June 28, 2017

Cowboys 24, Lions 20

The fourth and final game of wildcard weekend featured the Detroit Lions heading south to Dallas, Texas to take on the Cowboys.  The Cowboys started at their 20-yard line and had a quick three and out.  Punter Chris Jones hit a 41-yard punt that was downed at the Detroit 38-yard line.  On second and ten from the 49, quarterback Matt Stafford went deep for wide receiver Golden Tate and he hauled in the pass for a 51-yard touchdown.  Kicker Matt Prater made the point after and the Lions jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with 11:22 to go in the first quarter.

The Cowboys managed to get a first down on their next possession, but the drive came to a halt when quarterback Tony Romo couldn’t complete a pass on fourth and seven to wide receiver Cole Beasley.  Jones punted and the ball was downed at the Detroit one-yard line.  Three plays netted five yards and the Lions were forced to punt.  Punter Sam Martin’s punt went out of bounds at the Detroit 44-yard line.  Wait a minute.  There’s a flag on the play.  The Cowboys were flagged for running into the kicker and that gave the Lions a first down at the 12-yard line.  A short pass to Tate and a scramble by Stafford netted a first down at the 23-yard line.  An 11-yard carry by running back Joique Bell, a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Calvin Johnson and an 18-yard pass to Bell moved the Lions into Dallas territory.  Two more carries by Bell put them at the 18.  From the 18, running back Reggie Bush ran up the left side for a touchdown to cap a 99-yard drive.  Prater made the point after and the Lions were up 14-0 with two minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Cowboys still couldn’t get the ball rolling and ended up punting again.  As a matter of fact, there was a lot of punting going on until the 2:15 mark.  That’s when the Cowboys finally got on the board.  On third and 12 from the 24, Romo let one fly and the pass was caught for a 76-yard touchdown by wide receiver Terrance Williams.  Kicker Dan Bailey made the point after and the Lions led 14-7 with 1:37 to go in the first half.

The Lions started at their 20 and two passes to running back Theo Riddick gained 20 yards.  From the 40, Stafford completed a 19-yard pass to Johnson.  That was followed by an incomplete pass and a five-yard pass to wide receiver Corey Fuller.  That set up a third and five from the Dallas 36.  Stafford completed a pass to Tate that was ruled short of the first down marker.  But replay showed that the yardage gained was good enough for a first down.  Stafford completed a nine-yard pass to Bush as time was running short.  With three seconds to go in the half, Prater made his 39-yard field goal attempt and the Lions led 17-7 at halftime.

Things got off to a great start for the Cowboys in the second half.  Stafford looked for Tate over the middle and the pass was picked off by linebacker Kyle Wilber.  That gave the Cowboys the ball at the Detroit 19-yard line.  But on third and one from the ten, Romo was sacked for a loss of 13 yards by defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.  Well, Bailey is a good kicker.  He shouldn’t have much trouble with a 41-yard field goal.  Wrong.  The kick sailed wide right and the Cowboys failed to cash in on a golden opportunity.

The Lions took over at their 31 and on second and six, Stafford found tight end Brandon Pettigrew for a gain of 11 yards.  After a short carry by Bush, Stafford looked for Johnson again and found him for a gain of 28 yards and a first down at the Dallas 26-yard line.  But the drive would stall at the 19-yard line.  Prater came on again and his 37-yard field goal attempt was good.  That gave the Lions a 20-7 lead with 8:41 to go in the third quarter.

The Cowboys took over at their 20 and moved the ball with running back DeMarco Murray.  Murray had three carries and a seven-yard reception.  That gave them a first down at the 50-yard line.  On third and ten from the 50, Romo threw a short pass to his left that was caught by wide receiver Dez Bryant.  Bryant turned on the speed and weaved his way through several defenders.  He was finally dragged down at the seven-yard line.  Murray took it the rest of the way on the next play, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on the Cowboys.  From the 17, Romo found Beasley across the middle for a gain of 15 yards.  From the two, Romo completed a short pass to tight end Jason Witten, but he was stopped short of the end zone.  On third and goal from the one, Murray ran up the middle and was stuffed for no gain.  That brought up a crucial fourth and goal from the one.  The Cowboys decided to go for it and Murray ran off left tackle for a touchdown.  Bailey made the point after and the Lions lead was now 20-14 with 2:54 to go in the third quarter.

The Lions had a quick three and out on their next possession and the Cowboys took over at their 31.  They quickly moved to mid-field as Romo found Beasley for a gain of 19 yards.  Murray ran for five more yards and on second and five from the Detroit 45, Romo completed another pass to Beasley.  This one was good for 12 yards.  Then another flag was thrown.  Unnecessary roughness was called on the Lions and the Cowboys now had a first down at the 18.  That’s when the Lion defense stepped up.  Murray was stuffed for no gain and Romo was sacked on back to back plays.  That was meant it was time for Bailey to try another field goal.  His 51-yard attempt was good and the Lions led 20-17 with 12:16 to go in the game.

The Lions got the ball back at their five-yard line.  On second and 12 from the three, Stafford completed a 21-yard pass to Fuller for a first down at the 24.  A short run by Bush and a 19-yard pass to Johnson moved the Lions to the Dallas 45-yard line.  From the 45, Bush ran for a gain of four yards.  Bell got the call on the next play and ran for five yards.  That made it third and one from the 46.  Instead of running it again, Stafford threw to the left side for Pettigrew.  The pass was incomplete due to the fact that Pettigrew was interfered with by linebacker Anthony Hitchens.  The flags flew and it looked like the Lions would have another first down.  All of a sudden, the flag was picked up and the zebras reversed the call.  You’ve GOT to be kidding.  Actually, when it comes to the NFL, hardly anything I see the zebras do shocks me.  Still, that was definitely pass interference.  That made it fourth and one from the 46.  All the Lions needed to do was get one yard to keep the drive alive.  Instead, Stafford tried to draw the Cowboys offside.  In other words, he didn’t snap the ball and took a delay of game penalty.  Lions, you baffle me.  You really do.  To make things really incredible, Martin shanked the punt.  It went TEN freaking yards.

Starting at the 41, the Cowboys went to work.  A 13-yard pass to Murray got them into Detroit territory.  That was followed by a few short runs by Murray and Romo completed a 21-yard pass to Witten on fourth and six.  The pass to Witten gave the Cowboys a first down at the 21.  A defensive holding on the Lions netted another first down at the 16.  The next two plays gained three yards and on third and seven, Romo completed a short pass to running back Lance Dunbar, but he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Wait a minute.  There’s another flag on the ground.  This time, it was defensive holding on linebacker DeAndre Levy.  That gave the Cowboys a first down at the eight-yard line.  An incomplete pass on first down was followed by a five-yard run by Murray.  That moved the ball to the three-yard line.  A false start on the Cowboys moved them back to the eight.  From the eight, Romo took the snap, had time and fired a pass across the middle that was caught by Williams for a touchdown.  Bailey made the point after and the Cowboys led 24-20 with 2:32 to go in the game.

