Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chiefs Gameday Thread

Okay, anyone who saw the 80-yard pass by Caleb Hanie late in the Bears game knew what was going to happen when the Lions were pinned back at their own goal line last Sunday with less than two minutes to go. I knew it, and you knew it, because we've seen it so many times before with this team, across many years and regimes. Even in games they eventually win, the Raiders have made a mystifying art out of the late-game defensive breakdown, with cornerbacks flailing away and safeties in a trance, and even linebackers doing downfield sprints.

Which brings me to the penalty problem, which also seems to be part of the organizational DNA of the Raiders. Blame the zebras? Okay, let's say that 10 percent of the calls are part of the conspiracy margin. So now, instead of committing 10 fouls per game in 2011, let's say we're actually committing nine. Even then we're still the worst in the NFL in that department. Shameful.

The Raiders need to get their act together, starting today. Thank you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lions Gameday Thread

Today we will see if the Raiders' "rejuvenated effort" in practice pays off and keeps us in the playoff hunt. This is the organization's biggest game in nine seasons. Good tidings await. GO RAIDERS!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Question of Commitment

The discussion here at Raider Take has taken a turn toward the bitter, which is only natural as the Raiders have suddenly lost momentum and fallen behind the improbable Denver Broncos in the race to the playoffs.

Some of the common sentiments among the regulars here are: (1) quit talking about Tim Tebow; (2) Rolando McClain and our defense are stinking up the joint; and (3) for some reason our team is "running out of gas" and unable to overcome injuries and other assorted excuses.

Well, I'm am going to violate rule #1 above to make a point about #2 and #3.

This is from a story on Yahoo Sports: "While other players went out at night, Tebow loaded films of various offenses in his computer and studied and studied and studied until they were locked in his memory."

Now, compare this 2010 first-round pick to our 2010 first-round pick, Mr. McCLain, who was recently seen halfway across the country at the scene of a shooting. Who knows, maybe McLain is just as dedicated to his craft as Tebow, but if so, it's not showing on the field, nor in his off-the-field exploits.

I know you're all sick of Tim Tebow, but if we're wondering why our team is "running out of gas" and looking a bit lost while the Broncos have mounted an improbable surge, then I think it's an apples to apples comparison.

Both are 2010 first round draft picks. Both are supposed to be leaders of their units. Both play for teams competing for the AFC West crown. The main difference is that McClain was expected to succeed, while Tebow was not.

I don't profess to knowing exactly what is going on in the locker rooms of these respective teams, or what players are doing with each hour of their off time.

But if we're looking for clues as to why one team looks inspired while the other looks tired, then these two young leaders and first-round draft picks are probably a good place to start.

Look, the clock is bound to strike midnight on Tim Tebow at some point, and McClain and the Raiders still have time to redeem themselves. I get that. It's not over until it's over.

But it's still fair to ask why this team's progress is so painfully incremental from one year to the next, and why the team is actually regressing in points scored and points allowed. We can rule out talent. So is it injuries? Coaching? Playcalling? Perhaps.

But there's another potential factor that is hard to pin down, but that also seems increasingly likely: Dedication. Dedication to the art of winning, and doing all that it takes to master that art.

On talent alone, and injuries aside, there is no way the Raiders should be a game behind the Broncos with three to go.

Maybe this team needs something else besides improved health and better playcalling and smarter coaching.

Maybe it just needs to grow up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

One Postgame Take

The Raiders have now lost four out of their last seven. In those four losses, they have given up 146 points, or an average of 36.5 points. Not once this season have the Raiders held an opponent to less than 23 points.

Forget stats, look at the scores of our games and tell me you can go far in the NFL when handing out points like Christmas candy.

You can look at this game by itself, of course. You can say it's the Packers, and that's what the Packers do, they score a ton of points.

Then again, you could say it's the Raiders, and that's what the Raiders do, they give a ton up.

This is not trending well. We need to win three out of the final three games to give ourselves a slim chance of making the playoffs. The Broncos have a one-game lead with three left, and they own the tiebreaker.

Winning two out of three probably means that we sit home for the ninth straight year, and that we improve upon last year's record by a measly one victory. If that happens, it will be nice to have finally ascended the apparent Mt. Olympus of a winning record. But the progress of the Raiders has become so drawn out, and so incremental, as to be painful. The supposed Team of The Decades is on the verge of taking an entire decade (or more) to reach the playoffs again.

