Dec 6, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) calls a cadence at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Back to the Bay With Rory Anderson: Week 3 Column

Back to the Bay is a weekly column from JustBlogBaby Podcast cohost Rory Anderson that appears each Thursday on 

Back To The Bay:

So…You’re Saying There is a Chance?

A Rory Anderson column, follow me on Twitter @holistic_pickle

Dec 6, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Matthew Willis (12) runs against Oakland Raiders running back Taiwan Jones (22) on a punt during the fourth quarter at Coliseum. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stadium Struggle

I am extremely excited for this upcoming game on Monday Night Football against the Peyton Manning led Broncos, but before I dive into the game I wanted to discuss the recent media swarm regarding the flippant nature of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. For whatever reason she showed up late to a meeting with Raiders executives and other important people in regards to the stadium question. The details really are irrelevant, but understanding human nature isn’t. People tend to ignore jobs or obligations until the last moment, we mature individuals call this procrastination. What Mayor Quan is doing, is procrastinating her way through this because she fails to realize how serious the competition can be to woo the Raiders out of Oakland, and I am not just talking about Los Angeles, but also other mid-market cities that have the corporate support to make a move. On the other hand, Mayor Quan could simply not care about having the Raiders in Oakland or even hope that the team moves. I find that to be a longshot.

Even if a coliseum deal isn’t hammered out in the immediate future or even at the end of the season, there are some extenuating circumstances that could prove to be helpful for the Raiders. Firstly, the Raiders have had previous discussions and have in mind that Memorial Stadium where the California Bears play could be a temporary location in the future. That means if Mayor Quan totally ignores the situation and let’s Oakland walk and not sign a lease extension the Raiders could play there until they find a new home. That would open up the possibility for the city of Sacramento to provide the space near the new Kings arena and the Raiders would simply need to get the private funding to have the stadium built.

This leads right into point number two. The discussion regarding Oakland being broke and paying for part of a new coliseum is a straw man. Oakland cannot in any way afford to publically finance a stadium, but that trend is dying quickly. Football has become so lucrative that it is really an obsolete practice. What hampers the Raiders to this day was Al’s refusal to branch out to local businesses and corporations because he felt the Raiders sold themselves. Mark is different, he is a businessman and he understands how the game must be played. A key to the newest proposal was the payment of the remainder of the last remodel which the city of Oakland still owes one hundred million dollars towards. If Mayor Quan ignores this situation she will be stuck with those bonds to pay off and no team. Maybe you can understand my reluctance to think this will not get resolved with the Raiders still in Oakland. Mayor Quan would kill her political career overnight with such a move and it would also bankrupt Oakland overnight.

Mark Davis unveiled a proposal that included a smaller location, but one that was only 800 million dollars (500 million less than the 49ers new Levis Stadium) and included Oakland’s debt payment. Between Mark Davis and the NFL there are 500 million dollars available meaning 300 million must be privately financed. In a region with dozens of multibillion dollar multinational corporations, the money exists if Mark can forge the relationships and trust with those businesses. Mark will not sell this team it is all he has and his mother is still alive, but he could use private money from new investors to buy back large portions of the Raiders (he and his mother own 47% the rest is held by investors) and then transfer that interest to new financiers that can also invest heavily in a new stadium. This means multiple new corporations could give one hundred million dollars to the new stadium and then also purchase ten percent of the Raiders to ensure they stay in Oakland.


Jaguars Game Analysis

It is time for a hard shift back to football. Am I the only person who noticed how strange the tweets were regarding this game? Lots of Raider fans were upset it wasn’t a 40 point blowout. Seriously people, the Raiders have the talent to be a decent team but let’s not get carried away. The Jaguars aren’t an overly talented team, but they played some decent defense and tried very hard to slow down Terrelle Pryor, but of course that opened up huge holes/running lanes for Darren McFadden to exploit. I do need to scratch my own back because I do have an ego. I did say in the last column I wasn’t worried about the running game with DMC. The whole point of the option is to force the defense to choose and then have a prepared counter for that decision.