The Lions took over at their 20 and on second and four, Stafford was sacked by defensive end Anthony Spencer.  The ball came loose and it was recovered by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.  All he had to do was fall on it and that would pretty much seal a win for the Cowboys.  Instead, he tried to advance it and the ball was loose once again.  It was recovered by offensive tackle Riley Reiff and the Lions retained possession at their 23-yard line.  With two minutes to go, Stafford spread the ball around to three different receivers and moved into Dallas territory.  On fourth and three from the Dallas 42, Stafford was sacked for a loss of nine.  The ball came loose again and Lawrence fell on it.  That was the nail in the coffin.  The Cowboys came from behind and won 24-20.

For the Lions, Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 42 for 323 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  Golden Tate led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 89.  On the ground, the Lions rushed for 90 yards on 22 carries.  Joique Bell was the leading rusher with 43 yards on 12 carries.  Defensively, linebacker James Ihedigbo led the team in solo tackles with seven.  Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh led the team in sacks with two.

For the Cowboys, Tony Romo completed 19 of 31 for 293 yards and two touchdowns.  Jason Witten led the team in receptions with five and Terrance Williams had the most receiving yards with 92 and two touchdowns.  DeMarco Murray carried the ball 19 times for 75 yards and a touchdown.  The only other player with any rushing stats is Romo.  He had two carries for minus two yards.  Defensively, safety J.J. Wilcox led the team in solo tackles with seven.

Up next for the Cowboys is a trip to Green Bay to take on the Packers.  That game will be on Sunday at 1:05 eastern time.

 

Colts 26, Bengals 10

The third game on wildcard weekend featured the Cincinnati Bengals traveling to Indianapolis, Indiana to take on the Colts.  These teams met earlier in the year and the Colts came away with a dominating 27-0 win.  Kicker Mike Nugent sent the opening kickoff nine yards deep and return man Josh Cribbs ran it out to the 29-yard line.  Quarterback Andrew Luck led his offense onto the field and quickly completed a short pass to running back Daniel Herron that went for 18 yards.  A neutral zone penalty on the Bengals and more completions to Herron moved the ball to the Cincinnati 40-yard line.  With all the success Herron was having, Luck threw another pass to him and this time it went for a gain of 27 to give the Colts a first down at the 13.  Three plays later, Herron took it up the middle for a two-yard touchdown.  Kicker Adam Vinatieri made the point after and the Colts led 7-0 with 11:05 to go in the first quarter.

The Bengals started their first drive of the game from their own 20.  Without wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham, they would have to rely heavily on their running game.  From the 20, running back Rex Burkhead ran up the left side for a gain of 23 yards.  Three carries by running back Jeremy Hill netted 11 yards and a first down at the Indianapolis 46-yard line.  But the drive would come to an end at the 39.  Punter Kevin Huber got off a high punt that was downed at the nine-yard line.

This time, the Bengal defense played much better and forced a three and out.  Punter Pat McAfee hit a nice 59-yard punt that was fielded at the Cincinnati 25 by return man Adam Jones.  He returned it one yard and the Bengals took over at their 26.  Quarterback Andy Dalton completed two passes to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and they quickly moved to the 45-yard line.  Hill ran up the right side for a gain of 18 and a first down at the Indianapolis 37-yard line.  Dalton found Burkhead across the middle and he was dragged down at the five-yard line.  Two plays later, Hill ran up the middle for a one-yard touchdown.  Nugent made the point after and the game was knotted at seven with 1:28 to go in the first quarter.

Due to a poor kickoff return by return man Zurlon Tipton, the Colts started out at their nine-yard line.  On third and three from the 16, Luck couldn’t find an open receiver and ran up the middle for an 18-yard gain.  Two completions to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton moved the Colts down to the Cincinnati 20-yard line.  Some more bad news arose for the Bengals.  Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga injured his hamstring and did not return.  The drive came to an end at the 20 as Luck’s pass for wide receiver Reggie Wayne fell incomplete.  Vinatieri had no problem making his 38-yard field goal attempt and the Colts led 10-7 with 12:41 to go in the second quarter.

After a three and out by the Bengals, the Colts got the ball back at their 36-yard line.  On second down from the 38, Luck went deep up the right side and the pass was caught for a gain of 45 yards by wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.  But they couldn’t find the end zone again and the drive stalled at the Cincinnati 11-yard line.  Vinatieri came on and his 29-yard field goal was good. The Colts now led 13-7 with 8:34 to go in the second quarter.

The Bengals punted on their next possession and the Colts took over at their nine-yard line with five minutes to go in the half.  Completions to Hilton, Nicks and tight end Dwayne Allen moved them to their 31.  From the 31, Luck hooked up with Hilton again for a gain of 25 yards.  It certainly looked like the Colts were going to add to their lead before halftime.  But that wasn’t the case.  Luck completed another pass to Herron and as he was heading up-field, the ball was knocked loose and recovered by safety Reggie Nelson at the Cincinnati 41.  With time running short, the Bengals managed to get in field goal range and Nugent came on for a 57-yard attempt.  The kick bounced off the left upright and went through.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kicker that happy.  At halftime, the Colts led 13-10.

The second half was an absolute disaster for the Bengals.  Although their defense played admirably, the offense was horrible.  They couldn’t get a first down and it wouldn’t surprise me if Huber has a sore leg from all that punting.  I’d like to write about some of the drives they had, but they only gained 20 yards on their first five possessions of the second half.  Meanwhile, the Colts continued to rack up more yards on the ground and through the air.  Rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught a 36-yard touchdown pass and Vinatieri added two more field goals to give the Colts a 26-10 win.

For the Bengals, Andy Dalton completed 18 of 35 for 155 yards.  Giovani Bernard led the team in receptions with eight and receiving yards with 46.  As a team, the Bengals rushed for 110 yards on 21 carries.  I really thought Jeremy Hill was going to get a lot of carries in this game.  He only carried the ball 13 times for 47 yards and a touchdown.  Defensively, Emmanuel Lamur led the team in solo tackles with six.

For the Colts, Andrew Luck had all day to throw and completed 31 of 44 for 376 yards and one touchdown.  Daniel Herron led the team in receptions with ten and T.Y. Hilton had the most receiving yards with 103.  As a team, the Colts rushed for 114 yards on 25 carries.  Herron was the leading rusher with 56 yards on 12 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Jerrell Freeman and safety Mike Adams tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven apiece.  Freeman also had 1.5 sacks.

Up next for the Colts is a trip to Denver to take on the Denver Broncos.  That game will be on Sunday at 4:40 eastern time.

 

Ravens 30, Steelers 17

The second game of wildcard weekend had the Baltimore Ravens heading up to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.  These teams are division rivals and are very familiar with one another.  Kicker Josh Tucker sent the opening kickoff deep into the end zone and the Steelers started at their 20-yard line.  They took 6:27 off the clock and moved into Baltimore territory, but they came away with no points.  Instead of trying a 55-yard field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin decided it would be a wise decision to punt.  Brad Wing’s punt was downed at the Baltimore seven-yard line.  The Ravens ran three plays and punted the ball right back to the Steelers.

