My apologies for not getting this article up earlier, but during the week this game was played, I had a very bad case of the Flu. You know how it is. Chills, nausea and a complete and total lack of energy. But, I am back to normal and without further delay, I’ll discuss the game between the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers that took place on December 23rd. The Raiders were coming off a 15-0 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Panthers were coming off a 31-7 win over the San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski sent the ball through the end zone for a touch-back and the Panthers started at their 20. On second and six from the 24, running back DeAngelo Williams ran up the left side and got loose for a 76-yard touchdown run. But, a yellow flag appeared and the play was nullified by a holding call on wide receiver Steve Smith. They got as far as the 42 and were forced to punt.
The Raiders took over at their 21 and on second and nine from the 22, head coach Dennis Allen inserted Terrelle Pryor at quarterback and starting quarterback Carson Palmer was lined up on the far right side of the field. Pryor lobbed a lateral to Palmer and Palmer threw it back to Pryor for a gain of 22 and a first down at the Raider 44. Two runs by running back Darren McFadden netted nine yards and set up another infamous third and one situation. In the previous game against the Chiefs, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp called pitches to McFadden in third and short situations and they didn’t result in a first down. He didn’t learn his lesson. On third and one, the pitch went to McFadden again and he was thrown for a loss of five yards. Lechler punted the ball away and it was fair caught at the Panther 12.
A 12-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell, some scrambling by quarterback Cam Newton and a 14-yard run by Williams had the Panthers rolling into Raider territory. On second and 22 from the 39, Newton completed a pass to Smith for 16 yards. On third and six, Newton found Smith again for a Panther touchdown. Kicker Graham Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 7-0 with a little over three minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Raiders took over at their 20 and on third and one from the 29, Palmer ran to his right and stopped. As he was about to release the ball, he was obliterated by defensive end Greg Hardy. Palmer went down and stayed down in obvious pain. Hardy was flagged for roughing the passer and Palmer would not return to the game. That meant it was quarterback Matt Leinart to the rescue. Lord, help us! Two carries by running back Mike Goodson set up a third and two. Instead of trying to get the first down on the ground, Leinart dropped back to pass and looked for fullback Marcel Reece. Reece caught the pass and was taken down for a loss of two. Lechler punted and it was downed at the Panther 16.
The Panthers had a quick three and out and the Raiders started their next drive at their 24. On second and nine, Leinart completed a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey. A personal foul was also called on the Panthers and that put the Raiders at the Panther 40. On third and 12 from the 42, Leinart hooked up with wide receiver Derek Hagan for a gain of 19 and a first down at the 23. An 11-yard pass to McFadden had the Raiders in the red zone looking for a touchdown. Unfortunately, the drive came to an end at the three-yard line. On fourth and two from the three, they decided to go for the easy field goal. Janikowski made the 21-yard attempt and the Panthers now led 7-3 with 6:25 to go in the first half.
On third and ten from the 20, Newton was sacked by defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. While Newton was on the ground, he kicked Kelly. Naturally, the zebras didn’t see that. All they saw was Kelly retaliate and head zebra Jerome Boger (The Boogerman) flagged Kelly for a personal foul. That gave the Panthers a first down at the 26. Passes to Smith, LaFell and tight end Greg Olsen had the Panthers moving in the right direction. Add an unnecessary roughness call on linebacker Miles Burris to the mix and that gave the Panthers a first down at the Raider 31. They got as far as the 30 when Gano came on for a 48-yard attempt. The kick sailed wide right and the Raiders dodged a bullet. But, another bullet was about to be fired. On third and ten from the Raider 38, Leinart put up a pass to no one in particular and it was picked off by linebacker Luke Kuechly at the Panther 46. Kuechly returned it to the Raider 29. This time, it only took four plays for the Panthers to find the end zone. On third and goal from the three, Newton took it in himself for a Panther touchdown. That made it 14-3 at the end of the first half.
