By Steve Corkran
Sunday, November 18th, 2012 at 7:25 pm in Oakland Raiders.
There still are 43 days between now and the end of the calendar year. However, it’s getting closer and closer to 2013 for the Raiders on the heels of a third straight loss Sunday.
The Raiders 38-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints, combined with yet another Denver Broncos victory, leaves the Raiders four games behind in the AFC West and with faint hopes of turning around their fortunes.
“Right now, we’re shooting for 9-7,” Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer said. “You have got to win all the games left and see kind of where the chips fall at the end of the year. The AFC is still pretty wide open, for the most part.
“We need some things to bounce our way but we believe if we look at the schedule, we know some of those teams we’ve already played, but we’re going to come in and try to work and try to find a way to get to 9-7 and see what happens.”
Not sure about the AFC West being so wide open.
The Broncos play the 1-9 Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday, while the Raiders travel to Cincinnati for a game against the suddenly red-hot Bengals. A Broncos win that day, coupled with a Raiders loss, would just about rule out the division title for a 10th straight season.
So, what does it all mean? Well, coach Dennis Allen isn’t about to call this a rebuilding season, that much we know.
“No, I’m not into rebuilding years,” Allen said. “What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to continue to develop. We’ve got to continue to go to work and keep trying to get better every that. That’s all I know how to do.”
And don’t even mention the rebuild word to fullback Marcel Reece.
“Rebuild? There’s no such thing as a rebuild year,” Reece said. “This is a business. If you rebuild it, you get out. We’re going out there trying to win. We’re shooting to win out the rest of the season; that’s the bottom line.”
Try though they may, things just keep getting worse for the Raiders. They moved to 3-4 after back-to-back victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chiefs in October.
Ever since, it’s been all downhill, what fullback Owen Schmitt calls a “snowball effect.” The Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 42-32, the Baltimore Ravens 55-20 and the Saints 38-17. That’s an average of 45 points allowed for those of you not mathematically inclined.
And that’s not exactly something that inspires confidence, especially in the most died-in-the-wool Raiders fans. Yet, this is the hand the Raiders are playing with for the final six weeks.
“It’s really the whole thing that we’ve got to get better at,” Allen said, when asked if there was a specific area that needs to be addressed.
Hard to argue there.
– Once again, a quick glance at the stat sheet would suggest that the Raiders played a much better game than they did.
The Raiders outgained the Saints 404-382, controlled the ball for 31 minutes, 24 seconds, converted a higher percentage of third-down plays into first downs and committed only four penalties to the Saints 11.
Yet, this game wasn’t anywhere near as close as the stats might indicate.
The Saints scored a touchdown on their first possession and upped the lead to 14-0 when free safety Malcolm Jenkins intercepted a Palmer pass for tight end Brandon Myers and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.
Sure, the Raiders cut the lead to 14-7, but the Saints responded with a 90-yard drive that culminated with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to wide receiver Lance Moore on a third-and-13 play with 48 seconds left in the first half.
The Saints iced the game before the Raiders got a chance to respond — Oakland’s final drive of the first half doesn’t really count. The Saints returned the second-half kick 75 yards and then running back Mark Ingram rambled 27 yards on the first play from scrimmage for a 28-7 lead.
– Palmer passed for more than 300 yards once again. In fact, he has accomplished that feat five times this season.
However, the Raiders are 0-5 in those games. He also was sacked three times and intercepted twice. Not one of his better games, for sure.
“You’ve just got to continue to work,” Palmer said. “In a new offense, a first-year offense, this late in the season, we need to be making better strides than we were today. We had improved as we came into this game and wanted to take another step forward. We did some good things, but it was kind of a lateral step.”
– Myers entered this season without any touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons. He scored his third Sunday.
As was the case with many of the Raiders, Myers had reason not to be overly thrilled. He had a pass from Palmer in the end zone hit off his hands and bounce into the hands of strong safety Roman Harper.
Overall, Myers caught six passes for 55 yards and continued to add to his career-best figures in receptions and yards.
– The Raiders hit Brees a couple of times. However, Brees spent most of the day moving around in the pocket without much pressure, waiting for receivers to get open.
Sure enough, Brees found open receivers more times than not. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions and a 134.6 passer rating.
He improved to 7-0 in his past seven games against the Raiders, with 16 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating north of 120.
“I’m all about efficiency,” Brees said. “The yards don’t matter, the number of completions doesn’t matter. I want to be efficient. I wnat to be a good decision-maker. I want to just make plays when I’m called upon to do that and take care of the football. Just do all of those little things.”
More times than not, that’s what Brees did, especially on crucial downs.
His first touchdown pass came on a great play-action fake that fooled rookie linebacker Miles Burris — Allen called it a rookie mistake — and ended with the ball in tight end Jimmy Graham’s hands in the end zone. No one was within two time zones of Graham.
Brees hit Moore on the post patter just before halftime, with cornerback Michael Huff and strong safety Mike Mitchell late getting there to make a play on the ball.
Brees’ final touchdown came on a well-thrown pass to Moore from 15 yards, with cornerback Ron Bartell a step or two late catching up to Moore after Moore got behind him.