The New Orleans Saints marched out to Oakland, California to take on the Oakland Raiders. They were coming off an impressive 31-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons and the Raiders were coming off a humiliating 55-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Raiders won the toss and elected to receive.
With running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson still out, the running chores belonged to fullback Marcel Reece. Starting at their own 23, the Raiders went to work. Reece got the game off to a good start with a 17-yard run. An eight-yard run set up an easy second and two. On second down, running back Taiwan Jones went up the middle for a gain of three and a first down. No he didn’t. Wide receiver Derek Hagan was flagged for an illegal block on the play and that moved them back ten yards. Quarterback Carson Palmer looked for Hagan on second down and the pass fell incomplete. A six-yard pass to wide receiver Rod Streater meant the Raiders were forced to punt. The kick went through the end zone and the Saints would start at their 20.
Quarterback Drew Brees found wide receiver Marques Colston on first down for a gain of 14. On first down from the 37, running back Mark Ingram got a carry and appeared to be stopped. Yet he managed to make a second effort and ended up plowing over several Raiders for a gain of 16 yards. Two plays into the drive and the Saints were already at midfield. Running back Pierre Thomas also got in on the act and ran up the right side for 14 yards. On second and ten, Brees found running back Travaris Cadet for a gain of 19 and another first down at the Raider 17. Another run and a catch by Thomas made it first and goal at the eight. Two more runs made it third and goal from the one. On third down, tight end Jimmy Graham basically walked into the end zone, turned around and waited for Brees to find him. He was WIDE OPEN and there wasn’t a Raider in sight. Brees spotted him and tossed him the ball. Graham caught it for the easiest touchdown he’s ever had. Kicker Garrett Hartley made the point after and the Saints led 7-0 with eight minutes to go in the first quarter. How you can leave one of the best tight ends in the game wide open is beyond my comprehension.
Guess what the Raiders did next? They went three and out. By some miracle, the Saints did the same thing. The Raiders took over at their 48 and had a shot at tying the game up with good field position. That wasn’t meant to be. On second down from the 48, Palmer looked for tight end Brandon Myers and was picked off by safety Malcolm Jenkins. Not a single Raider could catch him and he returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. Hartley made the point after and the Saints led 14-0 with four minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Raiders got the ball at their 16 and Reece continued to impress with a nice 14-yard run. On third and eight from the 32, Palmer found Myers for a nine-yard gain and a first down at the 41. On third and seven from the 44, rookie wide receiver Juron Criner made a nice grab for 13 yards. Completions to Hagan and Reece gave them a first down at the Saint 12. On third and six from the eight, Myers caught a pass on the right side and ended up just short of the first down marker. Palmer took it up the middle on fourth and inches and that netted a first down at the one. Reece was stopped for a loss of one on first down and that put offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp into panic mode. Instead of trying another run play, he called a pass play and Streater was flagged for offensive pass interference. On second and goal from the 12, Reece caught a pass for a gain of five. Then, on third and goal, Palmer found Myers in the end zone. The ball hit him in the hands, bounced up and was picked off by safety Roman Harper. The Raiders went 87 yards on 16 plays and took nine minutes off the clock. Yet they ended up with zero points. Myers was sitting on the bench with a suicidal look on his face. He has caught just about every pass thrown to him this year and somehow this one escaped him. It’s nice to know that he’s one of the few players who still gives a damn.
Harper was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty after the interception and the Saints started at their ten. They got as far as the 31 and were forced to punt. Starting at their 19, with a little over six minutes to go in the first half, Palmer found Reece on the left side for a gain of 56 yards. Palmer then looked for wide receiver Denarius Moore in the end zone, but the pass was incomplete. However, the Saints were flagged for pass interference and that gave the Raiders a first and goal at the one. Think they’ll run it this time? I mean it’s only one yard. Reece should be able to get that with no problem. On first and goal, Palmer took the snap and dropped back to throw. He stood in the pocket, ran to his right and threaded ball between two defenders to Myers for a touchdown. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made the point after and the Saints now led 14-7 with four minutes to go in the first half.
