Up next for the Oakland Raiders was a trip to Atlanta, Georgia to take on the Atlanta Falcons. The Raiders were coming off a bye week and the Falcons were coming off a tough 24-17 win over the Washington Redskins. Personally, I thought this was going to be a total slaughter. The Raider defense was playing terribly and their running game was ranked last in the league. The Falcons won the toss and elected to receive. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicked the ball out of the end zone for a touch-back.
Starting at his 20, Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan took to the air on first down. He completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Julio Jones and two carries by running back Michael Turner gave them a first down at the Raider 43. Then, something happened that amazed me. For the first time in the 2012 season, the Raiders picked off a pass. Cornerback Joselio Hanson stepped in front of a pass intended for wide receiver Harry Douglas at the Raider 38 and returned it to the Falcon 41. I guess it had to happen sometime. I mean, no team has gone an entire season without an interception, have they?
But, as fate would have it, the Raiders did nothing with the ball as running back Darren McFadden fumbled and it was recovered by Falcon cornerback Robert McClain. He was brought down at the Raider 32. That set up the Falcons with good field position. But the Raider defense didn’t allow them to get a first down and kicker Matt Bryant came in to try a 43-yard field goal. The kick was wide left and that kept the game scoreless with ten minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Raiders took over at their 33 and moved the ball into Falcon territory. But, the drive would stall at the 40. Instead of trying a long field goal, Punter Shane Lechler punted the ball away and the coverage team couldn’t seem to get a handle on the ball as it went into the end zone for a touch-back. On first down from the 20, Ryan completed a deep pass to wide receiver Roddy White for a gain of 26. A roughing the passer penalty on defensive end Matt Shaughnessy added 15 yards to the play and just like that, the Falcons were at the Raider 39. Ryan dropped back to pass again on first down. This time he was looking for the end zone. Instead, his pass was picked off by cornerback Michael Huff. That makes TWO interceptions for the Raiders. Impressive! Huff was touched down at the two-yard line.
Starting with horrible field position, Raider quarterback Carson Palmer went deep on first down and found wide receiver Denarius Moore for a gain of 49 yards. A couple of runs by McFadden set up a third and four at the Falcon 43. Head coach Dennis Allen tried some trickery on this play and called for a reverse to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. It was good for a gain of 20 and a first down at the 23. An offensive pass interference penalty on tight end Brandon Myers moved them back ten yards and they would go no further. Janikowski made his 52-yard field goal attempt and with little time remaining in the first quarter, the Raiders led 3-0.
The Falcons got the ball at their 20 and brought out the no huddle offense. Two carries by Turner and a ten-yard pass to Jones gave them a first down at the Raider 47. Ryan spread the ball around to three different receivers on four plays to set up a first and goal at the two. On second down, he found White for a touchdown. Bryant made the point after and the Falcons took the lead 7-3 with just under ten minutes to go in the first half.
Starting at the 20 again, the Raiders went to the ground game on first down. McFadden ran up the left side for a gain of 14. Then Palmer found tight end David Ausberry for a gain of 12 and wide receiver Rod Streater for a gain of seven. On second and three from the Falcon 46, McFadden ran up the right side for a gain of 21 yards. But that play was called back due to holding on right tackle Willie Smith. On second and 13 from the Raider 44, a perfectly set up screen pass to running back Mike Goodson went for a 37-yard gain down to the Falcon 19. Guard Mike Brisiel was injured on the play and would not return. He was replaced by Alex Parsons. An 11-yard pass to Moore gave the Raiders a first and goal at the eight. McFadden ran up the right side for a gain of seven to put the ball at the one. Instead of trying some power running, Palmer looked for Myers on second down and the pass was incomplete. That made it third down from the one. McFadden ran up the left side and was thrown for a loss of three. Janikowski came on and made his 22-yard field goal attempt. The Falcons now led 7-6 with just over four minutes to go in the half.
The Falcons took over at their 20 and Ryan was sacked by Shaughnessy for a loss of eight on first down. On third and 13 from the 17, a pass intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez fell incomplete. However, a defensive holding penalty was called on Raider linebacker Philip Wheeler. That gave the Falcons a first down at the 22. The Raiders brought the pressure on the next play and Ryan rushed his throw. It was picked off by safety Tyvon Branch. That makes three interceptions by the Raiders! Holy Cow! He returned it to the 28 and gave the Raiders a chance to take the lead. On second and seven from the 25, Palmer rolled out to his right and found Moore open on the right side. Moore weaved his way through the Falcon defenders for a 25-yard touchdown. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders now led 13-7 with little time remaining in the first half. The Falcons could do nothing on their next possession and the first half came to an end.
The first seven minutes of the second half saw the Raiders punt the ball away twice and the Falcons punted once. With 8:35 to go in the third quarter, the Falcons took over at their 30. Ryan once again brought out the no huddle offense. On third and three from the 37, Ryan put up a severely under-thrown pass. The ball bounced off the helmet of Joselio Hanson and landed in the arms of Harry Douglas for a first down. By the way, Douglas was laying on the ground and the ball fell directly into his arms. I sat there and watched that play with an incredulous look on my face. I still can’t believe he caught that pass. That “completion” was good for 20 yards and moved the ball to the Raider 43. They got as far as the 23 and were forced to try a field goal. The kick was good and the Falcons now trailed 13-10 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.
