Week six had the Arizona Cardinals visiting Oakland to take on the Raiders. The Cardinals were coming off a 30-20 win over the Washington Redskins and the Raiders were coming off a 31-28 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. They started at their 20, gained four yards on three plays and punted the ball away. As a matter of fact, neither team could do much on offense until the nine minute mark of the first quarter.
The Cardinals started their drive at their 12-yard line and two carries by running back Andre Ellington netted seven yards. That set up a third and three from the 19. This has been the problem for the Raiders all year and sure enough, quarterback Carson Palmer found wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wide open at the 26 for a first down. That was followed by a 37-yard catch and run by Ellington. Running back Stepfan Taylor got a carry and took it up the right side for 13 yards. Ellington got three yards on first down and a pass on second down fell incomplete. That meant it was third and seven and the Raiders had a chance to hold the Cardinals to a field goal attempt. Ha! You’re kidding, right? Palmer had all kinds of time to find a receiver and he hooked up with Jaron Brown for a gain of nine yards. That was followed by a penalty on the Raiders for having 12 men on the field. The ball was moved to the three-yard line. On third and goal, Palmer tossed a short pass to Taylor on the right side. He was hit by safety Charles Woodson, but regained his footing and landed in the end zone. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro made the point after and the Cardinals led 7-0 with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.
The Raiders started at their 20 and got a few first downs before having to punt again. Punter Marquette King hit a high punt that was fair caught by return man Ted Ginn at the 14-yard line. Some more good running by Ellington and a 19-yard pass to wide receiver John Brown had the Cardinals moving in the right direction. But on third and 10 from the 42, the Raiders brought the blitz (IT’S A MIRACLE!) and safety Usama Young sacked Palmer for a loss of 11 yards. Punter Drew Butler got off a 54-yard punt that was fielded at the 15 by rookie return man TJ Carrie. He took it up the right side and was dragged down deep in Arizona territory. Wait a minute. There’s a flag on the play. Wide receiver Brice Butler was flagged for an illegal block above the waist. That moved the Raiders back to their 15 and they quickly went three and out as quarterback Derek Carr was sacked for a loss of nine yards by linebacker Larry Foote. King punted and the ball was fair caught by Ginn at the 50. It took three plays for the Cardinals to find the end zone again. On third and eight, Palmer went deep up the left side for wide receiver Michael Floyd. The coverage was good, but the throw was better and Floyd hauled it in for a 33-yard touchdown. Catanzaro made the point after and the Cardinals were up 14-0 with 5:37 to go in the first half.
The Raiders got the ball back at their 21 and on third and seven, Carr found tight end Mychal Rivera across the middle for a gain of 18. Two plays later, Carr rolled out to the left and put up a deep ball that was hauled in by Butler for a gain of 55 yards. On third and goal from the one, running back Darren McFadden took it into the end zone for a Raider touchdown. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made the point after and the Cardinals now led 14-7 with 1:56 to go in the first half. The Cardinals started at their 20 and on second and six from the 24, Palmer threw a high pass that was tipped by tight end John Carlson into the hands of Woodson. Woodson returned the ball to the 13 and the Raiders had a chance to tie up the game before halftime. That didn’t happen. Three plays netted two yards and Janikowski was called on for a 29-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and the half ended with the Cardinals leading 14-10.
The Cardinals moved from their 20 to their 46 with relative ease. But on third and three from the 46, Palmer’s pass to Ellington fell incomplete and they were forced to punt. The punt went out of bounds at the Oakland 16 and from there, McFadden got loose up the right side for a gain of 15 yards. Back to back 13-yard passes to wide receivers James Jones and Denarius Moore moved the Raiders to the Arizona 43-yard line. But the drive stalled at the 35. Janikowski came on for a 53-yard attempt and he promptly blasted the ball through the uprights. That made it 14-13 with 7:17 to go in the third quarter.
If the Raiders could get a stop here, they could get the ball back and possibly take the lead. Well, it was a nice thought, wasn’t it? The Cardinals started at their 20 and two runs by Ellington netted a first down at the 32. That was followed by a pass interference penalty on linebacker Miles Burris. That put the Cardinals into Oakland territory. Palmer found Ellington on the left side for a gain of 16 and a first down at the 32. Then it was time for the Andre Ellington show. Four straight carries by Ellington moved the Cardinals down to the four. They were good runs, but when the defense you’re playing against doesn’t know how to tackle, those yards come pretty easily. As the Cardinals lined up at the four, I turned to my wife and said “Watch. They’re going to run it up the left side for another touchdown.” Sure enough, Taylor ran up the left side and was met with very little resistance on his way to the end zone.” Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right. Catanzaro made the point after and the Cardinals went up 21-13. That’s only an eight-point lead, but for the Raiders it seemed insurmountable.
For the remainder of the game, the Raiders couldn’t get out of their own way. There were no deep passes thrown as they kept trying to pound McFadden up the middle against a stout defense. The most damaging play came mid-way through the fourth quarter. The score was still 21-13 and the Cardinals were at their 41 facing a third and eight. Earlier in the game, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver called for a blitz on third down and it resulted in a sack. Well, that wasn’t the case this time. It was only a three man rush and they dropped eight into “coverage.” If that’s what they call coverage, they are out of their minds. First, Palmer had all day to find a receiver as the “pass rush” was nowhere near him. He calmly stood in the pocket and threw a perfect strike down the middle to John Brown for a gain of 22 yards. Brown was hit hard by safety Brandian Ross, but he held on to the ball. That was the back breaker for the Raiders. After that, Ellington and Brown took over and their running game killed the clock. Catanzaro was brought into the game to seal the deal with a 41-yard attempt. The kick was good and that was the nail in the coffin. The Cardinals won 24-13. The win improved them to 5-1 and the Raiders dropped to 0-6. They stand alone as the only winless team in the league and they haven’t been 0-6 since 1962. They’re setting all kinds of astounding records this year, aren’t they?
For the Cardinals, Carson Palmer completed 22 of 31 for 253 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Andre Ellington had himself a great day as he led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 72. He was also the leading rusher with 88 yards on 24 carries. All totaled, the Cardinals rushed for 123 yards on 37 carries and held on to the ball for nearly 37 minutes. Defensively, linebacker Larry Foote and strong safety Tony Jefferson tied for the lead in solo tackles with four apiece. Foote also had a sack.
For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 16 of 28 for 173 yards. James Jones led the team in receptions with four and Brice Butler had the most receiving yards with 55. Once again, the ground game was stuck in first gear as they only had 56 yards on 19 carries. Darren McFadden was the leading rusher with 48 yards on 14 carries. Defensively, rookie linebacker Khalil Mack led the team in solo tackles with ten.
When this year began, I didn’t have high hopes for the Raiders. They have a very difficult schedule and I thought maybe they could go 6-10. I thought that was a realistic prediction. Theoretically, they still can go 6-10, but I doubt that will happen. Up next is a trip to Cleveland. The Browns had a rough time at Jacksonville last week and they’ll be looking to take their frustrations out on the Raiders. The game starts at 4:25 eastern time so if the Raiders lose again, they won’t have the excuse of not being able to win in the eastern time zone. It’s also supposed to be sunny and in the mid 50s. So they can’t say it was too cold either. But I’m sure they’ll think of something. Until then, take it easy.
The Frustrated Raider Guy