The Saints were flagged on the kick return and started from their ten. A run by Ingram, a pass to Colston and another run by Thomas moved the ball to the 43. On third and four from the 49, Brees found Colston up the right side for a gain of 16 and a first down at the Raider 35. From the 35, Graham caught a pass across the middle for a gain of seven. The ball was knocked out by cornerback Joselio Hanson and despite the fact that there were several Raiders in the area, Thomas pounced on it to keep the drive going. That was a golden opportunity lost by the Raiders. An intentional grounding penalty on Brees moved them back ten yards. On third and 13 from the 38, the Raiders brought the blitz. That left wide receiver Lance Moore matched up with cornerback Michael Huff. Moore put a double move on Huff and got by him. I think Huff thought that backup safety Mike Mitchell would be there to bail him out. Ha! Are you kidding? Mitchell was nowhere near Moore and way out of position. Brees launched the ball right down the middle and Moore caught it for an easy 38-yard touchdown. This caused me to shout several things I can’t repeat at my television. One of the most elementary rules of football is that you never EVER let a receiver get behind the secondary. Where was Mitchell when that point was being stressed by his coaches? I just wonder how in the world he could be a second round pick. He’s capable of being a big hitter, but he has absolutely no awareness or instincts. It just shows the lack of talent on the roster at the present time. Hartley made the point after and the Saints now led 21-7 with under a minute to go in the half. The disinterested Raiders didn’t even try to move the ball and the half came to an end.
Now it was time for the second half. Aren’t you excited? I’m not. The third quarter is usually when terrible things happen to the Raiders. This game was no exception. Cadet took the kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and ran it back to the Raider 27. On first down, Ingram ran up the left side for a 27-yard touchdown. Two plays, 100 yards, no problem. Hartley made the point after and with 14:43 to go in the third quarter, the Saints had a commanding 28-7 lead.
The Raiders managed to get a 40-yard field goal on their next drive to make it 28-10. The teams traded punts and with six minutes to go in the third quarter, the Saints got the ball back at their 42. They decided to give their ground game a try and runs by Ingram, Thomas and Chris Ivory got them marching into Raider territory. On second and ten from the 15, Moore caught his second touchdown pass of the day to increase the lead to 34-10. Hartley made the point after and it was now 35-10 with three and a half minutes to go in the third quarter.
The deflated Raiders took the field again at their 20. Some more good running by Reece and a completion to Moore had the Raiders in Saint territory again. On third and eight from the 47, Criner caught a pass for a gain of seven. That made it fourth and one at the 40. Reece was stopped for no gain and the Saints took over. They added a field goal and later in the game, Palmer found Criner for a three-yard touchdown to make it 38-17. That’s how it would end. The win improved the Saints to five and five and the Raiders fell to three and seven. In this awful three-game losing streak, the Raiders have been outscored 135-69. That sounds more like a lopsided basketball game.
For the Saints, Drew Brees completed 20 of 27 for 219 yards and three touchdowns. He was not picked off and the Raider defense didn’t register a sack. Brees spread the ball around to eight different receivers and Marques Colston led them with four catches for 69 yards. Three different running backs carried the ball for the Saints and Mark Ingram led the team with 67 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. All totaled, the Saints racked up 153 yards on 28 carries. Defensively, Roman Harper led the Saints with nine solo tackles, one tackle for a loss and an interception.
For the Raiders, Carson Palmer completed 22 of 40 for 312 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Marcel Reece and Darrius Heyward-Bey led the team with four receptions apiece. Reece had the most receiving yards with 90. He also had a good day on the ground with 103 yards on 19 carries. All totaled, the Raiders finished the game with 120 yards rushing on 26 carries. Mike Mitchell led the team with seven solo tackles.
One of the few bright spots besides how well Reece played was that the Raiders were only flagged four times for 40 yards. The Saints were flagged 11 times for 109 yards. Other than that, this game was a disaster. Oh, the Raiders had their chances. IF Myers had caught that pass in the end zone, the game may have been different. IF a Raider would have recovered that fumble by Graham, the game may have been different. But the things that MIGHT have happened DIDN’T happen. Simply put, the Raider defense found themselves out of position throughout the game, applied little pressure to the quarterback and couldn’t stop the run. This has been a recurring theme throughout the year and I don’t think we’ll see any improvement.
As I look at the schedule for the remaining games, the Raiders play at Cincinnati next week. Then they have three consecutive home games against Cleveland, Denver and Kansas City. They finish the year on the road at Carolina and San Diego. Theoretically, who can they beat? Cleveland? Kansas City? Who knows? The more they lose, the more uninterested they look. It’s possible they could end the year with a 3-13 record. That would likely mean picking in the top five. That will be a nice start to fill all the needs this team has. But, I cannot predict the future. I can only watch and hope that they can put together a few wins to salvage this disastrous season. Anyway, I hope everyone out there has a good Thanksgiving! Take it easy.
The Raider Guy