Starting with good position at the Pittsburgh 40, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown.  That was followed by a five-yard carry by rookie running back Josh Harris.  Harris got the call again and he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  Roethlisberger went to the air again and two completions to rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant netted 29 yards.  That set them up with a first down at the Baltimore 20.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, the next three plays would lose seven yards.  Kicker Shaun Suisham came on and his 45-yard field goal attempt was good.  That put the Steelers up 3-0 with 1:29 to go in the first quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and quarterback Joe Flacco went deep on first down for wide receiver Jacoby Jones.  The pass was incomplete, but safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit.  That moved the ball to the 35.  Flacco threw to his right and the pass was caught by tight end Owen Daniels for a gain of 18 yards.  Two carries by running back Justin Forsett netted another first down and the Ravens were in Steeler territory.  From the 36, Flacco hooked up with Daniels again for a gain of ten yards.  That was followed by two more carries by Forsett and that gave them a first down at the five-yard line.  Two plays later, running back Bernard Pierce took it in from five yards out for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 7-3 with 12:28 to go in the second quarter.

Return man Markus Wheaton fielded the ensuing kickoff five yards deep and decided to run it out.  Not a good idea.  He was brought down at the 14-yard line.  From the 14, Roethlisberger completed an 18-yard pass to Brown.  On third and ten from the 32, Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller for a gain of 30 and a first down at the Baltimore 38-yard line.  The next three plays netted nine yards and Suisham was brought into the game for a field goal attempt.  But the Ravens were flagged for having 12 men on the field.  That gave the Steelers a first down at the 24.  Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Tate on first down.  But another flag was thrown and the Ravens were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the ten.  The Ravens brought some pressure and Roethlisberger was sacked for a loss of nine by defensive tackle Brandon Williams.  That was followed by a short pass to Brown and a 12-yard pass to Bryant.  That set up a fourth and goal from the four.  Suisham had no problem making his 22-yard field goal attempt and the Ravens now led 7-6 with 5:40 to go in the second quarter.

The Ravens started at their 20 and Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Steve Smith for a gain of 23 yards.  A four-yard pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken and an eight-yard run by Forsett moved them into Pittsburgh territory.  Add another personal foul penalty on the Steelers and the Ravens had a first down at the 30.  From the 30, Flacco found Daniels for a gain of 19 yards and a first down at the 11.  But they would only gain one yard on their next three plays.  Tucker was brought in for a 28-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  That put the Ravens up 10-6 with 2:41 to go in the second quarter.

Another short kick return by Wheaton had the Steelers starting their next possession at their 18-yard line.  Roethlisberger got his team to mid-field with an 11-yard pass to Miller, a 14-yard pass to Bryant and a seven-yard pass to running back Dri Archer.  A six-yard pass to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and an 11-yard pass to Wheaton netted a first down at the 33.  The drive stalled at the 29 and Suisham came on for a 47-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Ravens led 10-9 at halftime.

The Ravens started their first drive of the second half at their 16-yard line.  On third and 14, Flacco looked his right and found wide receiver Torrey Smith for a gain of 17 yards.  A seven-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and a short run by Forsett had the Ravens in a third and short situation.  Instead of trying to run it up the gut, Flacco went deep for S. Smith.  The pass was incomplete, but some more yellow laundry was thrown onto the field.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, they weren’t terrible towels.  They were penalty flags.  Defensive pass interference was the call and the Ravens now had the ball at the Pittsburgh 31.  On first down, Flacco was sacked for a loss of 13 by linebacker Sean Spence.  The ball came loose, but the Ravens recovered it at the 44-yard line.  A short pass to Jones and a 14-yard pass to Smith put the Ravens back in field goal range.  Tucker’s 45-yard field goal attempt was good and the Ravens went up 13-9 with ten minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers punted on their next possession and the Ravens took over at their 31-yard line.  Two completions to S. Smith quickly moved them down to the Pittsburgh 23.  A nine-yard pass to Juszczyk and a five-yard scramble by Flacco moved the ball down to the nine-yard line.  Two plays later, Flacco lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone and it was hauled in by T. Smith for a touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens increased their lead to 20-9 with 4:13 to go in the third quarter.

The Steelers couldn’t get moving and after eight plays netted just 14 yards, they punted again.  The Ravens took over at their 17 and a completion to S. Smith and some good running by Forsett moved them to the 42-yard line.  On third and eight from the 44, Forsett caught a pass and was brought down just short of a first down.  Flacco took it up the middle on fourth down and gained two yards for a first down at the Pittsburgh 47-yard line.  From the 47, Forsett ran up the left side and the ball came loose.  Defensive end Stephon Tuitt recovered the fumble and that gave the Steelers the ball at the 45-yard line.  Roethlisberger went deep for Brown on first down and it appeared he made a 45-yard touchdown catch.  But replay showed he was down at the one.  That was followed by a false start that moved them back to the six.  From the six, Roethlisberger threw to the right and Bryant caught it for a touchdown.  They decided to go for two, but the pass intended for Brown was picked off by safety Matt Elam.  With 11 minutes to go in the game, the Ravens led 20-15.

Jones returned the kickoff to the 22, but the Steelers were flagged for unnecessary roughness.  That moved the ball to the 37-yard line.  The next two plays lost three yards and that put the Ravens in a third and 13 situation.  If the Steelers could get a stop here, they’d be in position to take the lead.  That didn’t happen.  Flacco found Daniels across the middle and he gained 23 yards on the play.  That gave the Ravens a first down at the Pittsburgh 43-yard line.  From the 43, Flacco hooked up with wide receiver Marlon Brown for a gain of nine.  On third and one from the 34, Flacco went deep for S. Smith, but it was incomplete.  Tucker came on again for another field goal attempt.  His 52-yard attempt split the uprights and the Ravens went up 23-15 with 8:47 to go in the game.

The Steelers still had a shot to tie the game up.  But on third and four from the 26, Roethlisberger felt the pressure and dumped off a short pass to Tate.  The ball hit his hands, but he couldn’t handle it and it was picked off by defensive end Terrell Suggs.  The Ravens wasted no time in getting another score as Flacco dumped a short pass off to tight end Crockett Gillmore and he took it the rest of the way for a 21-yard touchdown.  Tucker made the point after and the Ravens led 30-15 with 7:56 to go in the game.

The Steelers knew they had to score quickly.  But they were anything but quick on their next drive.  Granted, they moved the ball well, but they weren’t using the no huddle offense consistently.  To top that off, Roethlisberger left the game after getting his bell rung.  He was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski.  Gradkowski completed two of three passes for 22 yards.  On second and ten from the Baltimore 14, Roethlisberger came back into the game and promptly threw a pass that was picked off by safety Darian Stewart.  That pretty much sealed the deal.  The Steelers did manage to block a punt late in the game for a safety, but that was way too little way too late.  The Ravens came away with a 30-17 win.

For the Ravens, Joe Flacco completed 18 of 29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns.  Steve Smith led the team in receptions with five and receiving yards with 101.  There wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of for the Ravens.  They totaled 49 yards rushing on 25 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Daryl Smith led the team in solo tackles with nine.

For the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 of 45 for 334 yards, one touchdown and two very costly interceptions.  Antonio Brown led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 117.  Like the Ravens, there wasn’t much of a ground game to speak of.  As a team, the Steelers rushed for 68 yards on 19 carries.  Defensively, safety Troy Polamalu led the team in solo tackles with five.