Here was a must-win game, and the Raiders weren't even competitive for the second week in a row. Go ahead and tell me I'm not being optimistic enough. Tell me it will all be okay.

But when the Raiders get outscored 80 to 30 in successive weeks with the playoffs on the line, this is what you get: the return of the Clown Car.

The playoffs, once so promising, remain possible. But the Clown Car needs to be shut down immediately, and the Raiders need to return to playing tough, competitive football now. The margin of error no longer exists.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Packers Gameday Thread

Conventional wisdom says that we're walking into a buzzsaw today. But maybe it's the Packers who will hit a brick wall?

I wouldn't bet my house on an Oakland victory, but I'm not going to say it's impossible.

The Raiders have looked alternately tough and soft this year, and if this is one of their tougher days, the could prove to be a worthy foe.

Ultimately, we'll see what the Raiders are made of today. GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

One Postgame Take

Back, by unpopular demand: The Clown Car. I thought about firing it up after the Chiefs game, was really tempted to do it after the Broncos game, and now there's no stopping it.

I actually didn't see the game, and judging by the comments here, I picked a great time to miss my first Raiders game of the season. I was on the road, tuning in when I could via radio, and each time I dialed the game up, the worse it got.

Because I didn't see it, I don't really have a detailed take, so I will defer to those of you who actually saw it (starting with the understandably exasperated commentary on the game seen in the earlier take).

After the Bears game, I said that it looked like Michael Bush's legs might be tired. Now I'm reading this courtesy of Steve Corkran: "Raiders coach Hue Jackson said earlier this week that he didn’t see any signs of running back Michael Bush wearing down as a result of 84 carries the past three games.On Sunday, Bush looked nothing like the player who amassed 530 yards rushing in place of injured starter Darren McFadden the five games before Sunday. The Dolphins held Bush to 18 yards on 10 carries, with a long of 3 yards."

And what's up with Richard Seymour? This is the second season in a row that he's been ejected from a game, and earlier this year he completely lost his composure against the Patriots. For a young team that's trying to turn the corner on a culture of undisciplined behavior, it's unhelpful when the star veteran on defense is prone to going bonkers.

Meanwhile, it's time to put the Tebow jokes to rest. Not only does Tebow have "scoreboard" on the Raiders this year, he has helped lead the Broncos to an improbable tie for the divisional lead. At this point, the Broncos are nothing less than a viable threat to thwart our playoff aspirations.

The Clown Car is sputtering down the road tonight. Let's just hope the wheels don't fall off.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Five Postgame Takes

1. So there I was, hanging out on the Coliseum asphalt, cooking meat as the throng grew and the house got packed. The energy was palpable, an energy restored by sustained competence, and now competitiveness, after years of tending to an organizational dumpster fire. What a magnificent scene. There's nothing like the Raider Nation when you add a little hope. That's all it takes. Winning helps, but hope is essential. And hope is back with a vengeance. RAIIIDERRRS! RAIIIDERRRS!

2. It was a strange game, with the red zone struggles and the six field goals. I had to keep reminding myself that the Bears have a good defense, even though we were marching down the field on them. There are worse things than hanging up 25 points on the Bears, even if you have trouble punching it in. Finding a way to win is what it's all about, and that's what the Raiders did.

3. This was my first time watching Carson Palmer in person. He's almost zen-like at the line. Even when he's calling audibles, he exudes calmness and command. No hysterics like Peyton Manning, no wild arm flapping and related theater. The word that comes to mind is POISE. He seems to comprehend each situation with a "been there done that" confidence. His energy isn't red or orange, it's blue. It's a cool energy, but not cold or lethargic like Kerry Collins or JaMarcus Russell. At least that's how it strikes me.

4. Michael Bush had a solid day, but looked like he lacked explosiveness off the line. Was it a consequence of so many carries in the previous weeks? Hard to say. But he was still pretty effective, and his score proved to be crucial.

5. Of course, we had to make it interesting. Who allows Caleb Hanie to chuck an 81-yard bomb on 3rd and 16 from his own 10-yard-line when two more stops ices the game? You know who. Our "Always Interesting" Oakland Raiders.

P.S. Come on, Rolando McClain. We don't know the whole story yet, but we do know that he put himself in a stupid situation. You have to be better than that. That's why you make the big bucks.