News, notes and observations after the Raiders fall to Jacksonville 38-31 and put their AFC West title hopes in serious jeopardy:
— Yes, there were a few play calls and offensive sequences that were peculiar.
Bottom line, however, the Raiders put up 31 points, 476 yards and did something that had been harped on in this space for weeks. They got things done in the passing game in an offensive game of real balance, rather than putting up passing numbers during what was basically an avalanche of rushing yards.
They scored 31, but they gave up 31. In one half of football.
Coach Tom Cable played with the schedule this week to get the Raiders off to a good start. Not sure what he could have done to get them to finish.
A couple of things:
Any defense that wants to ascend to elite status does not give up 31 points in a half.
And yes, the defense wasn’t entirely at fault for the second half collapse given Jacoby Ford’s fumbled kickoff return (heck of a play by Kasim Osgood) and a 65-yard kickoff return to Deji Karim.
“I don’t even know where the guy came from,” Ford said. “I just hit the hole and the ball just kind of came out. I’m probably not going to let that one go for awhile because that was a big momentum swing in the game . . . that’s hard to swallow and it’s on me.”
If you’re an elite defense, you hold the Jaguars to field goals in those instances.
“Just too many big plays defensively,” Cable told reporters after the game. “We gave up too many to get some offensively. And I thought the turnover on the kickoff return was big. So those two things were really the difference in the game. We played our tails off, just too many big plays.”
In all, three of Jacksonville’s scoring plays totaled 152 yards _ a 74-yard run by Rashad Jennings, a 48-yard pass from David Garrard to 49ers castoff Jason HIll and a game-clinching 30-yard TD run to Maurice Jones-Drew.
Although the Jaguars put both backs over 100 yards, Jones-Drew didn’t break free until the fourth quarter and most of Jennings’ damage was confined to the one run.
“We didn’t play the game we needed to play,” cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “We knew they could run the ball better than just about any team in the league, and that was our goal, to stop that, and those big plays are what hurt us. We could have played much better. The offense kept us in the game.”
— The season is starting to take on a 1999 look. Oakland, 6-7, is still in the division race, and finishes with Kansas City, a 31-0 loser to San Diego without quarterback Matt Cassel, out following an appedectomy. The Chiefs play at St. Louis and host Tennessee before playing the Raiders. Cassel could return to face the Rams, but there are no guarantees.
San Diego, a game back of Kansas City at 7-6, hosts the 49ers Thursday night and has has road games at Cincinnati and Denver to finish the season. Three foes with a combined record of 11-29.
In 1999, the Raiders bounced the Chiefs from an AFC West title at Arrowhead Stadium with a 41-38 win in overtime, giving the title to Seattle at 9-7. It isn’t hard to envision the Raiders doing the same thing for San Diego this year.
— With Asomugha having no passes in his direction, it was a rough day for Michael Huff, who was enjoying seeing his role expand of late, mixing play as a corner and a blitzer in with his primary job as a single deep safety. Huff was beaten on Garrard’s 48-yard scoring pass to Hill (on second-and-18, no less) and later was the defender when Garrard hit Mike Sims-Walker with the score that put Jacksonville up 28-24 with 3:44 to play.
“I felt that was the worst third quarter of my career,” Huff said. “I shouldn’t have given up those two touchdowns.”
The pass to Sims-Walker looked as if he might not have gotten both feet in bounds (chances are it would have been inconclusive and still been a touchdown) but Cable had already used his second challenge hoping Rashad Jennings had stepped out of bounds on his 74-yard scoring run.
“Ah, I don’t know,” Huff said. “I still should have made the play.”
— About Jones-Drew’s scoring run . . . of course he goes in and scores the touchdown. Maybe he he stops at the 1-yard line if Jacksonville is up by a score, but not when it’s tied.
Can’t you just see it? Jones-Drew stops at the 1, then the Jaguars have a false start, a sack-fumble, or some other horrific play, and they don’t score at all. In a tie game, if there’s a touchdown to be made, you take it.
— OK, here’s where it got weird for offensive coordinator Hue Jackson (other than Ford’s first-quarter Wildcat snap which lost two yards on third-and-3 from the 6-yard line and forced the Raiders to settle for a 26-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal).
Campbell is out of the game with a stinger, a play in which the Raiders were fortunate that a Terrance Knighton touchdown was nullified on a helmet-to-helmet personal foul on William Middleton.
So Kyle Boller comes in and immediately completes a lucky 20-yard pass to Zach Miller, throwing out of a well under pressure between three defenders. Darren McFadden is stopped for no gain and Boller scrambles for seven yards to the 31, bringing up third-and-3.
Boller throws incomplete to Murphy, then has a second pass intended for Murphy intercepted by Dan Carey. They need to get three yards to the 28 to keep a drive alive, and neither play includes McFadden.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That is not for me to decide right now.”
— Brilliant day by McFadden, with touchdown runs of 57 and 36 yards and a 67-yard touchdown reception (nice block by Murphy on that play). He rushed 16 times for 123 yards and caught three passes for 86 more.
McFadden has gained 993 yards this season, should break 1,000 next week against Denver and health permitting, could wind up as the second-best single-season rusher in Raiders history, behind only Marcus Allen’s 1,759 yards in 1985. He’d need 302 yards in his last three games to pass Napoleon Kaufman for second (1,294 yards in 1997). Mark van Eeghen is third with 1,273 yards in 1977.
And McFadden missed two games with a hamstring strain.
— Welcome back Zach Miller. The Raiders tight end had caught just four passes in his last three games, but had four catches for 68 yards against Jacksonville. Likewise Darrius Heyward-Bey, who had two catches for 40 yards, his first since Oct. 31.
Heyward-Bey also let a deep sideline pass go through his hands while under tight coverage _ not a drop, really, but the kind of play a top-tier receiver makes.
“We’re capable of making plays and we showed that today,” Heyward-Bey said. “We’re also out there, blocking, helping Darren when he gets to the second level. We’re blocking DBs so he can get to the end zone. We’re just doing our job.”
— Rolando McClain was inactive with tendinitis that apparently worsened either as a result of playing last week against San Diego. Meanwhile, Kirk Morrison, the man moved aside for McClain, finds his team in first place in the AFC South at 7-5.
Predictably, Morrison wasn’t crowing about it.
“I told you, it wasn’t about playing those boys, it really wasn’t,” Morrison said. “A couple of guys were chirping a little, John (Henderson). You don’t need that. It’s all about coming out there and let’s prove it on the field. We come away with a victory and we’re still on pace to do what we’ve got ot do, win this division.
“Everybody tried all week long to get something out of me, and you’re not going to get it because I’m playing meaningful December football.”