Stayed behind for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. For quotes and a first-hand account, read beat writer Jerry McDonald’s game story and notebook. Here’s my take on what I watched before covering the 49ers-Giants game at Candlestick Park.
The Raiders were more than prepared for this game coming off their bye week. Even so, they lost their first game after a bye for the 10th straight season.
Yet, few can fault the Raiders for coming out flat Sunday. They had the ball late in the game, with the score tied, and well within Sebastian Janikowsk’s field-goal range.
Then came Carson Palmer’s ill-advised pass for Denarius Moore that was intercepted by cornerback Asante Samuel and returned seemingly for a backbreaking touchdown.
The Raiders showed moxie by responding with a long drive to tie the game. Their only sin was leaving too much time on the clock, 40 seconds, for the Falcons to mount a game-deciding drive.
Moral victories don’t mean much in the NFL. Yet, the Raiders can take from this game the knowledge that are talented enough to hang with the best teams in the league.
— Beating teams such as the Falcons entails cutting down on the mistakes. On Sunday, the Raiders had plenty, certainly far too many.
They committed 12 penalties for 110 yards, whereas they were called for 19 for 143 yards in their first four games combined. The Palmer interception and fumble, as well as a Darren McFadden fumble, certainly didn’t help, either.
— Tight end Brandon Myers went the first four games without a dropped pass. In fact, he caught 16 of the 17 passes thrown his way in those games.
On Sunday, Myers was unable to hang on to a pass from Palmer in the end zone late in the second quarter. A Raiders official asked if I am sure the ball wasn’t deflected.
Based off the replays I saw, it didn’t appear as if the ball was deflected, though the defender’s arm no doubt distracted Myers.
Either way, I’m sure Myers will tell you that he should have caught the ball, which arrived at the chest region and in position for him to get his hands on the ball.
— McFadden rushed 27 times for 70 yards. He now stands at 271 yards on 84 carries through five games, an average of 3.2
In McFadden’s defense, he played hurt most of the game and had two sizable runs negated by penalty. Still, it’s puzzling how Mike Goodson amassed 59 yards on four carries and seemed to get past the line of scrimmage with relative ease.
Coincidence? Who knows.
— Saw a Tweet before the game that said Janikowski converted a 64-yard field goal in pre-game warm-ups. Given that, it’s a tad surprising that coach Dennis Allen bypassed a chance at a 58-yard attempt in the first quarter.
Allen no doubt didn’t want to give the Falcons the ball at their own 48 if Janikowski missed the attempt. As it turned out, Shane Lechler’s punt went into the end zone, resulting in a 28-yard difference in field position.
You make the call on that one. It says here, Janikowski is on the team because he has the ability to make such kicks. It’s for other teams to punt in that situation.
— Sure, the Raiders are 1-4, a spot where few teams emerge and make it to the playoffs. However, the Raiders are about to embark upon a three-game stretch in which they have a realistic shot at evening their record.
They host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4), play the Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) on the road, then host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) in the next 15 days.
If the Raiders reach 4-4, the playoffs remain a distinct possibility. Losing any of the next three games puts a damper on the Raiders playoff aspirations.
— The Raiders went their first four games without notching an interception. To a man, the Raiders said they were on the verge of breaking through.
Sure enough, the Raiders intercepted Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan three times Sunday. Michael Huff, Joselio Hanson and Tyvon Branch each picked Ryan once.
— The Raiders made the Falcons one-dimensional by shutting down their running game from the outset.
Michael Turner and the two other running backs amassed only 30 yards on 14 carries. Time and again, the Raiders stuffed the Falcons on short-yardage plays, including a couple of times near the goal line.