I’m going to start with things I hated. First off, Lucas Nix I have one question for you. What on God’s green earth are you doing out there? Seriously, what has happened to you? That man has become a disaster. He has amazing feet and strength, but he constantly loses leverage and now he completely misses on blocks and fails simply to even read a pass rush as it comes at him. It is amazing to watch his ineptitude. Another thing I hated, Denarius Moore. This guy needs to be benched or at minimum be read the riot act. In the Jaguars game I charted four drops and an illegal formation penalty by not covering up the offensive tackle that cost the Raiders a thirty yard gain. If you eliminate those plays you can add almost a hundred yards and ten percentage points to Pryor’s completion percentage and possibly a touchdown or two. Lastly, there is the Tyvon Branch injury. I have read a huge range on how long he will be out, but the doctors I spoke to said depending on the break it can be as short as four weeks and as long as eight weeks. It all depends on the kind of break he had. Also don’t forget that Terrell Owens also had this injury just before the Super Bowl when he was with the Eagles and he returned after four weeks.

On the flip side, there are many more things I was very pleased about. Firstly, even though the score wasn’t outrageous, the Raiders dominated the Jaguars from front to back. This may not have been an offensive explosion, but the coaches went conservative after the touchdown and the team dominated. It was an impressive defensive performance where the Raiders got five sacks two from Usama Young who filled in for Tyvon Branch alongside Brandian Ross, both of which will work in a committee to get the job done. These young veterans that general manager Reggie McKenzie has signed has brought with them a business like mentality and finally this team is playing like a professional NFL team. If you need proof, see Phillip Adams’ first punt return where multiple Raiders had the chance to block in the back and didn’t. Thank you for that Bobby April signing Mr. McKenzie.

This offensive line was light years better with Andre Gurode at left guard after Lucas Nix got hurt, and I will eat crow for sticking up for him. I simply do not know what happened to him, but whoa he’s bad. I was impressed with Stefan Wisniewski except for a bad shotgun snap, and I was even more impressed with right guard Mike Brisiel who did some great work on power runs where he pulled. It is a little weird, but this offensive line with Gurode has the potential to at least be formidable for defensive coordinators. With Nix benched I expect more sound pass blocking and continued running success. Even the direct quarterback sweeps were set up well for Pryor, the problem was that Pryor got out in front of his blockers rather than waiting for them to pull out in front of him.

Defensively, I was very impressed with newly acquired tackle Brian Sanford who blew up several runs and got some stunning penetration at times. I have no idea how or why this guy got on Reggie McKenzie’s radar, but I am very glad he was. Another player who had several pressures was Vance Walker. I tried telling Raider Nation about this guy when they signed him, but most people get in a habit of ignoring signings that do not involve a player that isn’t seen regularly on Sportscenter. This is what he does. He is a penetrating three technique in four man fronts and a stout five technique in three man fronts. He will play a vital role for this team all season. Sio Moore was all over the tape. Between him and Kevin Burnett, I thought I was losing my mind because every play I watched had those two flashing around the ball. Neither made an impact play, but I have the feeling the coaches want to spring Sio Moore on a certain team whose pro bowl left tackle just went on injured reserve due to a hot date with a certain woman named Liz Franc.

The pass defense to me was also a huge plus. I will reiterate this until I am old and grey. Do not worry about passing yards against this defense, but rather expect them. What defensive coordinator Jason Tarver wants to do is prevent long pass plays, blitz the quarterback, force turnovers, and give up field goals not touchdowns. Tracy Porter played a much better game and all around the three starting cornerbacks were laying the lumber when they had the opportunity to. I love the way these guys play. They not only have speed, but they are solid in pass coverage and they come up against the running game. The Jaguars went right at both Porter and DJ Hayden and although the rookie gave up some catches, he wasn’t burned badly, and he was always closing on the ball. One of the hardest skills for a rookie corner to learn is reading the eyes of a receiver and when he watches the tape of this game he will want to learn it quickly. My only real critique thus far about the defense is the lack of turnovers, but they have been very close. Charles Woodson had a shot at a tipped ball in this game, and Mike Jenkins also had a shot at an interception. The turnovers will come.

Dec 6, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders fan holds a sign during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Coliseum. The Denver Broncos defeated the Oakland Raiders 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A Shocker in the Making?

