All year long the Oakland Raiders have played bend but don’t break defense. On Thanksgiving Day they broke leading the way as the Silver and Black went down 24-7 to the Cowboys. The offense did little to help the cause. Tom Cable’s play calling didn’t even take his team across midfield in the first half.
But this loss really falls on the defense.
Clearly, there is a flawed philosophy in John Marshall’s plan of attack. There is not a lack of talent on defense. Nor is this defense incapable of playing a masterful 60 minutes of football (see Philadelphia, Cincinnati as examples). To give Marshall due, he’s put together some great schemes too (see Philadelphia, Cincinnati). However, it is hard to ignore the same mistakes occurring over and over again.
Dallas can play ball. Not surprising that Miles Austin and Jason Witten would show up in the fantasy top 10 this week.
The least the Raiders could have done was make them work for their stats.
Kirk Morrison routinely over committed and found himself either out of position or right where the Dallas scheme wanted him to be.
Michael Huff and almost every other safety consistently followed Morrison’s lead making it easy for Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and even Moose Johnston – if he would have suited up – to run untouched for massive gains.
All that running around netted 494 yards of total offense.
By contrast, Bruce Gradkowski didn’t even get his feet across the 50-yard line in the first half an hour and led his squad to 305 yards of offense.
Credit where credit is due, the offensive effort in the second half was one of the best performances this team has put forth all season.
What’s sad about that is all that amounted to was 7 points. Those seven points came in impressive and unbelievable fashion.
The Big Gradkowski led an 11-play, 88-yard drive that ate up a full 7 minutes of game time. Not even a Robert Gallery personal foul could keep this drive from reaching the Promised Land.
To show just how improbable this drive was, Darrius Heyward-Bey caught the first TD of his career. To make it even more perfectly scripted, Hey-Bey’s mother was in attendance for her son’s breakthrough.
Congrats to DHB! Welcome to the party. Now, you’re only half way to catching Louis Murphy.
Clearly, JaMarcus Russell was holding this offense back. Either that or Coach Cable finally realized that there were more plays on the other side of the card.
Finally, Cable used Darren McFadden as a wide receiver like he did so often last season. Run-DMC caught 4 balls for 43 yards and should have toasted the Dallas secondary for 6 were it not for a Gradkowski under throw.
There were plenty of other positives on offense as the O-line opened up some massive holes for Justin Fargas in the first half. Still, there was constant pressure from the Cowboy front seven giving Gradkowski an ever collapsing pocket to throw out of.
Seven points plus giving up over 400 yards will never be a winning combination.
Until this team can make a consistent effort in all facets of the game more results like this will occur. With eight ticks in the loss column, not to mention L’s against every AFC West foe, the playoffs are now an impossibility. Time for Cable to focus this team on getting out of 10-loss hell. That means going 4-2 to close the season.
There is little else except pride to play for but that should be more than enough for any man who considers himself a competitor.
The road gets no easier as the Raiders have a date in Pittsburgh next Sunday. If there is anything to be thankful for on Turkey Day it should be the extra days to prepare for the Steelers.
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Tags: Bruce Gradkowski Darren McFadden Darrius Heyward-Bey Felix Jones JaMarcus Russell Jason Witten Justin Fargas Kirk Morrison Louis Murphy Michael Huff Miles Austin Robert Gallery Tashard Choice Tom Cable