Up next for the Ravens is a trip to New England to face the Patriots.  That game will be on Saturday at 4:35 eastern time.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 16

The first game of wildcard weekend had the Arizona Cardinals traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Panthers.  Carolina kicker Graham Gano sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the Cardinals would start at their 20-yard line.  They ran three plays and gained exactly two yards.  To make things worse, punter Drew Butler shanked the punt and it only went 20 yards.  The Panthers started their first drive at the Arizona 48-yard line.  On third and two from the 40, quarterback Cam Newton completed an eight-yard pass to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a first down at the 32.  They would get as far as the 29 and the drive was stopped there.  Gano came on and his 47-yard field goal was good.  The Panthers led 3-0 with 11:27 to go in the first quarter.

It was more of the same for the Cardinals.  Although there was some improvement.  Instead of gaining only two yards, they gained nine yards on this possession.  Another short punt by Butler gave the Panthers the ball at their 43-yard line.  Completions to Benjamin and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery quickly moved the Panthers into Arizona territory.  A couple of carries by running back Jonathan Stewart and a defensive holding penalty moved the ball to the 34.  From the 34, Newton found wide receiver Philly Brown for a gain of seven and a first down at the 27.  From there, tight end Greg Olsen caught a 14-yard pass and Stewart finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 10-0 with 5:21 to go in the first quarter.

With a little over four minutes to go in the first quarter, the Cardinals finally got a first down as quarterback Ryan Lindley completed a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Floyd.  After that, it was the same old thing.  They couldn’t get another first down and Butler punted.  However, return man Brenton Bersin couldn’t get a handle on the punt and the Cardinals recovered it at the Carolina 30-yard line.  On second and twelve from the 32, Lindley completed a short pass, but the bigger damage came from the zebras.  The Panthers were flagged for unnecessary roughness and that gave them a first down at the 15.  On third and ten, Lindley found wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and he was dragged down at the one-yard line.  From the one, Lindley completed a pass to tight end Darren Fells for a touchdown.  Kicker Chandler Catanzaro made the point after and the Panthers now led 10-7 with 14:56 to go in the second quarter.

The Panthers took over at their 20 and two five-yard penalties on Arizona got them a first down at the 30.  Two carries by Stewart and one by Newton moved the ball to the Arizona 30-yard line.  But the next three plays gained only five yards.  To top that off, a 43-yard field goal attempt by Gano sailed wide left.  That gave the Cardinals the ball at their 33 and like they had been doing for most of the game, they punted after three plays.  Butler hit a nice 52-yard punt that was downed at the Carolina 17-yard line.  The Panthers managed to get a few first downs, but were forced to punt.  Punter Brad Nortman hit a high punt that was downed at the Arizona two-yard line.  Three plays gained one yard and it was time for Butler to punt his team out of trouble.  He got off another poor punt and the Panthers had excellent field position at the Arizona 34-yard line.  On third and 13 from the 37, Newton looked for Cotchery and the pass was picked off by cornerback Antonio Cromartie.  It looked like he might return it for a score, but Newton pushed him out of bounds at the Carolina 17-yard line.  Three carries by running back Kerwynn Williams netted a first down at the one-yard line.  From the one, running back Marion Grice took it in for a score.  Catanzaro made the point after and the Cardinals led 14-10 with 2:50 to go in the second quarter.

The Panthers started at their 20 and some more good running by Stewart, Newton and fullback Mike Tolbert moved the ball down to the 45.  Completions to Brown, Olsen and a pass interference penalty on Cromartie gave the Panthers a first down at the Arizona 14-yard line.  They would get down to the 11 and the drive came to an end there.  Gano came on for another field goal attempt.  It was good, but the Panthers were flagged for holding.  That meant Gano would have to try another kick.  His 39-yard attempt was good and the Cardinals led 14-13 at halftime.

The Panthers started at their 20 again and lots of scrambling by Newton got them headed in the right direction.  They managed to take 7:31 off the clock and they didn’t even score a point.  On third and ten from the Arizona 43, Newton completed a pass to Bersin, but he was stopped at the 37.  Instead of trying a long field goal, head coach Ron Rivera opted for a punt.  Nortman’s punt was downed at the eight-yard line.  Like they had been doing all game, the Cardinals went three and out again.  Butler punted and the Panthers took over at the Arizona 39.  From the 39, Newton competed a short pass to running back Fozzy Whittaker and he took it all the way for a touchdown.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 20-14 with 5:28 to go in the third quarter.

Things would get much worse for the Cardinals after that.  Return man Ted Ginn fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Panthers got the ball back at the Arizona three-yard line.  Newton was stuffed for a loss of one yard on first down and Tolbert only gained one yard on second down.  On third down, Newton looked for Olsen, but the pass was incomplete.  However, the Cardinals were flagged for pass interference.  That gave them a first down at the one.  This time, Tolbert had no problem finding the end zone and he took it up the left side for a touchdown.  Gano made the point after and the Panthers led 27-14 with 4:04 to go in the third quarter.

You wouldn’t think that a 27-14 lead would be insurmountable for the Cardinals.  If they had Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton at quarterback, they’d have a shot at regaining the lead.  But Lindley was not having a good game.  Even after Newton fumbled and the Cardinals took over at the Carolina eight-yard line, they still couldn’t get a score.  Lindley looked for Fitzgerald and the pass was  picked off by linebacker Luke Kuechly.  That pretty much sealed the deal and the Panthers came away with a 27-16 win.

The top performers in this game were all wearing Carolina blue.

Leading passer: Cam Newton completed 18 of 32 for 198 yards, two touchdowns, one interception.

Leading rusher: Jonathan Stewart rushed for 123 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown.

Leading receiver: Fozzy Whittaker had 39 yards and one touchdown.

The Panthers held Arizona to 78 yards.  That is the fewest yards ever allowed in an NFL postseason game.  Up next for the Panthers is a trip out to Seattle to take on the Seahawks.  That game will be on Saturday night at 8:15 eastern time.

 

 

SLAM! CLICK! BOOM!!! on the Raiders’ 2014 Season

It’s been said that all good things must come to an end.  Well, on Sunday, December 28, a very bad thing came to an end.  That would be the 2014 season for the Oakland Raiders.  They went out without much of a fight as the Denver Broncos destroyed them by a score of 47-14.  It was the same old thing for the Raiders.  The best player on the field was punter Marquette King.  He punted NINE times for 418 yards and four of those punts were downed inside the 20-yard line.  Impressive.  At least the punter knows what he’s doing.  What totally baffles me is how an offense can look so bad.  How in the name of all that is moronic can you not figure out a way to move the ball?  Did you practice during the week?  Did you watch how the Bengals moved the ball against Denver?  They ran the ball right down their throats!  Oh well.  It’s over and it’s done.  Nothing can be done about it.

Now the off season starts.  There are so many questions to be answered.  Who will be the new head coach?  Word was it was going to be Jim Harbaugh.  Wrong.  He’s off to Michigan to try and turn that program around.  A lot of the veteran players are clamoring for Tony Sparano to stick around.  They seemed to play a lot harder for Sparano than they did for Dennis Allen.  Whether he sticks around is up to owner Mark Davis and GM Reggie McKenzie to decide.

One thing to remember is that there are a lot of glaring holes at a lot of positions.  In my opinion, the main thing that needs to be addressed on the offensive side of the ball is a go to wide receiver.  Granted, Andre Holmes and James Jones are good, but they’re not in the elite category and I’ve seen games where they can’t get any separation at all.  A player that could help that situation out immediately is Amari Cooper from Alabama.  If he’s there with the fourth pick in the draft, it would be a wise decision to take him.

