By Steve Corkran
Sunday, December 4th, 2011 at 2:25 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders lost more than a game Sunday, with their 34-14 shellacking at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. They also lost their one-game lead in the AFC West, thanks to yet another chapter of Tim Tebow’s late-game heroics.
The Broncos rallied from several deficits against the Minnesota Vikings, including 29-21 and 32-29 scores in the fourth quarter, for a 35-32 victory that moved them into a tie with the Raiders in the AFC West.
The Broncos and Raiders are 7-5, with four games to play. The way the Raiders played Sunday, it’s not a stretch to envision the Raiders trailing the Broncos by one game a week from today, given the Raiders play the undefeated Green Bay Packers on the road, and the Broncos play the ailing Chicago Bears.
It’s too early to get into tiebreakers between the Raiders and Broncos, but the thing to keep an eye on is the teams’ records in common games. That is, their eight games against the AFC East and NFC North.
If the Raiders and Broncos wind up tied in the division and have identical records against divisional foes, the next tiebreak would be records against common opponents.
As of now, the Raiders are 3-3, the Broncos 3-2. In other words, it isn’t looking good for the Raiders in that regard.
For the record, the Raiders final four games are, in order: at Green Bay, vs. the Detroit Lions, at the Kansas City Chiefs, vs. the San Diego Chargers.
The Broncos play the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots at home, followed by a road game against the Buffalo Bills and a home game against the Chiefs.
The Raiders appeared to have a handle on the season-long penalties issue when they committed only six for 44 yards against the Bears a week ago. Not so fast.
On Sunday, the Raiders committed 10 for 91 yards, right about their averages in both categories entering the game.
Right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes led the way with three for 25, including two holding infractions that wiped out receptions by wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
A pass interference penalty on cornerback Stanford Routt gave the Dolphins a first-and-goal at the Raiders 1-yard line and keyed their first touchdown.
SEYMOUR EJECTED … AGAIN
Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour got ejected from the game and flagged with a 15-yard penalty for delivering a left cross to the jaw of Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito.
This marks the second straight season in which Seymour has been ejected from a game late in the season for losing his temper and taking it out on an opposing player.
Last season, Seymour got ejected for hitting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the head after a Steelers touchdown.
Fullback Marcel Reece carved up the Bears a week ago, slicing his way through the Bears defense for 92 yards on five receptions.
He rushed one time for 10 yards and caught one pass for 38 yards against the Dolphins, but both plays didn’t happen until the fourth quarter, when the Raiders trailed 34-7.
BUSH TRIMMED BY DOLPHINS
Raiders coach Hue Jackson said earlier this week that he didn’t see any signs of running back Michael Bush wearing down as a result of 84 carries the past three games.
On Sunday, Bush looked nothing like the player who amassed 530 yards rushing in place of injured starter Darren McFadden the five games before Sunday.
The Dolphins held Bush to 18 yards on 10 carries, with a long of 3 yards. This was reminiscent of last season, when the Dolphins limited the Raiders to 16 yards rushing.
Reggie Bush was, by far, the better Bush on the field Sunday. The Dolphins running back rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.
MCCLAIN CLEARED TO PLAY
Jackson said he intended to sort through all the information he received about middle linebacker Rolando McClain’s arrest Thursday before making a decision on whether McClain would be allowed to play Sunday.
Ultimately, Jackson allowed McClain to play, though we don’t know the rationale. It’s likely that Jackson heard something in McClain’s account that led him to believe McClain isn’t guilty as charged.
Time will tell, of course.
As it stands, McClain is due in court in the coming weeks to answer to four misdemeanor charges, including third-degree assault, for an incident in Decatur, Ala., in which an acquaintance of McClain’s accused him of punching him, holding a gun to his head and firing the gun near his ear.
McClain has yet to comment publicly on the matter. His lawyer said Friday that McClain is innocent of the charges.
McClain led the Raiders with eight tackles, including one for a loss.
DOLPHINS RUSH PAST RAIDERS
It’s as simple as looking at the opponents’ rushing line if you want to know how the Raiders fared this season.
They allowed an average of 209.3 yards rushing in the four games they lost this season, an average of 93 per game in their seven victories.
On Sunday, the Dolphins rushed for 209 yards on 44 carries. That effort is going to push the Raiders toward last in the league against the run.
The Raiders entered Sunday’s game 27th at an average of 135.3 per game. That figure soared to 141.7. They are last in the league at an average of 5.3 yards per carry.
FOURTH-QUARTER BLUES GONE
The Raiders went five straight games without scoring any points in the fourth quarter. They ended that drought last Sunday, with a late touchdown against the Bears.
On Sunday, the Raiders scored all of their points in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Raiders, they trailed by 34 at that time.
Carson Palmer seemed to be in a groove entering the Dolphins game, based on solid outings in three straight victories. Yet, Sunday he never looked comfortable against the Dolphins defense.
He had one pass intercepted that got overturned because of a Dolphins penalty. The one intercpetion that counted was returned for a touchdown.
Palmer completed 20 of 41 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. However, most of that came in garbage time, with the Raiders down 34-0 and the outcome a foregone conclusion.
ODDS AND ENDS
Left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer allowed a sack and got called for a holding penalty on another play that likely would have yielded a sack.
Such is life in the NFL, where left tackles face the team’s best pass rusher almost every game and there isn’t any time for a breather.
As coach Jackson says, If you take a breath, you’re getting beat.
Heyward-Bey caught three passes, including one that went for a touchdown on a nice one-handed catch. He would have posted pretty gaudy stats were it not for the two Barnes holding penalties.
Chaz Schilens added six receptions for 89 yards, and he is looking more and more like the player who showed such great promise his rookie season.
Cornerback Chris Johnson appeared in a game for the first time since Oakland’s fourth game. His performance was a mixed bag. He made a great play on a deep pass but got burned for a long gain on another pass in man coverage.
Sebastian Janikowski wasn’t called upon for any field-goal attempts Sunday, one week after he kicked a franchise record six field goals.
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