By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, December 26th, 2010 at 8:30 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes, quotes and observations from the Raiders’ 31-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday at the Coliseum:
— Indianapolis is closing in on its eighth straight division title because of Peyton Manning, of course, but also because the Colts have had systems in football in place for a long time and play that way.
There isn’t a lot of difference between the talent on the Colts and Raiders, but unlike past years, when a lot of the Oakland talent was largely myth, you could even make the argument that the home team had the better players.
Indianapolis players are plug-ins for specific roles, and their execution makes up for anything they may lack in pure ability.
The Raiders found themselves unable to cope with the Colts adjustments Sunday, whether it was Peyton Manning recognizing the big nickel with Mike Mitchell immediately and switching pass plays to run plays, or the Indianapolis Cover 2 defense playing deep, allowing short completions and rallying up to make the tackle.
Indianapolis ran for 191 yards on 39 carries, the most yards since it had 226 in 2007. Oakland had only three tackles for losses. Dominic Rhodes, who re-joined the Colts just three weeks ago and played for the Raiders in 2007, had 98 yards on 17 carries.
It was Rhodes’ biggest yardage game since he gained 122 yards for the Raiders against the Chargers in the 2007 season finale.
Cable said the Raiders should have been able to stop the run with their big nickel and said the Colts hit a few big plays but then noted, “it was a lot of fours and fives and fours and fives. It was good consistency on their part.’’
Defensively, Indianapolis shut down the outside run to Darren McFadden (45 yards, 11 carries) and leaving one to wonder why Oakland didn’t go right at the heart of the Colts defense rather than trying to string it out against a team that was at its best on the perimeter.
Oakland had 80 yards on 20 carries.
Asked about the Colts’ ability to defend the perimeter, Cable said, “We’ve faced that before. In the first half, certainly, they had a plan for our outside run.’’
McFadden was limited after an ankle injury late in the third quarter. Cable called it turf toe, McFadden said he rolled an ankle.
“I don’t think it was anything they were doing,’’ McFadden said. “We just kind of got away from it when we got down. It was kind of off and on and we couldn’t stay on the field long enough to help the defense. It was frustrating.’’
– My column for Bay Area News Group papers illustrates that outside of the AFC West, the Raiders aren’t much different than the teams we saw from 2003 through 2009.
— The Raiders had their vertical game reduced to swings and short passes by the Indianapolis Cover 2 pass defense. Quarterback Jason Campbell completed 29 of 42 passes but for only 231 yards and a long of 26 yards to Louis Murphy.
“They were smart about us. They knew what type of team we are, and they took away some stuff,’’ said Chaz Schilens, who caught two passes for 16 yards _ his first catches of the season. “A lot of cover-2, they made it hard on us. The shorter stuff underneath was a little more open, so that’s what we were trying to do.’’
– Cornerback Stanford Routt said he didn’t want to know how Kansas City was doing against Tennessee. Cornerback Chris Johnson said he heard the Chiefs were up 31-7. Zach Miller didn’t want to find out but someone told him the Chiefs had won.
Did it matter? Hard to tell. Looked more like the better prepared team won.
— Peyton Manning’s stats were nothing to gawk at _ 16 of 30 for 179 yards, three touchdowns and interceptions by Michael Huff and Chris Johnson.
But he dominated the game in terms of pace, tempo-and play-calling.
Defensive end Tommy Kelly on Peyton Manning: “He checks out on a lot of stuff. A mean a lot of stuff.”
Safety Michael Huff on Manning: “It’s tough. He’s an offensive coodinator on the field and calls whatever he wants to call.”
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on Manning: “There’s not a quarterback I’ve played against that controls the game the way he does. He basically handles every situation and he’s a coordinator on the fly.’’
It was vintage Manning on the Colts’ final first down, a 26-yard naked bootleg around left end.Manning didn’t tell anyone in the huddle what he was doing, the better to sell the play, and slid to a stop at the 4-yard line rather than score a touchdown to kill the clock.
The Raiders had closed within 31-26 on Campbell’s 6-yard pass to Zach Miller, which capped an 80-yard drive with 1:51 to play. The Raiders then failed to recover the onsides kick, with Colts tight end Jacob Tamme coming down with it.
Miller had nine receptions for 66 yards, his most catches since getting 11 in Week 4 against Houston. It was his first touchdown since Week 7 in Denver.
–Campbell found himself needing to unload the ball early and took some shots although he was sacked only three times. Edge rushers Robert Mathis (1.5 sacks) and Dwight Freeney (1 sack) made their presence felt and you know it was a long day for rookie Jared Veldheer when Cable said of his performance, “I think today he learned how to utlilize help.’’
— The Raiders, meanwhile, did not sack Manning. Nor did they get close to sacking him. Manning has always been one of the best in the league at getting rid of the ball.
Rookie Lemarr Houston played a lot of defensive tackle in the absence of Richard Seymour (inactive with a hamstring pull) along with Tommy Kelly and John Henderson. Henderson was credited with 11 tackles.
— Raiders place kicker Sebastian Janikowski broke the club scoring record with his field goals of 49, 38, 51 and 45 yards. He has 135 points, breaking the mark of Jeff Jaeger (132 in 1993).
Janikowski is the first kicker to have two kicks of 59 yards or more. He had a 61-yard field goal against Cleveland last year.
– Jacoby Ford’s game-opening 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown gives him three this season, a Raiders record. He also opened the Miami game with a kickoff return for a touchown. Oakland lost both times Ford started the game with a kickoff return.
“When I get to the kicker I pretty much know I’ll get to the end zone every time,’’ Ford said.
– Some Raiders actually seemed confused that they weren’t going to get a shot at the playoffs even if they run the table in the division.
Johnson said he even heard a rumor the league would make a rule change of some sort to reward teams that went unbeaten in division play but didn’t make the playoffs.