December 14, 2017

I Won’t Get Fooled Again

Up next on the schedule for the Oakland Raiders was a visit from the Tennessee Titans.  The Titans were coming off a 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts and the Raiders were coming off a 28-23 victory over the Houston Texans.  The Titans won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Rob Bironas kicked the ball eight yards deep into the end zone and the Raiders started at their 20-yard line.  On third and seven from the 23, quarterback Matt McGloin completed a pass to tight end Mychal Rivera for ten yards and a first down at the 33.  Two completions to running back Rashad Jennings moved them down to the Tennessee 39.  The drive stalled at the 34 and kicker Sebastian Janikowski made his 52-yard attempt.  That put the Raiders up 3-0 with 10:55 to go in the first quarter.

The Titans started at their 26 and didn’t get off to a good start.  A nine-yard completion from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to wide receiver Kendall Wright was brought back due a holding penalty.  But, a couple of completions to wide receiver Nate Washington set them up with a third and four from the 32-yard line.  Fitzpatrick looked for Wright, but the pass was incomplete.  However, linebacker Sio Moore was flagged for roughing the passer and that gave the Titans a first down at the 47.  Two carries by running back Chris Johnson moved them to the Oakland 49.  But a false start penalty moved them back five yards and on third and 11, Fitzpatrick found Washington again for a gain of 16 and a first down at the Oakland 38.  Three plays later they were facing yet another third and long situation and Fitzpatrick completed an 11-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter for a first down at the 26.  They went to their no huddle offense and a couple of carries by Johnson and an eight-yard completion to tight end Delanie Walker moved them down to the 13.  On third and five from the eight, Fitzpatrick was sacked by linebackers Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett for a loss of seven yards.  Bironas came on and his 33-yard field goal attempt was good.  That knotted the score at 3-3 with 3:38 to go in the first quarter.  It was good that the Raiders held them to a field goal, but not stopping the Titans on third and long would be a recurring theme throughout the game.

Both teams went three and out on their next possessions and with 13:28 to go in the second quarter, the Raiders got the ball back at their nine-yard line.  On first down, McGloin looked for Reece, but the pass was picked off by linebacker Zach Brown.  He was brought down at the 11 and the Titans had a golden opportunity to get into the end zone.  Running back Shonn Greene was inserted into the game and two carries netted six yards.  On third down, Fitzpatrick threw to the right side for Walker, but it was incomplete.  Bironas made his 22-yard field goal attempt and the Titans led 6-3 with 11:55 to go in the second quarter.

Each team punted on their next possessions and with just under nine minutes remaining in the half, the Raiders got good field position at their 49.  On second down and three from the Tennessee 44,  McGloin fired a pass down the middle to Rivera.  As he gained control of the ball, he was hammered with a helmet to helmet hit by safety Michael Griffin.  The ball came loose and the pass was incomplete.  However, Griffin was flagged 15 yards for that hit and that moved the ball to the 29.  Rivera left the game and did not return.  The next three plays netted a total of minus one yard and it was time for Janikowski to try another field goal.  His 48-yard attempt was good and the score was tied at six with 6:25 to go in the second quarter.

The Titans managed to get a few first downs on their next drive, but a holding penalty and an unnecessary roughness call moved them backwards and punter Brett Kern got off a 50-yard punt that was fair caught at the Oakland 23 by return man Jacoby Ford.  A short run by Jennings, a scramble by McGloin and a 25-yard pass to fullback Jamize Olawale moved the ball to the Tennessee 41.  Some more good running by Jennings gave them a first down at the 13.  On third and three from the six, McGloin looked for wide receiver Rod Streater, but the pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Sammie Lee Hill.  That was a killer as Streater was wide open.  Janikowski made his 24-yard field goal attempt and the Raiders were up 9-6 with 48 seconds remaining.

The Titans took over at their 20 and completions to Hunter and Walker had them moving.  On third and three, Fitzpatrick looked for wide receiver Kenny Britt up the right side.  The ball hit him right in the hands and he dropped it.  The Titans were forced to punt with 15 seconds remaining.  The Raiders have had some success this year when it comes to blocking punts and running back Jeremy Stewart blocked this one.  It was recovered at the 37 and with 11 seconds to go, McGloin quickly completed a pass to Streater on the left sideline for a gain of 23 yards.  That set up what looked like an easy 32-yard field goal attempt for Janikowski.  But the kick was wide left and the score remained 9-6 at halftime.

The Titans started the second half from their 15.  A 23-yard pass to Wright moved them to their 38.  On third and two from the 46, the Raiders decided to drop eight men into coverage and rush only three.  Bad idea.  Despite the fact there were so many men in coverage, Hunter was standing all alone on the right side of the field.  Fitzpatrick saw him, he caught the pass, juked several Raiders out of their shoes and went all the way for a 54-yard touchdown.  That was the most pathetic display of defense I have seen in quite a while.  Bironas made the point after and the Titans led 13-9 with 12:52 to go in the third quarter.