There are so many other positions that need to be addressed and unlike how it was when Al Davis was in charge, the Raiders have a lot of money to spend.  Of course, they had a lot of money to spend last year and not many of the players contributed.  For instance, Maurice Jones-Drew carried the ball 43 times for 96 yards and never found the end zone.  LaMarr Woodley had three solo tackles in five games before being put on injured-reserve.  McKenzie needs to stay away from players like that.  Jones-Drew and Woodley were  in the twilight of their careers and their best years were way behind them.  The big question is can he lure quality free agents away from other teams?  Not many players want to come to a team that has an 11-37 record over the last three years.

By the way, if you’re wondering about the title of this article, I can explain.  The first word is “SLAM.”  That means I’m taking the 13 ugly losses from 2014 and I am putting them in a locker and slamming it shut.  Next is the word “CLICK.”  That means I am putting a lock on the door.  The next word is “BOOM!”  I usually use that word when Janikowksi makes a long field goal.  Not this time.  See, while I was putting those losses into the locker, I also included some dynamite.  Now I am going to detonate it.  BOOM!  The 2014 season is gone.

IF the Raiders can have a draft like they did last year and IF they can sign some QUALITY free agents, they might have a decent 2015.  That also depends on who they hire as their next head coach.  I have no control over who the coach will be, but they need a new offensive coordinator.  I think I’ve made my opinion pretty clear about how I feel about Greg Olson.  That’s about all I can say about the Raiders at this time because once again, what will happen in Oakland is yet to be determined.  I’ll be back next Monday with playoff articles.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

Raiders 26, Bills 24

The week 16 match-up for the Oakland Raiders was a visit from the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills were coming off a big 21-13 win over the Green Bay Packers and the Raiders were coming off a horrible 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.  Despite having a pitiful 2-12 record, the fans of the Raider Nation were out in full force.  Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay sent the opening kickoff deep into the end zone and the Raiders started at their 20-yard line.  It looked like a repeat performance of last week as the Raiders had a quick three and out.

The Bills didn’t have a hard time moving the ball on their first possession of the game.  Quarterback Kyle Orton engineered a seven play, 60-yard drive that was capped off by a 42-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Sammie Watkins.  After another punt by the Raiders, the Bills took over at their 46-yard line.  A four-yard pass to running back C.J. Spiller, a short run by running back Boobie Dixon and an eight-yard pass to tight end Scott Chandler moved the Bills into Raider territory.  On third and nine from the Oakland 38, Orton looked for Chandler again and the pass was picked off by safety Charles Woodson at the 16-yard line.  That was the 60th interception for the future Hall of Famer.   But the Raiders couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and quickly punted again.  Punter Marquette King hit a nice 53-yard punt and the Bills took over at their 27-yard line.  The Bills followed suit and the Raiders got the ball back at their 36-yard line.  From the 36, Carr found wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins for a gain of 13.  Three plays later, Carr launched a bomb deep down the middle that was hauled in by Thompkins for a gain of 50 yards and a first down at the Buffalo four-yard line.  On second and goal from the three, Carr rolled to the right and found wide receiver James Jones all alone in the end zone for a Raider touchdown.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowksi made the point after and the score was tied 7-7 with 14:56 to go in the second quarter.

The Bills suffered a huge loss as defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was lost for the game with a knee injury.  With Dareus in the game, the Raiders were having a terrible time finding any room to run.  With him out of the game, the holes would start to open up.  After a Buffalo punt, the Raiders took over at their 42.  On second and 11, running back Latavius Murray ran up the left side for a gain of 15 yards.  That was followed by a nine-yard run by Murray.  Running back Darren McFadden came into the game and netted ten yards on two carries.  They would move the ball down to the Buffalo 27-yard line and the drive stalled there.  Janikowksi came on for a 45-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  The Raiders led 10-7 with eight minutes to go in the first half.

With 4:16 to go in the half, the Raiders got the ball back at their 41.  Completions to Murray and fullback Marcel Reece quickly moved them down to the Buffalo 24.  McFadden ran up the middle for six yards, but on third and four, Carr’s pass intended for Thompkins fell incomplete.  That meant it was time for Janikowksi to try another field goal.  His 36-yard attempt was good and the Raiders led 13-7 with 1:11 to go in the first half.

The Bills started at their 23 and Orton quickly got his team into Oakland territory with completions to running back Fred Jackson and Watkins.  Another completion to Watkins gave the Bills a first down at the 44.  The drive stalled at the 36 and Carpenter was called on for a 54-yard field goal attempt.  He split the uprights easily and the Raiders led 13-10 at halftime.

The Bills got the ball to start the second half and three plays netted negative six yards.  On third and six from the 24, Orton was sacked for a loss of ten by rookie linebacker Khalil Mack.  Punter Colton Schmidt blasted a 56-yard punt that was fielded by return man T.J. Carrie at the Oakland 30.  He returned it five yards and the Raiders set up shop at the 35-yard line.  Three carries by Murray quickly moved the Raiders down to the Buffalo 19.  But the next three plays netted minus one yard.  Janikowksi came on for another field goal attempt and his 38-yard attempt was good.  That put the Raiders up 16-10 with 10:18 to go in the third quarter.

The Bills continued to struggle on offense and punted again.  Schmidt sent the ball through the end zone and the Raiders started their next possession at their 20-yard line.  On third and ten, Carr hit Thompkins in stride on a crossing route that gained 11 yards.  Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was injured on that play and did not return.  A carry by McFadden gained 12 yards for another first down at the 43.  Another carry by Murray and a five-yard pass to tight end Mychal Rivera moved the ball into Buffalo territory.  From the Buffalo 47, Carr hooked up with wide receiver Andre Holmes for a gain of 12 yards.  Once again, the Raiders couldn’t find the end zone and the drive came to an end at the 31-yard line.  Janikowski made his 49-yard field goal attempt and the Raiders went up 19-10 with 2:36 to go in the third quarter.

The Bills started at their 17 and on second and eight from the 19, Orton found wide receiver Chris Hogan across the middle for a gain of 31 yards and a first down at the 50-yard line.  A defensive holding call on defensive end Justin Tuck gave them five more yards and a first down at the Oakland 45.  A short run by Jackson and a 19-yard pass to Watkins moved them down to the 26.  But a holding call moved them back ten yards.  Undeterred by the holding call, Orton completed a seven-yard pass to wide receiver Robert Woods.  That was followed by a pass down the middle to Chandler.  He rumbled down the field and dove into the end zone for a touchdown.  Carpenter made the point after and the Raiders now led 19-17 with 14:57 to go in the game.

Both teams punted on their next possessions.  With 8:13 remaining, the Raiders got the ball back at their 20.  On third and one from the 29, Carr took the snap and plowed straight ahead for a gain of two and a first down at the 31.  On second and ten, Murray ran up the left side for a nice 15-yard gain.  Not so fast, my friend.  The Raiders were flagged for holding and that moved them back to their 21.  That was followed by a short pass to Murray and he was thrown for a loss of two yards.  The Bills had the Raiders right where they wanted them.  It was third and 22 from the 19-yard line.  If they could stop the Raiders on this upcoming play, they would force a punt and likely get the ball back with good field position.  Carr took the snap, ran to his right and launched a deep bomb up the right side.  Holmes hauled it in for a gain of 51 yards and a first down at the Buffalo 30.  On second and six from the 26, McFadden ran up the left side for a gain of 25.  It looked like he might score, but he fell out of bounds at the one-yard line.  Two plays later, Carr tossed a short pass to the left that was caught for a touchdown by fullback Jamize Olawale.  Janikowksi made the point after and the Raiders were up 26-17 with 2:51 to go in the game.

The Bills took over at their 20 and on first down, Orton was sacked by Tuck for a loss of 11 yards.  Two plays later, Orton felt the pressure, stepped up in the pocket and threw a pass intended for Hogan.  It was picked off by safety Brandian Ross and the Raiders got the ball back at the 26.  That play SHOULD have sealed a win for the Raiders.  All they needed was a first down and the game would be over.  Keep in mind that I am talking about the Raiders here.  They do things differently in Oakland.  What followed was three running plays that netted minus three yards and three timeouts called by the Bills.  Janikowksi came on again for a 48-yard attempt and it sailed wide left.  That gave the Bills the ball at their 38 with 1:55 to go in the game.  On second and 12 from the 36, it looked like Orton was going to be sacked again.  But he escaped the pressure and dumped off a short pass to Jackson.  As Jackson headed up-field, the Raiders forgot how to tackle and Jackson was finally pushed out of bounds at the Oakland 30-yard line.  Two plays later, Orton floated one up to the end zone and Woods hauled it in for a touchdown.  Carpenter made the point after and the Raiders now led 26-24 with 1:09 to go in the game.  That meant it was time for an onside kick.  Gay hit a high kick up the right side that was caught by Woodson.  That ended any hopes for the Bills to make it to the post season.  Carr took a knee and the game was over.  The Raiders won 26-24.

For the Bills, Kyle Orton completed 32 of 49 for 329 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.  Fred Jackson led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 93.  The Bills found it very hard to move the ball on the ground as they ran for just 13 yards on 13 attempts.  Defensively, safety Da’Norris Stacy led the team in solo tackles with  nine.

For the Raiders, Derek Carr overcame a rough start and completed 17 of 34 for 214 yards and two touchdowns.  Kenbrell Thompkins led the team in receptions with five and receiving yards with 90.  When Marcell Dareus left the game, the Raiders ground attack improved greatly.  Latavius Murray led the way with 86 yards on 23 carries.  As a team, the Raiders rushed for 140 yards on 36 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Miles Burris led the team in solo tackles with nine.

Up next for the Raiders is a trip to Denver to take on the Broncos.  That will conclude the 2014 season for the Raiders.  Lots of questions remain for this team.  Will they get Jim Harbaugh?  Will they keep Sparano?  Will they stay in Oakland?  All I can say to those questions is “I don’t know.”  It should be a very interesting off season.

Merry Christmas from the Raider Guy

Lions 20, Bears 14: Santa Hates Children and Animals

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, another bad Bears QB.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…ok screw it, this is going to get old quickly.

The Chicago Bears tried to play Grinch to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field but, despite a spirited effort, ended up being nicer than naughty and fell to those blue animals 20-14.

It’s the fifth straight defeat for the Bears who haven’t won a game since before Thanksgiving.  The first Thanksgiving.

This defeat did look different than the previous nine, however, because after much drama and many turnovers, the Bears decided this past week to sit down quarterback Jay Cutler and handed the sleigh over to Jimmy Clausen who had not started an NFL game since back in 2010, a simpler, more sanguine time in American history.

Clausen, once he wiped off the cobwebs, was not too bad, completing 23 of 39 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But honestly, if Cutler had put up those exact same numbers Bears fans would be spitting in his eggnog.

The Bears’ defense did an honorable job of keeping Jimmy in the hunt by coming up with two interceptions off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford who at times looked like he, not Clausen, was the quarterback who has been picking splinters since “Lost” went off the air.

2010 was also the last year the Bears made the playoffs, a drought that some hard-drinking mystics thought would end this year but, at 5-10, the only game the Bears will be playing in January will be “Avoid the Hatchet Man” but in that game most Bears supporters are not hoping for a victory.

It’s going to be a tough Christmas week at Halas Hall. The Bears will be watching other teams open postseason presents whereas the Bears will not only get coal in their stockings but a stye in the eye. If they’re lucky.

Clausen played OK, the defense tried and if not for a play here and a mistake there, the Bears could have pulled this one out. But what does any of it mean? What football Gods are being served? Are we any closer to knowing what this Bears team will look like next year or even next week?

In the season finale will the Bears turn to third string QB David Fales because what the heck, why not, we have to know our options?

This is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” but the only line from that song that’s resonating in Bearland is also the most curious lyric: There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

Does anyone really tell ghost stories at Christmas? The Bears have been seeing scary stuff since before Halloween. Let us gather around the Christmas hearth and try not to be afraid, Bears fans. Let’s remember the glories of Christmas past and know that they can be re-lived.

Just so long as Santa brings us that VCR we’ve been asking for.

Saints 31, Bears 15: The Unholy Season

December 15, 2014

Saints 31, Bears 15: The Unholy Season

The Chicago Bears handed out aprons to the first 40,000 loyal souls who walked into Soldier Field on Monday night and they were quickly put to good use catching tears and other fluids flying around a frustrated stadium as the Bears were damned by the New Orleans Saints, 31-15 in another nationally televised kick in the crotch.

It started ugly, stayed ugly and ended ugly, emblematic of an intolerable season that now has the Bears at 5-9 and questioning their choices, their path, their pride and their religion.

The Bears took the opening kick and committed a penalty. Their first play from scrimmage was a two-yard run, followed by an incomplete pass and then a Jay Cutler interception, the first of what would eventually be three on this cold, rainy night that made even Santa Claus a doubter.

The Bears did manage to get the ball back two plays later by forcing a fumble but refused to take advantage of this rare bit of good fortune and instead responded with a weak five-play drive that included a curious incomplete Cutler deep pass on 3rd and 1 and, well, we were really glad we had those aprons.

The Saints, an NFC South powerhouse at 6-8, are not very good either and, like the Bears, couldn’t do much early on as the first quarter of this contest looked less like an NFL game than a shoving match between a bunch of fat guys in a yard full of reindeer droppings.

Alas, New Orleans’ badness was not as bad as Chicago’s and Drew Brees and his fleur de leaf helmeted pals put up 14 points in the second quarter to lead 14-0 at halftime and if it hadn’t been for a spectacular fireworks show, and those awesome aprons, probably many more fans would have left an already sorry crowd that had about 11,000 no-shows at kickoff.

There were actually a lot of Saints fans in Chicago for this game, which proves that people will follow football anywhere, even if it’s bad December football.

The Bears were outgained 443-278 on the night and those numbers would have been far, far worse if it wasn’t for a couple of Bears touchdowns on garbage-time drives in the fourth quarter by which time our hot chocolate was cold, our aprons were soiled and our souls, in tatters since the Green Bay game five weeks ago, were in need of serious spiritual reconstruction if not an outright exorcism.

