By Steve Corkran
Sunday, September 18th, 2011 at 3:26 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Playing the New York Jets and New England Patriots in back-to-back weeks wasn’t going to be easy under any circumstances. Now, Raiders coach Hue Jackson gets the unenviable task of rallying his troops on the heels of a fall-from-ahead 38-35 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Raiders allowed touchdowns to the Bills offense on all five of the Bills’ second-half possessions and failed to hang on to what seemed an insurmountable lead.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson was hopeful of returning to Oakland with an unblemished record, a locker room full of confident players and thousands of fans eager to climb aboard the Build-A-Bully Express.
Those hopes were dashed when the Bills turned a fourth-and-goal play into a game-winning touchdown. The Raiders came close to pulling out the victory on a Hail Mary pass from Jason Campbell to rookie wide reciever Denarius Moore on the final play of the game.
In the end, Jackson is left with the consolation of knowing his offense played well, he can rely upon Moore, veteran receiver Derek Hagan and that his defense needs to find a way to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and get off the field.
*Much has been written about Moore in these spaces the past seven weeks or so, about how he was the best player in training camp for the Raiders.
Yet, no one was going to take Moore serioulsy until he performed in a regular-season game. Mission accomplisheed for Moore.
He caught five passes for 146 yards and one touchdown, executed the back-end of a double reverse for 25 yards and almost came away with the ball for a game-winning touchdown.
Jackson summed it up best early on in camp when he said that the game doesn’t seem too big for Moore. Indeed, there is nothing about Moore that indicates he is a rookie.
He caught everything he got his hands on, including a 50-yard pass for a touchdown in double coverage that gave the Raiders a 35-31 lead late in the fourth quarter.
For quotes from Moore on his breakout game, read beat writer Jerry McDonald’s game story in a little while. I was not at the game and have no access to player and coach quotes.
*Moore wasn’t the only wide receiver to make a huge impression. Veteran Derek Hagan was activated for the first time this season in light of the Raiders being without the services of receivers Jacoby Ford (hamstring), Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee) and Louis Murphy (groin/hamstring).
He caught five passes for 61 yards and performed the way he did throughout training camp and Oakland’s four exhibition games, when he was their leading receiver.
It will be interesting to see how Jackson uses his receivers once Ford, Murphy and Heyward-Bey are healthy. That might come as soon as next Sunday in the home-opener against the New York Jets.
*Quarterback Jason Campbell had a quiet but spectacular day throwing the ball. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns.
The lone blemish came on the final play of the game, when his Hail Mary pass into the end zone was intercepted. He finished with an impressive 108.5 passer rating.
Numerous times, Campbell guided the Raiders on sustained drives, completing key passes on third down that kept alive the drives. He also converted a third-and-one play and scored a touchdown on quarterback sneaks.
*According to STATS LLC, the Bills became the first team to score touchdowns on all five second-half possessions since it started keeping track of such things in 1993.
On those drives, the Bills piled up 366 yards on 40 plays. In doing so, the Bills overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit and improved to 2-0. They have scored 79 points in two games.
*The Raiders felt as if they were on to something when they held the Denver Broncos to 38 yards rushing Monday night.
The Bills rushed for 217 yards, including 43 on one run by running back Fred Jackson in the third quarter. The Bills averaged an astonishing 8.7 yards per rush.
*There was some concern about how the Raiders would respond to playing a game on the East Coast only six days after a road game against the Denver Broncos.
That turned out to be a non-issue, as the Raiders jumped to a 21-3 halftime lead and appeared headed toward their first 2-0 start since the 2002 season.
It’s possible that the long flight and playing three time zones away from home caught up with the Raiders in the second half, though.
*Running back Darren McFadden turned in another fine showing on the heels of his 150-yard rushing performance against the Broncos.
McFadden accounted for 143 yards offense and two of Oakland’s five touchdowns. Overall, the Raiders rushed for 131 yards, but only at 4.4 per attempt.
A second-half fumble that was recovered by the Bills led to one of the Bills’ five touchdowns and overshadowed McFadden’s solid play.
*Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson had a game he just as soon would forget ever happened.
The Bills went after him time and again, especially in the second half, when Johnson was lined up against receiver Stevie Johnson.
In the end, Johnson had a chance to be the hero. He had his hands on a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass in the end zone, only to have it knocked away by Donald Jones.
Johnson had his fair share of Oakland’s eight penalties, as well.
Fellow cornerback Stanford Routt intercepted a pass for Johnson in the first half, and he also broke up a pass at the goal line. That apparently was enough for the Bills to stay away from Routt and go after Johnson.
*The Raiders played penalty-free football until midway through the second quarter. It appeared as if the added emphasis upon reducing the penalties that plagued them the first game was paying dividends.
Lo and behold, the Raiders committed eight for 85 yards in the final 2 1/2 quarters and several of those helped the Bills keep alive drives and get back in the game.
*Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain rebounded from a game in which he went without a tackle to post a team-high 10 against the Bills. He also broke up three passes.
However, stats oftentimes are misleading, as was the case with McClain’s overall play today. He missed several tackles throughout the game and struggled in pass coverage, at times, too.
*Fitzpatrick attempted 46 passes against the Raiders without being sacked. This, against a Raiders defense that entered the game tied for the league lead with five sacks.
The credit goes to the Bills offensive line for executing their assignments well and throughout the game, the Bills for running quick-hitting plays that didn’t give the Raiders much time to get to Fitzpatrick, and the Raiders unwillingness to blitz often.
The Raiders blitzed quite often against the Broncos, and it paid off time and again. The few blitzes that were called by defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan on Sunday most times were with two players who seemed more content with taking up blockers and not getting to Fitzpatrick.
*Rookie running back Taiwan Jones touched the ball for the first time in a regular-season game. It came on a run in the first half that netted 4 yards. He didn’t touch the ball the rest of the game.
*Strong safety Tyvon Branch also came up empty on a pass that should have been intercepted. Fitzpatrick’s pass went right through Branch’s hands in the end zone and into the hands of tight end Scott Chandler for a touchdown.
*The injury to Ford necessitated Nick Miller pulling double duty as the punt and kick returner. He, too, had a rather forgettable afternoon.
Miller averaged only 15.3 yards on his four kick returns — Ford is the regular kick returner — and 9.5 yards on his two punt returns. Twice, he slipped on kick returns and was stopped shy of the 20-yard line.
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl