Oakland Raiders: Thoughts on the Week 2 upset win

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Sep 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Baltimore Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken (11) is defended by Oakland Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie (38) at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 37-33. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Defense

Like I mentioned earlier, the defense came out looking for blood and caused a turnover early in the game that led to a field goal to give the Raiders a 10-0 lead to start the game. After that, it was open season on the Raiders secondary. A shootout like this can only happen if both quarterbacks are putting up great numbers and Joe Flacco had statistically another great day at the office throwing for 384 yards, two TD’s and an interception on a Hail Mary pass to end the game.

Steve Smith Sr. had a field day schooling the young Raider cornerbacks, amassing 150 yards on 10 receptions. Smith wasn’t allowed to score, but he was responsible for getting the Ravens into scoring position on a number of drives.

The tight end position continued to be a problem for the Raider defense, as Crockett Gillmore had 88 yards on 5 receptions for 2 touchdowns. Add that to the 109 yards and 2 touchdowns they gave up to the Bengals’ tight end last week and it’s looking like the weakness of the defense isn’t much of a mystery. This is something that is going to have to be addressed if the Raiders’ defense hopes to stand a chance going forward in the season.

The secondary has been suspect since day one, but T.J. Carrie is emerging as the leader of the group. Last week he scored a +3.5 grade in pass coverage, (according to PFF) and this week he certainly had one of the better performances against Steve Smith Sr. and the rest of the Ravens wideouts.

I was also very surprised with the performance of Neiko Thorpe today, he wasn’t credited with many tackles (only 4) but he was always around the ball, and he was who grabbed the game sealing interception in the final seconds of the 4th quarter, and nearly missed another earlier in the game.

Charles Woodson is…well…Charles Woodson.  It was obvious he wasn’t as efficient at tackling as he normally is, but he was always leading the charge, and flying around the field.

The linebackers played pretty solid, with two of them leading the team in tackles. Curtis Lofton had 13 (surprise surpise!) and Malcolm Smith ended up with 12. Being a football fan who lives in Seattle, I have quite a history watching Malcolm Smith play, and personally I think he was one of the better free agent signings Reggie brought in this off season.

Smith played a bit injured last year in Seattle, and ended up buried on a deep roster, but two years ago he was one of the top rated outside linebackers in the NFL, and many considered him to be an honorary member of the Legion of Boom. Malcolm is a fast, instinctual player, and I think by the end of the season he’ll be one of the more integral parts of the defense.

The pass rush left something to be desired though. The Raiders tallied zero sacks in the game, though Kahlil Mack and Aldon Smith were both close on a number of downs. Mack was lined up to knock the daylights out of Flacco on one particular play but what looked to me like an uncalled block in the back derailed him from his target.

Another play ended up with Smith and Mack meeting while taking Flacco to the ground just an instant after he was able to get rid of the ball.  I don’t think the pass rush will continue to be a problem moving forward, but it is something that does need to improve if the weak secondary is going to have a chance to survive the season.

The biggest problem I saw with the way the defense played today was a fundamental breakdown of the basics of tackling. While the Raiders gave up 109 rushing yards, that number could have (should have) been drastically lower if they were focusing on tackling. It seemed like the first defender to the ball carrier had a primary focus of trying to cause a fumble, then try to tackle the ball carrier.

I’m all for an aggressive defense trying to cause turnovers, but when I’m seeing run plays that should be stopped for a minimal gain turn into 5 to 10 yard runs because the defender is obsessed with trying to cause a fumble instead of trying to stop the running, that’s a problem.

Next: Week 2 Thoughts: Final Thoughts