The Saints committed three penalties for 25 yards. The Bears were flagged nine times for 74 yards.

The Bears turned the ball over three times, the Saints just once.

Drew Brees averaged nine yards per pass attempt; Jay Cutler averaged four.

Brees was sacked twice by the Bears; Cutler bit the turf seven times.

Thank God for those aprons.

The Bears have dropped three straight games giving up an average of 35 points per game and, for the season, are surrendering an average of 29 points per contest, worst in the NFL.

Chicago’s offense through 14 games is scoring at a pace of 21.6 points per contest, 19th best. This, from a team that was expected to have the best offense Chicago has ever seen. The Bears have seen a lot of great offense this year, wearing the other jerseys.

When it was all (officially) over on Monday night we the few, the proud, the cold, the downtrodden, trudged out of Soldier Field into the dark, misty, wintry air and perhaps the most troubling thing was that no one seemed surprised, or even disappointed. Those reactions were all used up against the Panthers, Patriots, Packers and Lions.

At this point, Bears fans are just tired, with no one even heard firing back at the “Who Dat?” chants from New Orleans fans echoing into the cold December night.

Instead, we clutched our aprons and checked our phones for the Bulls score.

They lost, too.

Send In The Clowns

First of all, let me say that I really enjoyed watching the Raiders last week.  It was one of the rare times that I sat there and watched a Raider game from beginning to end.  To top it off, they really played well and came away with a 24-13 win over the 49ers.  When I was a kid, I was told not to live in the past and look ahead to the future.  Well, after that nice win, I thought the Raiders would go into Arrowhead Stadium and come away with yet another win.  I should be put in front of a firing squad for thinking so optimistically.

The game started out the way a lot of Raiders-Chiefs games start.  It was sort of a feeling out process.  With a little over six minutes to go, punter Marquette King nailed a 57-yard punt that was fielded at the Kansas City 19-yard line by rookie return man De’Anthony Thomas.  He proceeded to run up the left sideline for an 81-yard punt return.  That gave the Chiefs the lead and they never looked back.  Kicker Cairo Santos added a field goal with eight minutes to go in the second quarter and the Chiefs were up 10-0.

The Raiders managed to get on the board right before the end of the first half as Sebastian Janikowksi made a 53-yard field goal.  That made the score 10-3 at halftime.  It was good to see them score, but I was nothing but pissed off.  Prior to that drive, the Raiders had the ball for six other possessions and all of them ended with a punt.   Early in the third quarter, fortune smiled on the Raiders for a few seconds.  Tight end Travis Kelce caught a short pass and fumbled.  The ball was picked out of the air by defensive end C.J. Wilson.  He took it up the right side and it looked like he might make it to the end zone.  Seeing as the offense didn’t know how to score, maybe the defense could show them where the end zone was.  No such luck.  Wilson was dragged down at the Kansas City 15-yard line.  All the offense had to do was gain 15 yards and they could tie the game up.  FIFTEEN FREAKING YARDS!!!!  They ran three plays and gained exactly ZERO yards.  Janikowski made another field goal and the Raiders trailed 10-6.

That was the last time until late in the game that the Raiders would score any points.  What follows is what happened after that field goal…

Knile Davis scored on a 3-yard run.  Santos made the extra point

Travis Kelce caught a 20-yard pass from Alex Smith for a touchdown.  Santos made the extra point.

Knile Davis caught  a 70-yard pass from Alex Smith for a touchdown.  Santos made the extra point.

While the Chiefs were doing all that scoring, the Raiders were fumbling the ball away and punting the ball away.  That 70-yard touchdown by Davis made the score 31-6.  With 34 seconds to go in the game, the Raiders finally found end zone when Derek Carr completed a one-yard pass to James Jones in the end zone.  But it was far too little and far too late.  The Chiefs came away with an easy 31-13 win.  That win improved their record to 8-6 and kept their playoff hopes alive.  The Raiders fell to 2-12 and nobody looked like they gave a damn.

Now, I think I have an answer as to why the Raiders punted on their first six possessions of the game.  It was the play calling of offensive coordinator Greg Olson yet again.  Early in the game, Latavius Murray was running the ball very well and averaging five yards a carry.  If something is working, why do you change it?  This is a question that I ask nearly every game.  All of a sudden, they were calling pass plays and totally abandoned the running game.  The defense was playing relatively well in the first half, but they weren’t getting any help from the offense.  I sincerely do not understand what goes on in the mind of Greg Olson.

For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 27 of 56 for 222 yards and one touchdown.  James Jones led the team in receptions with eight and Andre Holmes had the most receiving yards with 70.  Latavius Murray led the way on the ground with 59 yards on 12 carries.  As a team, the Raiders rushed for 78 yards on 17 carries.  That’s an average of 4.6 yards a carry.  If they would have kept pounding the ball, there may have been a different outcome.  But when you have a complete moron calling the plays, you aren’t going to win many games.  Defensively, Khalil Mack led the team in solo tackles with six.

For the Chiefs, Alex Smith completed 18 of 30 for 297 yards and two touchdowns.  Travis Kelce led the team in receptions with five and Knile Davis had the most receiving yards with 70.  On the ground, Jamaal Charles led the way with 52 yards on 12 carries.  As a team, the Chiefs had a total of 93 yards on 27 carries.  Defensively, the Chiefs were in Carr’s face all day and sacked him four times.  Defensive back Jamell Fleming led the team in solo tackles with eight.

Well, only two games to go.  Up next for the Raiders is a home game against the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills are coming off a solid 21-13 win over the Packers.  In that game, they pressured Aaron Rodgers and picked him off twice.  However, the Packers had success running the ball.  They totaled 158 yards rushing and averaged 6.3 yards a carry.  Are you reading this, Olson?  Are you going to watch the film and see how the Packers successfully ran the ball against the Bills?  Or are you going to have your rookie quarterback throw 50 times against a very aggressive pass rush?  I think I already know the answer to that question.  Take it easy.

The Raider Guy

 

Bay Area Battle: Raiders Win 24-13

Up next for the Oakland Raiders was a home game against the San Francisco 49ers.  The 49ers were coming off a bad 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks and the Raiders were coming off a horrible 52-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams.  After that game, I didn’t have much hope for the Raiders winning another game.  I figured a 1-15 record was imminent.  Well, that’s why they play the games, right?

The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the 49ers started at their 20.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took to the air on the first play of the game and his pass intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree was picked off by safety Brandian Ross at the Oakland 49-yard line.  Now, I have always been a believer in making the other team immediately pay for their mistakes.  If I were the offensive coordinator, I’d call a deep bomb on first down.  John Madden loved to do that.  But, that’s not how it is in Oakland nowadays.  Greg Olson did his usual play call on first down and running back Darren McFadden ran up the middle for one freaking yard.  That was followed by an 11-yard scramble by quarterback Derek Carr and that netted a first down at the San Francisco 39-yard line.  From the 39, Carr completed an 11-yard pass to fullback Marcel Reece.  They wouldn’t get any farther than that due to a stupid personal foul penalty on guard Austin Howard.  On fourth and 21 from the 39-yard line, they decided to bring in the Polish cannon for a 57-yard field goal attempt.  He nailed it and the Raiders went up 3-0 with 11:46 to go in the first quarter.