The next “drive” was a very short one for the Raiders. On first down from the Raider 39, Palmer was hit from behind by defensive end John Abraham. The ball was picked up by defensive end Ray Edwards and he headed for the end zone. He was pushed out of bounds at the two by a hustling Darren McFadden. On first down, a pass intended for Jones fell incomplete. Turner was stuffed on second down and running back Jason Snelling was thrown for a loss on third down. Once again, I sat there with an incredulous look on my face. Who were those guys in the white uniforms making a goal line stand? Was that really the Oakland Raider defense? Wow! That was VERY impressive, gentlemen. The Falcons settled for a 20-yard field goal to tie the game at 13 with two and a half minutes to go in the third quarter.
On third and three from the Raider 27, McFadden made a nice catch and run for a gain of 20 yards to put the ball near midfield. Goodson ran up the right side for 14 more, but our old friend Willie Smith was called for holding again. That was definitely the correct call. Smith, if you’re going to hold, don’t make it so freaking obvious! Two plays later, he was called for holding again. The drive would stall and they were forced to punt. The ball was fair caught at the Falcon ten-yard line.
With 8:40 to go in the game, Ryan scrambled up the left side for a gain of 15. Turner went up the left side for eight more. On second and two, Ryan found Douglas for a gain of one. That set up a third and one from the Falcon 45. Ryan looked for Gonzalez, but the ball was knocked away by Huff. The Falcons punted and the Raiders took over at their ten with 6:19 to go. On second and nine from the 11, Goodson ran off right tackle for a gain of 43 yards. What was really amazing about that play was that Smith didn’t get called for holding. Palmer completed a 14-yard pass to Myers for another first down at the 32. With a little over three minutes to go, running the ball would definitely be a good idea to take some time off the clock. But, on third and six from the 28, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp called a passing play. Palmer looked to his right for Moore and Falcon cornerback Asante Samuel jumped the route and returned the ball 79 yards for a touchdown. Bryant made the point after and the Falcons now led 20-13 with 2:40 to go in the game.
But, the Raiders didn’t look deflated by that play. They had three timeouts and the two minute warning to help them conserve time. On first down from the 20, Palmer found wide receiver Derek Hagan for a gain of 17. Myers caught a pass for ten more. Palmer then found Moore for 17 more yards. That play was called back because left tackle Jared Veldheer was flagged for holding. Another completion to Hagan and one to Myers had the Raiders at their 46 with precious seconds ticking away. Another pass to Myers netted 11 more yards and moved the ball into Falcon territory. Palmer looked for Hagan again. This time he went for 38 yards up the right side and was pushed out of bounds at the five-yard line. Two carries by McFadden got the Raiders into the end zone. Janikowski made the point after and the game was tied 20-20 with 40 seconds to go.
What prevents you from winning games? If you ask Mike Ditka, he’ll say “The prevent defense prevents you from winning games.” Well said, Mr. Ditka. New defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said he was going to bring an attacking and aggressive defense with lots of different looks and lots of blitzing. He’s a liar. I did not see anything like that on the final drive when it was imperative to stop the Falcons from scoring. The Raiders rushed three and dropped eight into coverage. Although they registered only one sack, they managed to rough Ryan up pretty well in this game. Until the final drive.
Starting in the shotgun formation at his own 20, Ryan quickly went to work. He found running back Jacquizz Rodgers for a gain of seven. Another pass to Rodgers moved the ball to the 36. A short completion to Douglas set up a third and six at the 40. With all day to throw against a non-aggressive defense, Ryan found Gonzalez for ten yards and a first down at the 50. He then found Gonzalez once again for a gain of 13 and that put the Falcons in field goal range at the Raider 37. Matt Bryant had no trouble making the game winning 55-yard field goal and the Falcons won the game by a score of 23-20. Like I said in the beginning of this article, I thought the Falcons were going to slaughter the Raiders. This was no slaughter. It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Raiders. The Falcons improved their record to 6-0 and the Raiders fell to 1-4.
For the Raiders, Carson Palmer completed 23 of 33 for 353 yards, one touchdown, one lost fumble and one very costly interception. Denarius Moore led all receivers with five catches for 104 yards and one touchdown. Darren McFadden rushed for 70 tough yards on 27 carries, one touchdown and one lost fumble. He did have several big gains, but they were brought back by holding penalties (Thanks, Willie Smith) Mike Goodson added 59 yards on four carries and 37 yards receiving. As a team, the Raiders rushed for 149 yards on 32 carries. Defensively, Philip Wheeler led the team with eight solo tackles. Matt Shaughnessy led the team in the tackles for loss category with three and a sack. Joselio Hanson, Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch each had an interception.
For the Falcons, Matt Ryan completed 24 of 37 for 249 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Roddy White led the team with six catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Michael Turner led the team in rushing with 33 yards on 11 carries. As a team, the Falcons only managed 45 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, corner back Dunta Robinson led the team with eight solo tackles. John Abraham led the team in the sack category with three and a forced fumble.
Overall, I was impressed with how the Raiders looked coming off their bye week. The defense looked improved and they finally got some interceptions. However, there were WAY too many penalties in this game (12 for 110 yards) That has got to stop. Up next for the Raiders is a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are coming off a bye week and they’ll be looking for a win. Running back Maurice Jones Drew can be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy