The wait is finally over. After 6 long months intensified by an NFL Lockout, real football in pads with men hitting each other is back.
The 2011 preseason officially began on Thursday August 11th, due to the Hall of Fame Game several days earlier being canceled.
The Oakland Raiders began their preseason by hosting the Arizona Cardinals. In news only I care about, my roommate is a Cardinals fan. Also, after 7 straight seasons of going 5-11 or worse, the Raiders went 8-8 last year. They would have been 9-7 except they lost 24-23 to the Cardinals when Sebastian Janikowski shanked a 32 yard field goal as time expired.
While the Raiders appeared on the upswing, they have a rock hard schedule to start the regular season. As for the Cardinals, they are a mess only two years after reaching the Super Bowl. Apparently a Hall of Fame quarterback does make a difference.
The Cardinals began with newly acquired Kevin Kolb taking over. Kolb did convert a 3rd and 10 by running for 15 yards, but the Cardinals punted after that. The Raiders took over at their own 31 and Al Davis had to be smiling when coach Hue Jackson decided to have Jason Campbell go bombs away on the very first play. It was incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant a 40 yard gain. An incompletion on 3rd and 2 set up Seabass for a 39 yard field goal. Seabass connected and the Raiders led 3-0.
On the next series the Cardinals took over on their own 14 and Kolb led them down the field. On 2nd and 2 Kolb went deep to Larry Fitzgerald for a 43 yard gain. After a false start, Kolb hit Fitzgerald again for 17 more. Beanie Wells gained 15 to set up 1st and goal at the 8. Wells gained 5 more and another 2, but on 3rd and goal from the 1 Wells was stopped. Ken Whisenhunt decided to go for it, and on 4th and goal at the 1 Wells ran up the middle and got nailed by a Silver and Black wall.
The Cardinals would not have their starters in on offense after that, so let’s give the Raiders 1st stringers some credit. They led 3-0 after the opening quarter thanks to a fantastic goal line stand.
From the one, Campbell led the Raiders slowly down the field. On 3rd and 2 Michael Bush gained 7. Campbell hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for 13, and on 3rd and 5 from the Oakland 34, Campbell found Miller for 6. On 3rd and 12 Campbell went deep and found Moore for 26 yards. The drive would stall, and on 4th and 8 from the Arizona 34, a 51 yard field goal was well within the range of Seabass. Yet a killer false start penalty instead led to a Shane Lechler punt.
In the second quarter the Cardinals punted, and Kyle Boller came in at quarterback from the Oakland 34. A strong ground game mixed in with efficient passes finally bogged down at the Arizona 7. Seabass nailed the 25 yarder to have the Raiders up 6-0.
With 6 1/2 minutes left in the half Ike Skelton was leading the Cardinals in place of Kolb, and he moved the Cardinals 75 yards. With 30 seconds left in the half, and 18 yard touchdown pass to Williams had the Cardinals up 7-6 at the half.
Skelton would lead the Cardinals to a 38 yard Jay Feely field goal early in the third quarter to have Arizona up 10-6. Trent Edwards came in at quarterback for the Raiders. From the Oakland 28, he looked good, hitting Bodiford for gains of 15 and 10. From the Arizona 47, Edwards went deep to Hagan for a 42 yard gain and 1st and goal at the 5. Yet the drive stalled again, and on 4th and goal at the 3 Hue Jackson had Sebass nail the 21 yard chip shot to get the Raiders within 10-9.
After an exchange of punts, the first miscue of the game occurred when the Cardinals fumbled a punt deep in their own territory. The Raiders needed only one play as Edwards hit Ausberry for the 18 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion failed but the Raiders led 15-10.
Bartel came in at quarterback for the Cardinals and immediately impressed from the Arizona 27. After a defensive penalty, from the Arizona 48, Bartel hit Sampson for 41 yards to the Oakland 11. On 3rd and 7 Bartel hit Housler for the 8 yard touchdown. In a regular season game a 2 point conversion would make sense, but Ken Whisenhunt opted for the one pointer and the Cardinals led 17-15.
In the fourth quarter the Cardinals reached the Oakland 28, but penalties killed the drive and Arizona punted with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The Raiders began at their own 10 and Edwards moved them all the way to the Arizona 27. Yet this time the Raiders suffered penalties back 12 yards. With 2 1/2 minutes remaining, Seabass was brought in for a 57 yard field goal attempt. The Polish Cannon drilled it, and the Raiders led 18-17.
The Cardinals took over at their own 32, and Hall came in at quarterback. While the Raiders did have all of their backups in on defense, Hall made it look way too easy. He hit Williams for 12 and Stuckey for 20. With 50 seconds left in regulation, Arizona faced 3rd and 2 from the Oakland 28. The winning field goal attempt was well within range. Instead, Hall found Williams, who took it all the way for the touchdown. Again, Coach Whisenhunt opted for the one pointer when it would absolutely be a 2 point conversion try in the regular season. Yet rather than practice those tries, the one pointers had the Cardinals up by 6.
Edwards fired deep a few times, all incomplete, and the Cardinals had the win. Yet both of these teams showed some sparks from the starters and some entertainment when the backups came in.
Week 1 preseason 2011 is in the books, and the Raiders will make their adjustments.
Cardinals 24, Raiders 18.