Both teams punted on their next possessions.  With six minutes to go in the first quarter, the 49ers got the ball back at their 40-yard line.  On first down, Kaepernick found tight end Vernon Davis across the middle for a gain of 23 yards and a first down at the Oakland 37.  Two carries by running back Frank Gore moved them down to the 21.  Two completions to wide receiver Anquan Boldin and a short carry by rookie running back Carlos Hyde netted another first down at the eight-yard line.  From the eight, Kaepernick tossed a short pass to fullback Bruce Miller and he snuck into the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown.  Kicker Phil Dawson made the point after and the 49ers led 7-3 with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter.

The Raiders took over at their 26.  A six-yard completion to Reece and two carries by running back Latavius Murray quickly moved them to mid-field.  Some more running by Murray and Reece and a 20-yard completion to wide receiver Vincent Brown netted a first down at the San Francisco 28-yard line.  Another short run by Murray and a 19-yard pass to tight end Mychal Rivera moved the ball to the seven-yard line.  Three plays later, Carr rolled out to the left and dumped off a short pass that was caught by left tackle Donald Penn.  He bounced off a big hit and fell into the end zone for a Raider touchdown.  Then he jumped into the stands and had a little party with the rowdy members of the Black Hole.  Janikowksi made the point after and the Raiders led 10-7 with 10:45 to go in the first half.

The 49ers started at their 30 and immediately received some help from the zebras.  Back to back defensive pass interference penalties on the Raiders moved them quickly down to the Oakland 42-yard line.  They would get as far as the 36 and the drive stalled there.  Dawson came on for a 54-yard field goal attempt.  The kick was good, but there was another flag thrown.  The 49ers were flagged for holding and that nullified the field goal.  They were forced to punt.  As a matter of fact, there was a lot of punting going on until the 49ers started their next drive from their nine-yard line.  Passes to Davis and Boldin and a 17-yard scramble by Kaepernick had them moving in the right direction.  That was followed by a 20-yard pas to Boldin and some more scrambling by Kaepernick.  With time running out in the first half, Dawson was brought into the game again for a 52-yard attempt.  The kick was good and the score was knotted at 10 at halftime.

The Raiders gained a grand total of six yards on their first possession of the second half and punter Marquette King got off a nice 55-yard punt that was fielded by return man Bruce Ellington at the San Francisco 31-yard line.  Ellington returned it to the Oakland 46 and the 49ers had good field position.  Three carries by Gore and two completions to Crabtree moved the ball down to the nine-yard line.  Gore was stopped for a loss of one on first down.  On second down, Kaepernick looked for Boldin and the pass was incomplete.  That brought up third down.  Kaepernick had time and completed a short pass to Hyde.  It looked like he might make it to the end zone, but he was pushed out of bounds at the two-yard line by cornerback D.J. Hayden.  Dawson came on again and his 20-yard kick was good and the 49ers led 13-10 with 8:34 to go in the third quarter.

The Raiders took over at their 20 and after the usual short carry by McFadden, Carr found wide receiver Andre Holmes on the right side for a gain of 16 yards.  That was followed by a 12-yard pass to Reece.  A defensive holding penalty gave them five more yards and a first down at the San Francisco 45-yard line.  From the 45, Carr ran to his left and with pressure coming at him, he fired a pass down the middle that was caught by Rivera for a gain of 27 yards and a first down at the 18.  McFadden got a few more yards on first down.  That was followed by a short pass to Reece.  He was stopped short of the first down marker and that set up a third and one from the nine.  I thought they would definitely try another run up the middle.  To my surprise, the Raiders came out of the huddle with an empty backfield and five receivers.  Carr took the snap, fired a pass to the left side for Reece and he took it into the end zone for a touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 17-13 with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

The 49ers punted on their next possession and the Raiders took over at their 20.  This drive got off to a good start as Carr completed a 22-yard pass to Holmes.  I was truly shocked not to see McFadden run up the middle on first down.  That was followed by a short run by Murray.  A delay of game penalty moved them back five yards and on second and 13 from the 49, Carr completed a six-yard pass to Reece.  That’s when Carr went deep again and hooked up with Rivera for 27 yards and a first down at the San Francisco 29-yard line.  Two more carries by Murray and completions to Rivera and Reece moved the ball down to the three-yard line.  Three plays later, Carr found Rivera again in the left corner of the end zone for his third touchdown pass of the day.  Janikowksi made the point after and the Raiders led 24-13 with 10:39 to go in the game.

Down by two scores, I thought the 49ers would go to their no huddle offense.  That didn’t happen.  They started at their 20 and methodically moved down the field with completions to Crabtree and tight end Garrett Celek.  On third and eight from the Oakland 25, the Raiders brought the pressure and Kaepernick was sacked by defensive tackle Antonio Smith for a loss of four yards.  Dawson came on for a 47-yard field goal and this time, it was no good.  That was huge for the Raiders and they remained up by 11 points with five minutes to go in the game.  All they needed to do was get a couple of first downs and the game would be over.  Well, on third and three from the 44, Carr rolled to the right side and I guess you could say he took a knee.  He fell to the ground for a loss on nine yards.  I thought that was very peculiar.  Then I remembered that Greg Olson is the offensive coordinator and it didn’t seem so peculiar.  King punted and the 49ers took over at their 23-yard line.

Things didn’t get off to a very good start for the 49ers as Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of five by linebacker Khalil Mack.  That was followed by an incomplete pass to Crabtree.  On third and long, Kaepernick looked for Davis and the pass was picked off by safety Charles Woodson.  The 49ers used up their time-outs and ended up getting the ball back with 28 seconds remaining.  On the final play of the game, Kaepernick was sacked once again by Mack.  And that’s that.  The Raiders won the Bay Area Battle by a score of 24-13.  That loss really hurt the 49ers chances of getting to the playoffs.  Although the Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, they held their heads up high as they walked off the field knowing they won the Bay Area Battle.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 18 of 33 for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with nine and receiving yards with 56.  Frank Gore was the leading rusher as he had 63 yards on 12 carries.  As a team, the 49ers rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Chris Borland led the team in solo tackles with 12.

For the Raiders, rookie Derek Carr had himself a great day and looked like a veteran out there.  He completed 22 of 28 for 254 yards and three touchdowns.  Mychal Rivera and Marcel Reece tied for the lead in receptions with seven apiece.  Rivera had the most receiving yards with 109 and a touchdown.  Like most running backs, Latavius Murray found it difficult to run on the 49ers defense.  He finished the game with 76 yards on 23 carries.  16 of those yards came on one carry.  For the most part, the defense looked very good as they sacked Kaepernick five times and picked him off twice.  Charles Woodson and T.J. Carrie tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven.

After that horrid loss to the Rams, head coach Tony Sparano said the Raiders would “bounce back.”  I had sincere doubts about that and said “Actions speak louder than words, Mr. Sparano.”  Well, I liked the action I saw against the 49ers.  Apparently the players did too.  Near the conclusion of the game, Sparano was given a Gatorade bath.  They held the 49ers to 248 total yards and looked damn good.  Up next is a trip to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs.  Which Raider team will show up?  Will it be the one that played so well against the 49ers?  Or will it be the clowns that played in the game against the Rams two weeks ago?  I wish I knew.  Take it easy.

The Raider Guy