Sunday, September 25, 2011

Five Postgame Takes.

1. The last time Mark Sanchez came to Oakland, he ate a hot dog. Today, the Raiders served him a knuckle sandwich.

2. Denarius Moore is remarkable. That scoring run (and jump) exhibited immense and innate talent. His football IQ far exceeds his experience. You can't teach that. Fifth round? Wow. Bravo, Raiders.

3. Darren McFadden is outrageous. Tough yet graceful, powerful yet nuanced, and best of all, reliable.

4. Jason Campbell increasingly looks the part. He's getting it done, he's in command of the situation, and he just looks more comfortable so far this year.

5. Damn, at times, the defense just looked nasty. It looked like the "bully" that Jackson is aiming to cultivate. Yet it remains prone to the big play, and to going soft while protecting (ie: losing) a lead. But I'll tell you what. Every Raiders team has looked like it cares while coming out of the tunnel before gametime. But this year's edition looks like it really cares, right down to the last snap. There's some mojo cooking in Oakland, and it could come to a boil next Sunday against the Patriots.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hold The Mustard - Jets Pregame Take

The last time the Jets visited Oakland, Mark Sanchez wolfed a hot dog on the sideline...during the game. How he actually worked up an appetite while breezing to a 38-0 victory is beyond me.

So here we are, with the Jets set to land in Oakland once again, and we are now faced with our second must-win game of this young season.

Now, it's possible that the Raiders could beat the Patriots next week. But let's just say that I wouldn't bet the house on it.

In other words, if the Raiders don't beat the Jets, they'll be staring down the very real possibility of a 1-3 record for the first quarter of the season. No bueno.

The only way this is going to work is if the defense erases all memory of last week's debacle in Buffalo. It's doubtful that Campbell and Co. are going to go hog wild against New York like they did last week.

No, this is one for the trenches. No flashbacks of Sanchez hot-dogging it or LT flying overhead for another touchdown in a new uniform. This is the game where the Raiders defense gets to save the season.

Is that an overstatement? Perhaps. But a 1-2 start with two really tough games right afterward is not exactly the yellow brick road to the playoffs. So let's go, Raiders Defense, step it up and serve those loudmouth Jets fans a little crow instead of another hot dog.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Three Postgame Takes

1. Introducing your 2011 Oakland Raiders...That is, your same old Raiders.

2. Then again, the same old Raiders haven't been this electric on offense in ages. How about Denarius Moore? He's exactly as advertised. In fact, he's so good, DHB's starting scholarship might be at risk.

3. Don't kid yourself. Looking at the score, you might be inclined to view this as a hard-fought shootout. But the truth is, it was an epic meltdown in the classic Raiders fashion of going soft on defense and generally screwing around in a way that painfully evokes memories of Stuart Schweigert, and then finding that surefire way to let the other team score the inevitable winning touchdown in the waning minutes. Allowing two fourth-down conversions on the final drive? You can't make this stuff up.

P.S. Here come the Jets, Patriots and Texans in rapid succession. Hold onto your hats, it's going to be a wild ride.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Five Postgame Takes

1. What's that sound? A monkey jumping off our back. Opening game victory. Monday night victory. Prime time victory. Hue Jackson victory. RAIII-DERRS!

2. That said, they sure made it unnecessarily uncomfortable. A three point margin? Phew. It was a strange game. I felt like the Raiders dominated, but in the end, it wasn't a very dominant outcome. It seemed, in many ways, like a typical Raiders game of recent years, with the incessant stupid penalties, questionable composure, anemic passing game, and ill-timed defensive and special teams breakdowns...And yet it was also a different brand of football than we've become accustomed to, with a more aggressive and complex defensive approach, confident offensive playcalling at the right times, hard-nosed hitting on both sides of the ball, and, overall, just a better vibe. I think that the running game is setting the tone for this team, and everything else is trying to follow. Of course, there were games like this last year as well, tentative victories full of promise. It's time to deliver on that promise with consistent winning football. The weeks ahead will be very revealing.

3. Chicken or the egg? Campbell or our receivers?

4. Does Denver have the most annoying-looking fans or what?

5. I see a team that is caught in a cultural struggle between the recent past and a promising future. Tonight, they won that struggle. The nitpicker in me says it never should have been this close. But this is no time to nitpick. I called this a must-win game. They won. 'Nuff said. Great start to the season.

P.S. Jano's record-tying 63 yarder was the difference. Bravo!

Must Win, Baby

Is there such a thing as a "must win" game in the first week of the season? We're about to find out.

The Chargers are poised for a strong playoff run, and while it was hilarious to watch them get burned on special teams right out of the gates yesterday, they won the game.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are preparing to play what should be one of our weaker opponents, a division rival, on a stage (Monday night) that has turned into a mean little clown show for our beloved franchise in recent years.

In other words, we need to make a statement and notch a division victory and get a monkey off of our back and keep pace with the Chargers. All in week one.

A must win.

A side note...A few weeks ago, as I was watching the Raiders get pounded by the Saints in the preseason, I found myself oddly contented. Why? Because the Raiders were competent, and occasionally brilliant, on offense.

After years of incompetence on offense, including some of the worst football I've ever seen, it's so refreshing to be...well, competent.

But the slogan is Commitment to Excellence, not Commitment to Competence. I can't be content with competence. The Raiders are nothing more than a middling NFL team (8-8) until they prove they aren't.

Being a middling team sure beats being a laughingstock, but we can't let that become a place of contentment. We can't be so relieved at not being awful that we adjust our expectations. The bar needs to be raised, now lowered. The Raiders have spent eight long years being mostly awful. A return to excellence is long overdue. No excuses.

Must win, baby.