, not fantasy.

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