On the strength of some tough running by Jennings and completions to Streater and Reece, the Raiders moved down to the Tennessee 44-yard line.  The drive stalled at the 30 and once again, Janikowski was brought into the game.  His 48-yard attempt sailed wide left again and the score remained 13-9.  The Titans took over at their 38 and went nowhere.  Kern punted and the ball was fielded at the 20 by Ford and he returned it to the 26.

From the 26, McGloin found Streater for 19 yards and wide receiver Andre Holmes for 16 more yards.  They moved into Tennessee territory again, but still couldn’t find the end zone.  They got as far as the 24 and it was Janikowski time again.  This time he made his 42-yard attempt and the Titans now led 13-12 with 1:41 to go in the third quarter.

The Titans started at their 20 and on third and four, Fitzpatrick completed a 12-yard pass to Walker to keep the drive alive.  A few plays later, the Titans found themselves in a third and seven situation.  No problem.  Just throw it down the middle and a Titan will catch it.  Sure enough, that’s what happened.  Hunter was wide open in the middle of the field for a gain of 12 and a first down at the Oakland 47.  Then, another third and long situation arose.  This time, Fitzpatrick scrambled for a gain of ten and a first down at the 24.  A 12-yard run by Johnson moved them down to the 12.  But a holding penalty moved them back to the 22.  They got down to the eight-yard line and the Raider defense finally stopped them.  Bironas came on and his 26-yard field goal attempt was good.  The Titans now led 16-12 with 8:39 to go in the game.

The Raiders got the ball back at their 25 and McGloin completed a 19-yard pass to Streater for a first down at the 44.  A short run by Jennings and a 13-yard pass to Streater netted another first down at the Tennessee 42.  From the 42, McGloin found Jennings for a gain of 15 and another first down at the 27.  On the next play, McGloin floated a pass up the left side that was caught for a touchdown by Reece.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 19-16 with 6:10 to go in the game.

All the Raiders needed to do was stop the Titans on this drive.  Bring some pressure and force Fitzpatrick to make some bad throws.  That’s all they had to do and they couldn’t do it.  There was no pressure applied to Fitzpatrick and he had all day to find his receivers on this drive.  Completions to Wright and Hunter got the Titans rolling.  Mix in a couple of runs by Johnson and they had a first down at the Oakland 23.  On third and six from the 19, Fitzpatrick completed a nine-yard pass to Hunter across the middle.  That’s usually where all the completions were.  It was obvious the Raiders couldn’t stop the Titan receivers on simple slant routes.  So, that made it first and goal from the ten-yard line.  Two incomplete passes set up another third and long.  That was not a problem.  Fitzpatrick took the snap, calmly stood in the pocket as the hapless Raider pass rush was nowhere near him and he looked to his left and found Wright wide open for a touchdown.  That was way too easy.  Bironas made the point after and the Titans won by a score of 23-19.  The win improved the Titans to 5-6 and the loss dropped the Raiders to 4-7.

For the Titans, Ryan Fitzpatrick had himself quite a birthday as he completed 30 of 42 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.  Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright tied for the lead in receptions with six apiece.  Both of them had a touchdown catch and Hunter had the most yards receiving with 109.  On the ground, Chris Johnson carried the ball 20 times for 73 yards.  As a team, the Titans rushed for 114 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, safety Michael Griffin led the team in solo tackles with seven.

For the Raiders, Matt McGloin completed 19 of 32 for 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception.  Rod Streater had the most receptions with five and the most yards receiving with 93.  On the ground, Rashad Jennings ended the game with 73 yards on 17 carries.  Jennings also caught four passes for 49 yards.  As a team, the Raiders rushed for 93 yards on 23 carries.  Linebacker Nick Roach led the team in tackles with seven.  He also had one and a half sacks and a tackle for a loss.

From the missed field goals to the defense playing so poorly, this was a bad loss.  The defense allowed the Titans to go 10 for 18 on third down conversions and they won the time of possession battle 35:48 to 24:12.  Simply put, the defense couldn’t get off the field.  I thought defensive coordinator Jason Tarver would definitely bring the blitz and apply lots of pressure.  Instead, they rarely blitzed and receivers were open all over the field throughout the game.  They made Fitzpatrick look like Joe Montana.

With the win last week against the Texans and with the Titans struggling in recent weeks, I had pretty high hopes for the Raiders to get a win and improve to 5-6.  What can I say?  They fooled me into thinking they were playing better.  But I won’t get fooled again.  The Raiders are still a long way from being a dominant team.  They are competitive and they don’t give up like they have in previous years.  But they still have a lot of work to do.  Up next is a trip to Dallas for a Thanksgiving Day game.  The Cowboys have been up and down this year, but they defeated the Giants on the road last week and the NFC east is still up for grabs.  Until then, take it easy.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Raider Guy!


Bears 51, Titans 20: Charles Tillman Is Speed Racer, Spider-Man, Moses, Fonzie and Every Gangster’s Best Friend

The Chicago Bears assaulted the Tennessee Titans physically, verbally, emotionally, spiritually and numerically in Nashville on Sunday, winning by a score of 51-20 in a game that was more one-sided than an MSNBC editorial meeting.

This NC-17 slaughter disguised as a football game allowed the Bears to improve to 7-1 and sent another blood-stained note to the rest of the NFL that Lovie Smith’s gang of 53 is relentless, fast, crafty and cruel.  Sort of like a chain-smoking mother-in-law.

The Bears led 28-2 after the first quarter and 31-5 at halftime.  Those are weird scores and also, respectively, Nashville’s ratio of residents to full sets of teeth and the odds that Kenny Britt still follows Charles Tillman on Twitter.

Tillman, the Bears cornerback and first in line to write the screenplay for the next “Star Wars” movie, forced four fumbles in this one, backing up the lesson we learned in Sunday school that punching is usually the best way to get what you want.

What the Bears want is the football.  Always.  And Goodell have mercy on those offensive sorts who try to keep the Marauders of the Midway from taking it.  The Bears forced five more turnovers in all in this game including a 46-yard interception return for a score by Brian Urlacher as part of Chicago’s blitzkrieg 28-point first quarter.  Urlacher was so happy and tired after his touchdown he looked like William Shatner at a carwash on Ladies Day.

The Bears scored their first touchdown of the game on a blocked punt.

Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall.

Matt Forte scored on an eight-yard touchdown run.

George Blanda scored on a dropkick.

The 51-point total is the most by the Bears since a 61-7 shovel to the throat against the Green Bay Packers in 1980, back when Jimmy Carter was President and Tennessee still had dinosaurs.  Oh wait a minute, there were no dinosaurs.

The 51 points by the Bears matches the jersey number of Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus who craps bigger than Matt Hasselbeck.  The Bears have had entire seasons in which they didn’t score 51 points.

The Bears are 7-1 at the season’s midway point for several reasons:  Their defense is spectacular, Charles Tillman is the best football player on the planet, Brandon Marshall can catch a neutrino in a rainstorm, and they have had an easy schedule.

Now it’s time for the grownups.  On both sides of the ball.  Despite a 7-1 record and Super Bowl sugarplums dancing in their heads, the Bears know their offense is still not great and has yet to put together a complete game.  The Titans put that weird number 2 on the scoreboard when Bears offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb was called for a penalty in the endzone.  D’oh!  Cutler is good but not polished yet, the same with the offensive line.  Forte is great, so is Marshall, but the Bears desperately need the return of receiver Alshon Jeffery from a broken hand to give Cutler another target, Forte some breathing room and inspiration to the millions of little boys named Alshon.

It’s time because now the Houston Texans – the best team in football –  come to Soldier Field for a Sunday night showdown that could be a Super Bowl preview or could be a wet spaghetti noodle across Lovie Smith’s face.  After Houston, the Bears travel to San Francisco to tangle with the 6-2 49ers followed by alley fights with the Vikings, Seahawks, Vikings again and then the Packers.  Not a Titan, Jaguar or Panther among them.

The Bears should survive the second half, just like most of us endured the final season of “MASH.”  But it won’t always be funny.  No matter what happens, though, we’ll always recall a sunny day in Tennessee when the Bears were Rutger Hauer, the Titans were Jonah Hill, the scoreboard was on fire and Charles Tillman swung a fist that could fracture the moon, shake the world and foster belief

It was fun.  It was pinball.  It was Coca-Cola in a glass bottle.  It was a kid with a piece of chalk writing “Great American Moments” on the sidewalk right before it rains.

Franchises Returning to Their Former Homes

This Sunday’s St. Louis Rams vs. Cleveland Browns game isn’t generating a lot of buzz. But the significance of the game shouldn’t be lost on the city of Cleveland.

The Rams who were originally founded in Cleveland, will be making their 11th trip back to the city Cleveland. The Rams have a record of 4-6 in Cleveland, since they left the icy shores of Lake Erie in 1946.

The Rams are one of ten current NFL teams, to have ever played an official NFL game in a city they use to call home.  These teams have a winning record of 48-42 in their former cities.

Franchises Records at their Former Home

Team Former City Moved W-L 1st Game Back
Cardinals Chicago 1960 3-6 1965: Bears L 13-34
St. Louis 1988 7-3 1998: Rams W 20-17
Chargers Los Angeles 1961 7-10 1970: Rams L 10-37
Chiefs Dallas 1963 1-4 1975: Cowboys W 34-31
Colts Baltimore 1984 4-2 1998: Colts L 31-38
Lions Portsmouth 1934 1-0 1934: Cin Reds W 38-0
Raiders Oakland 1982 Didn’t play in Oakland until they moved back. ¹
Los Angeles 1995 Haven’t played in Los Angeles since.
Rams Cleveland 1946 4-6 1950: Browns L 28-30
Los Angeles 1995 Haven’t played in Los Angeles since.
Ravens Cleveland 1996 8-4 1999: Browns W 41-9
Redskins Boston 1937 7-4 1944: Bos Yanks W 21-14
Titans Houston 1997 6-3 2002: Texans W 13-3

¹ The Raiders played an exhibition game in Oakland in 1989, they lost to the Houston Oilers 21-23.