Everything I brought up as a positive for the Raiders to build on has to shine through on Monday Night Football against the Broncos. The Broncos are missing both Von Miller and Champ Bailey on the defensive side of the ball, not to mention Elvis Dumerville is no longer with the team. Offensively, the Broncos added a solid guard in Louis Vasquez and Wes Welker, but they also lost their pro bowl center early in camp and now their pro bowl left tackle to a foot injury! The Raiders have nine sacks in two games, five have those have come from defensive backs, but now Lamaar Houston will be taking on five year vet and special teamer Chris Clark. Yes Peyton Manning gets the ball out quickly so it will be hard to sack him, but sacking him doesn’t matter. What a defense has to do is pressure Manning from his backside. Pro Football Focus posted an article with a graph showing Manning’s performance against pressure the last several years. He was pretty solid against everything except for pressure that came from his left where he ranked toward the bottom of the NFL in PFF’s adjusted stats. Moral of the story: this defense is designed to and built to slow down Peyton.

Last year this terrible defense held Peyton to seven points in the first half in Denver. In Oakland they only lost 26-13. That’s say something for how poor this defense was and how bad this offense could be without McFadden and with Greg Knapp calling the plays. With Terrelle Pryor under center, the Raiders have the fewest punts in the NFL and have one of the best scoring percentages per drive. Also, we can’t forget that Manning is not without his flaws. He may be perfect this season with his record tying seven touchdowns in a single game and all, but in many close games Peyton has thrown crucial interceptions especially with pressure in his face. How about that Raven game in last year’s playoffs? Look back at his history and you will see a long line of not only late game heroics, but also late game chokes. When it is all said and done, his success relies on the success of his offensive line, and his is banged up.

“Experts” underestimate this defense. If you go back and watch those old Patriot-Colts games that always flustered Peyton you would see Belicheck running a bend but don’t break defense, that blitzed, gave multiple sets and coverage looks, were all over the receivers, didn’t give up big plays, and got consistent pressure. Remember how I described Tarver’s philosophy? Now add in penetrating defensive tackles, some decent outside pressure, and three decent cornerbacks that tend not to get burnt deep and have been close to getting an interception, and you have the Raiders defense. NFL execs insist that one builds a team to win its division, and the Raiders have been built to try to beat the Broncos.

From an offensive perspective, the Raiders need to win the time of possession battle. The more the Raiders keep Peyton off the field and the Bronco defense on the field getting tired, the better off they will be. I like how Greg Olson added in some throwing opportunities for Pryor off the read option, and I hope to see more. I also want to see more Marcel Reece, and as with Sio Moore, I believe the Raider coaching staff has been waiting for this game to show them off. The Broncos have a stout defensive line against the run, but their goal is to get a lead and sit on it. The option will spread out the defensive line and create running lanes to gash the Bronco defense. From there the Raider receivers are talented enough to exploit the Bronco defensive backs (although Chris Harris is a talented player), but the matchup I love the most are the Raider tight ends against the Bronco linebackers.

This for me is the area I want to see exploited. Without Von Miller not only do the Broncos lack a dynamic pass rusher, but they also lack a solid coverage guy. Guys like Marcel Reece (he is a fullback not a tight end I know I’m just including him for simplicity), Mychal Rivera, and Nick Kasa all provide huge matchup issues whether it is due to speed in the cases of Reece and Rivera or sheer size as in the case with Kasa. These guys are chain movers and it will take a consistent and balanced barrage of both short and medium range passes, with a consistent run game and some deep shots to keep the Broncos honest.


What Does All This Mean?

When you boil it all down, what I am trying to say, is there is a chance. It may be a slim chance, but it’s a chance that the Raiders may be able to walk into the Mile High Giddy-Up Garden and walk out with a “W”. To put the Raider objectives in easy to read form:

1)      Get constant pressure

2)      Stick it to the receivers

3)      Don’t give up  big plays

4)      When Peyton makes a mistake make him pay

5)      Force field goals in the red zone

6)      Control the clock

7)      Open up the playbook

8)      Win the turnover battle

9)      Don’t get burned in return game

10)   Limit penalties, the Broncos can be sloppy

That may seem like a long list, but it’s less than half of the steps that the “Dirty Dozen” had to learn before storming the castle to take out the Nazi officers in the movie “The Dirty Dozen”. All joking aside, this will not be an easy game and yes the wheels can totally fall off and this team could lose by 30, but I don’t think that will happen. I won’t predict a Raider win as I did week one against the Colts, but I will say, I think the Raiders will be competitive and they may just shock the world, but at the end of the day, there is a chance.

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