Starting again at their 20, the Raiders went three and out quicker than you can spell A-N-E-M-I-C. Lechler punted and the ball was muffed by return man Joe Adams. It was recovered by tight end Richard Gordon at the 32. Instead of going for a quick score, a screen pass to Reece went for minus four yards on first down. A short run by McFadden and a holding call moved them back ten more yards. On third and 21 from the Panther 43, what do you think the call was? A bomb to Heyward-Bey? Nope. How about setting up a screen to speedy wide receiver Denarius Moore? They couldn’t do that. That would make sense. Leinart threw a pass that was caught by tight end Brandon Myers for a gain of ONE YARD. So, after recovering a fumble in Panther territory, the hapless Raider offense could only move backwards and was forced to punt. Truly sickening. I went out to the kitchen and puked in the sink.
Neither offense did much until there was just over a minute to go in the third quarter. On third and 12 from the Panther seven, Newton looked for Smith. The ball was tipped in the air by linebacker Philip Wheeler and Burris made a nice diving interception. That gave the Raiders the ball at the Panther 18. Hey, maybe they can get a touchdown! Wouldn’t that be awesome? A touchdown would put them right back in the game! Hey, I can dream, can’t I? On first down, McFadden ran up the middle for six yards. Then a false start moved them back five yards. On second down, Leinart looked for Moore and the pass fell incomplete. That made it third and nine from the 17. Leinart found wide receiver Rod Streater on a crossing route and at the same time the ball hit Streater, safety Charles Godfrey arrived for a helmet to helmet hit. That gave the Raiders a first and goal at the eight. Pryor was brought back into the game for the next play. He rolled to his right and completed a pass to Reece for a gain of five. On second and goal from the three, McFadden finally found the end zone for a Raider touchdown. Not so fast, my friend. Center Stefen Wisniewski was flagged for holding and that moved them back five yards. That totally deflated the Raiders and they had to settle for a field goal attempt. The 31-yard attempt was good and the Panthers now led 14-6.
The Panthers started at their 20 and some runs by Newton and Williams got them out to their 34. On second and 11 from the 33, safety Mike Mitchell got to Newton and his pass intended for LaFell was incomplete. Newton thought the hit was late and he went after the Boogerman and bumped him. That should have been an automatic ejection. How dare you bump the Boogerman? He wasn’t ejected. He was just flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. That basically killed that drive and the Panthers punted again.
With ten minutes go in the game, the Raiders took over at their 26. A couple of runs by McFadden and a 19-yard pass to Reece got them a first down at the Panther 42. Passes to Heyward-Bey and Moore moved the ball to the 30. They got as far as the 24 and instead of trying a field goal, they decided to go for it on fourth down. Leinart had all the time in the world to find a receiver on this play. The pass he attempted had zero chance of getting his team a first down. He threw (actually it looked more like a shot-put) a wounded duck in the direction of McFadden and the ball was knocked away by Hardy. The Panthers would add a field goal on their next drive and the game ended with the Panthers getting their third straight win by a score of 17-6.
For the Raiders, Carson Palmer started out the game with three straight completions for 31 yards before leaving the game with a rib injury. Leinart took his place and did a horrible job. He completed 16 of 32 for 115 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. He missed wide open receivers throughout the game and looked clueless and unprepared. Darrius Heyward-Bey led the team in receiving yards with 31 and Reece had the most receptions with four. The frustrated Darren McFadden had the most rushing yards with 33 on 17 carries. As a team, the Raiders rushed for 47 yards on 22 carries. That is beyond pitiful. Defensively, Miles Burris led the team in solo tackles with three. He also had a half sack and an interception.
For the Panthers, Cam Newton completed 18 of 29 for 170 yards, one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and one interception. Greg Olsen led the Panthers with six catches for 53 yards. Newton was the leading rusher with 60 yards on 12 carries. As a team, the Panthers rushed for 112 yards on 28 carries. Defensively, Luke Kuechly had a stellar game with nine solo tackles, one tackle for a loss, two passes defensed and one interception.
Overall, I was impressed with the Raider defense. They did a good job and gave the offense several opportunities to put some points on the board. If Pryor would have seen more action instead of Leinart, the outcome may have been different. But that wasn’t the case and the Raiders ended up going zero for five in the Eastern time zone in 2012. That is something that has to be improved.
Since my last article, there have been some firings in Oakland. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, offensive line coach Frank Pollack, special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman and linebackers coach Johnny Holland all have been shown the door. This hopefully means there will be some better play calling and no more of the zone blocking scheme. Now they need to find the right guys for the job and get back to the power running scheme and stretching the field with the deep ball. I’ll be back soon with post game playoff articles. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy