News, notes and observations on the Raiders’ 24-16 loss to the Chargers in San Diego:
— Raiders hit midseason at 2-6, and it’s getting more and more like the movie “Groundhog Day.” They were 2-6 in every season dating back through 2003, except for in 2005, when they were 3-5.
The coach that year was Norv Turner, who now has six wins in six games against the Raiders after winning nine times in 32 games as coach of the Raiders.
— Much improved effort from quarterback JaMarcus Russell, and the very fact that I typed those words demonstrates how low the bar is set for the Raiders passing offense.
His first interception, headed toward Zach Miller surrounded by powder blue San Diego jerseys, led to the Chargers first touchdown. He completed 14 of 22 passes for 109 yards. He was lucky a first-and-10 forced pass late in the game wasn’t intercepted when the Raiders got a field goal.
Russell completed just two passes in eight attempts to wide receivers for 16 yards, and coach Tom Cable so distrusted the passing offense he put the game in the hands of his defense and Sebastian Janikowski rather than Russell.
And it was the right thing to do.
“I did a pretty good job,” Russell told reporters. “When it all boils down to it, you had a chance at the end to try and win. Didn’t do too much damage with the interception. No matter what happened, I think we came out and fought despite the score and just kept pushing and just came out short in the end.”
Cable thought Russell responded in a positive manner to last week’s benching in leading the Raiders to 16 points and their fifth game of the season with less than 200 yards of total offense.
“I thought he did some really good things that way today,” Cable said. “Very much seemed to be in control today. A couple of throws hed probably like to have over again but for the most part he gave us a chance to win today and that’s what you ask your quarterback to do.”
— We pause for the weekly Cable controversy.
Has there ever been a coach who came out of nowhere with a regular guy persona who ended up as such a lightning rod for unflattering stories? The latest was ESPN’s Outside the Lines allegation that Cable has a history of violence with women, one which his agent, Don Yee, disputed through a press release in a story by the Associated Press.
Cable declined comment after the loss to the Chargers, but intimated during his postgame press conference that it could be connected to the Randy Hanson affair.
“Who knows, maybe they’re tired together” Cable said. “That’s really all I can say about it. I gave an earlier statement that was released and I want to stand by that.”
Fair or not, the formerly anonymous Cable is now an ogre to many. A scuffle in the high-testosterone environment among coaches in training cap is one thing, allegations of striking women is something else entirely.
Cable was backed in a statement by his second wife despite mention of physical abuse in their divorce proceedings. Those who went on record were his first wife regarding incidents that allegedly occurred 20 years ago and a jilted former girlfriend not long after Cable married someone else.
Put it all together, and like the Hanson affair, there’s cause for reasonable doubt.
Except in the court of public opinion, which is far less stringent.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL will monitor all situations, but Cable’s biggest concern at 2-6 at midseason is in the Court of Al.
— Back to our regular-scheduled Week 8 program . . .
— The Raiders had four scoring drives (three field goals and a touchdown) and needed 30 plays to travel only 103 yards on short fields to score.
San Diego had four scoring drives (three touchdowns and a field goal) and gained an even 300 yards on 37 plays.
Oakland has to work impossibly hard to score because of the lack of a passing game, while Philip Rivers throws completions to Vincent Jackson (in the first half, anyway), seemingly at will.
— The Raiders first half of the season, in a nutshell, came on second-and-28 on their last possession. Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey, seemingly not much better in Week 8 as rookies than they were in Week 1, are lined up side-by-side. Their feet tangle, they fall to the ground, and Russell is sacked for a 3-yard loss by Shawne Merriman.
(Correction: Receivers were actually Murphy and Johnnie Lee Higgins, the latter lined up in the slot. Heyward-Bey was on opposite side.)
— Yes, you heard Mario Henderson’s name called today because Merriman beat him for his first sack of the season. And it was the first time you heard it for that reason in eight games.
Pretty clear at this point that Henderson’s less than stellar practices performances under Lane Kiffin were due in large part to a coach who used him as a press pinata rather than working on developing him as a player. Al Davis was right on this one. Henderson had potential. Remember when left tackle was a big problem? Now it’s right tackle, with Khalif Barnes struggling again Sunday and Cornell Green possibly back after the bye.
— Another young talent emerged in defensive end Matt Shaungnessy. Cable was talking two weeks about about how Shaughnessy, Desmond Bryant and Trevor Scott were being afforded the “education of a lifetime” working with Richard Seymour and Greg Ellis on a daily basis. Another potential winner by A.D., whose supporters just hate it when all his successes over the last six years aren’t duly noted.
With Ellis’ playing time cut back because of an arthritic knee, Shaughnessy had one of the best game by a young Raiders lineman in recent memory with five tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses and a quarterback hurry. He played with great range, as well venturing far downfield on some plays.
— Justin Fargas gained some brutally tough yards in the Chargers red zone and got the payoff with a 3-yard touchdown run, his first in 115 carries dating back to last season. He finished with 59 yards in 18 carries, and the grim truth is that as proud as the Raiders were of “getting after it” physically against San Diego, they had just 99 yards on 27 carries. Erase a 12-yard reverse by Murphy and there was no gain longer than seven yards.
— Jonathan Holland broke a kickoff return 60 yards, a welcome sight for a team which has struggled all season to get past the 20.
— Janikowski connected on all three of his field goal attempts and is 12-for-12.