The final game on the schedule for the Oakland Raiders was a trip to San Diego, California to take on the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders were coming off a 17-6 loss to the Carolina Panthers and the Chargers were coming off a 27-17 win over the New York Jets. An hour before the game began, a huge thunderstorm complete with hard rain and hail came by and soaked the field. The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half. That was their first mistake. Return man Michael Spurlock fielded the ball at the one-yard line and ran 99 yards untouched for a touchdown. Kicker Nick Novak made the point after and just like that, the Chargers led 7-0 with 14:48 to go in the first quarter.
The Raiders took over at their 14 and onto the field trotted quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor was taken in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft and was the last player ever drafted by Al Davis. Running back Darren McFadden started the game with two carries and netted nine yards. That set up a third and one from the 23. Instead of giving the ball to McFadden again, Pryor lined up in the shotgun with McFadden to his left. He took the snap, faked it to McFadden and ran up the right side. The Charger defense was waiting for him and he was thrown for a loss of one yard. I’ll never understand the philosophy of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Why do they have to do all this fancy crap on third and short? Just pound the ball up the middle. You only need ONE FREAKING YARD! Shane Lechler punted the ball away and Spurlock returned it ten yards to the Charger 30.
Neither team did anything with the ball until the Chargers took over at their 29 with nine and a half minutes remaining. On second and nine from the 30, quarterback Philip Rivers connected with wide receiver Eddie Royal for a gain of 11 and a first down at the 41. Rivers hooked up with Royal again for a gain of 31 yards. Add a roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Desmond Bryant and that put the Chargers at the Raider 12. A four-yard loss by running back Jackie Battle and a false start penalty moved them back to the 21. A six-yard run by running back Ronnie Brown made it third and 13 from the 15. On third down, Rivers dumped off a screen to Brown and he was promptly taken down by four Raiders. That led to a field goal attempt by Novak and his 30-yard kick was good. That made it 10-0 with four minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Raiders started at their 20 and Pryor put up a deep ball on first down for wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. The pass fell incomplete, but cornerback Quentin Jammer was flagged for defensive holding. Two carries by McFadden and a ten-yard pass to wide receiver Rod Streater got the Raiders a first down at their 33. That was quickly followed by a 17-yard pass to tight end Brandon Myers and that moved the ball to the Charger 40. A nine-yard run by running back Mike Goodson and a four-yard pass to Heyward-Bey gave them another first down at the 27. On third and two from the 19, Pryor scrambled up the left side for a gain of six and yet another first down at the 13. After McFadden got thrown for another loss, Pryor lofted one to the end zone intended for Streater. It was incomplete, but the Chargers were flagged for pass interference. That would have made it first and goal. However, after that play, linebacker Takeo Spikes and Mike Goodson decided to exchange pleasantries and a huge brawl ensued. Despite the fact that there were no punches thrown, both Spikes and Goodson were ejected. Goodson quietly left the field. Spikes was so enraged at being ejected that I thought they were going to have to take him off in a straitjacket. After order was restored and offsetting penalties were enforced, Pryor scrambled up the right side for eight yards to set up a third and six from the nine. On third down, Pryor had time, looked to his right and found Heyward-Bey in the end zone for his first career touchdown pass. Kicker Sebastian Janikowksi made the point after and the Chargers now led 10-7 with 12 minutes to go in the second quarter.
The Chargers started their next drive at their 19. On third and eight, Rivers found Spurlock across the middle, but he was dragged down short of the first down by cornerback Chimdi Chekwa. The Chargers lined up to punt, but the snap didn’t go to punter Mike Scifres. Instead, safety Eric Weddle took the snap and ran up the middle for a first down. That seemed to demoralize the Raiders. Back to back offside penalties gave the Chargers ten free yards and another first down at the Raider 43. A seven-yard run by running back Curtis Brinkley was followed by a four-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates for a first down at the 32. Two more carries by Battle kept the drive alive and on first down from the 11, Rivers faced no pressure and found Gates again. This time it was in the end zone for a Charger touchdown. Novak made the point after and the Chargers increased their lead to 17-7 with just under three minutes to go in the second quarter.
Both teams punted on their next possessions and with under a minute remaining in the half, the Raiders had one last shot to put some points on the board. A personal foul penalty on the Chargers after the punt return set the Raiders up at their 48 with 47 seconds to go. On third and one from the Charger 43, Pryor took the snap out of the shotgun and ran up the left side. Before he could make it out of bounds, he slipped on the wet grass and was ruled down at the 37. With no timeouts remaining, there was no time to get the field goal unit on the field. The clock ran out and the Chargers took a 17-7 lead into the locker room.
The Raiders started at their 20 again and on third and 14, Pryor completed a pass to Streater. The ball came out and was recovered by Weddle. As fate would have it, there was a roughing the passer penalty called on defensive end Corey Liuget. That meant the Raiders kept the ball and got a first down at the 31. On third down from the 31, Myers caught another one for a gain of 22 and that moved the Raiders into Charger territory. Three runs by McFadden and a scramble by Pryor got them down to the 28. On second down from the 28, Pryor looked for Heyward-Bey. Unfortunately for Pryor, his pass was under-thrown and picked off by Jammer in the end zone.
The Chargers would end up punting on their next possession and the Raiders followed suit. But Lechler’s punt only went 33 yards and that gave the Chargers good field position at the Raider 47. It didn’t take them long to capitalize on that field position as Rivers hooked up with wide receiver Danario Alexander for a 34-yard touchdown. Novak made the point after and the Chargers had a comfortable 24-7 lead with five minutes to go in the third quarter.
With 13 minutes to go in the game, the Raiders found themselves at their 14-yard line with a 17-point deficit and storm clouds approaching. I sensed the worst. Even though it was a meaningless game, I thought the Chargers would run up the score and humiliate the Raiders. But, a couple of good runs by McFadden and two deep passes to Streater got them out of their territory and down to the Charger 44. Another scramble by Pryor and a deep pass up the right side to Streater went for 38 yards and a first and goal at the three. Pryor finished the drive with a three-yard run and a Raider touchdown. Janikowksi added the point after and the score was now 24-14 with 7:45 to go in the game.
The Chargers punted again and gave the Raiders another shot to put up some more points. But that wasn’t the case and they punted the ball right back to the Chargers. With 3:15 to go, all the Chargers did was run the ball and force the Raiders to use all their timeouts. On fourth and six from the Charger 38, Scifres came on to punt. The Raiders brought the pressure and the punt was blocked by cornerback Coye Francies. It was recovered at the Charger 11 by linebacker Kaelin Burnett. The Raiders were in business. Pryor hit Myers for a gain of nine and McFadden ran up the middle for a gain of one and a first down at the one. A false start moved them back five yards, but on the next play, Pryor rolled to his right and threw the ball across his body to the end zone. The ball was picked out of the air by Moore for a Raider touchdown. Janikowski added the point after and it was now 24-21 with just under two minutes to go in the game. Janikowksi attempted an onside kick, but the Chargers recovered it and ran out the clock. Final score: Chargers 24 Raiders 21.
For the Raiders, Terrelle Pryor completed 13 of 28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one interception. He also had 49 yards rushing on nine carries. Rod Streater and Brandon Myers each had four receptions and Streater led the team with 77 yards receiving. Darren McFadden had 57 yards on 19 carries and as a team, the Raiders rushed for 115 yards on 29 carries. Defensive end Lamarr Houston was all over the field and led the team with nine solo tackles, one and a half sacks and two tackles for a loss.
For the Chargers, Philip Rivers had a very efficient day as he completed 13 of 17 for 151 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Eddie Royal led the team in receptions with four and receiving yards with 61. As a team, the Chargers only netted 70 yards rushing on 31 carries. Jackie Battle led the way with 37 yards on 19 carries. Defensively, Eric Weddle led the team in solo tackles with seven and one tackle for a loss.
For the most part, I liked what I saw of Pryor. He had good command of the offense and it doesn’t look like the game is too big for him. Granted, there were passes that were over-thrown and under-thrown. That was to be expected. What I didn’t expect to see was so many drops. Reece and Moore had passes bounce right of their chests on more than one occasion. Another thing Pryor needs to do is protect the ball when he runs. Carry it high and tight, Mr. Pryor. Fumbles are a very bad thing. Another good stat to mention is the Raiders made it to the red zone three times and came away with three touchdowns. Very impressive indeed! I honestly can’t recall the last time that happened.
Still, the Raiders finished the 2012 season with a 4-12 record and will be picking third in the 2013 draft. There are many areas that need to be addressed and I’d definitely address the defensive side of the ball with that pick. There are also several free agents that need to be brought back. The question is who can they afford to bring back and who do they let go? I know for a fact Richard Seymour and Rolando McClain won’t be back. The defense actually played much better with McClain absent. Then again, how many defenses play well when their middle linebacker seems disinterested and shows no heart or hustle? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass, Rolando. There are also several coaches that may not be back. I’ll address these issues in another article after the Super Bowl.
Now, it’s time for the Raider Guy Awards. The first one is the MVP award. This award goes to quarterback Carson Palmer. Before getting hurt early in the game against Carolina, Palmer was having a good year with a 61% completion percentage, 4,018 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Will he return next year? That remains to be seen.
Up next is rookie of the year. There are a couple of players who are deserving of this award. Linebacker Miles Burris had a good year and shows promise for the future. But, I will go with the undrafted rookie free agent out Temple. That would be wide receiver Rod Streater. He’s a solid deep threat and finished the year with 39 catches, 584 yards and three touchdowns. Like every other receiver on this team, he had his share of drops, but I think he’ll just get better as the years go by.
Next is the special teams player award. No brainer. This award goes to kicker Sebastian Janikowksi. He made 31 of 34 field goal attempts in 2012 and continues to be a very reliable asset. His 13th year in silver and black was his best one yet.
Now for the most improved player. This one goes to tight end Brandon Myers. He’s slow, a poor blocker, but we found something he can do right. He can catch the ball. In his first three years, he had a total of 32 catches. This year, he led the team with 79 catches for 806 yards and four touchdowns. If he can work on his blocking skills, he might become a complete tight end.
Last year, the defense was so bad that I didn’t even name a defensive player of the year. In my mind, there was no one deserving of it. This year, there are a couple of players deserving of this award. Defensive end Lamarr Houston had some real good games this year. He showed lots of hustle and played well. However, the award goes to linebacker Philip Wheeler. A free agent signing from the Colts, Wheeler plays with reckless abandon and flies all over the field. He finished the year with 109 total tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and six passes defensed. He’s a free agent next year and they definitely need to bring him back.
Now, it’s time for the play of the year. Off the top of my head, I can only come up with a few plays. But the one play that sticks out happened in a losing effort on a Thursday night in Oakland. Trailing 26-7 late in the game against Denver, Palmer threw a high pass to the left side for Darrius Heyward-Bey. He made a nice leap for the ball, came down with it, turned on the afterburners and he was gone for a 56-yard touchdown. He showed great concentration while catching the pass and did a good job following his blockers to the end zone.
Another award I’d like to give is for “Mr. Dependable.” Without question, this award goes to fullback Marcel Reece. He can do it all. He can block, he can catch, he can be a featured back if needed. Maybe one day we’ll see him play quarterback. Players like Reece are few and far between. When both McFadden and Goodson went down with injuries, he did a great job of filling in for them. He finished the year with 271 yards rushing (4.6 yards per carry) and he caught 52 passes for 496 yards. He’s definitely a keeper.
Well, there’s a lot more I can say about the Raiders, but I am going to stop right here. I’ll be back next week to do post game articles for the upcoming playoff games. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy