Raiders Recap–Preseason Week 2

The battle of the Bay took place as the Raiders tangled with the 49ers.

Before getting to the recap of the game itself, I just want to mention that there is football in Heaven, and God is currently reviewing game film with Bill Walsh.

Football has always been thought of by those that did not understand the game as merely brawn and bruising. Football is a chess match, and Bill Walsh was a grand master. For decades, “three yards and a cloud of dust” was how teams approached offense. Run on first down, and run on second down, throw on third down, punt, play defense. It was often boring and predictable.

Bill Walsh understood that there was nothing in the rule book that prevented teams from throwing on first down. This approach kept defenses off balance, and worked well from 1981-1994.

In 1995 the West Coast Offense suffered two major blows. Dick Lebeau and Dom Cap Capers came up with the Zone Blitz Defense, which effectively disrupted timing patterns. Secondly, and more important, the West Coast Offense stopped being the Bill Walsh offense. It became a bastardized form of it known as the George Siefert offense.

The Bill Walsh offense allowed teams to throw on first down. The George Siefert offense simply threw a 4 yard pass on virtually every first down. It became as boring and predictable as the original offenses of the 1950s. Today, when a team runs the George Siefert version of this offense, what they are really saying is, “We have no running game.” The 1995 49ers collapse in the playoffs began the decline of this strategy.

Yet the legacy that Bill Walsh left behind was his “sons” and “grandsons.” His sons include Mike Holmgren, Dennis Green, among many others. Mike Holmgren taught innovators such as Andy Reid and Jon Gruden, while Dennis Green brought the NFL Tony Dungy and Herman Edwards, among others.

Bill Walsh will be missed, but he will not be forgotten any time soon. It is worth noting that one of his mentors was Al Davis, who hired a young Walsh as an assistant coach four decades ago.

As for the game itself, there were plenty of things to be excited and disgusted about.

For further recap, there is

The one major positive that would be impossible not to acknowledge is the improvement of the offensive line of the Raiders. The Raiders had a 16 play, 9 minute drive, and there was rhythm. The offense at one point in the second half had converted nine straight third downs.

The quarterback situation remains unsettled, although demoting Josh McCown to third string seems appropriate based on his previous game.

Andrew Walter started out by fumbling a snap in the shotgun, leading to a 20 yard loss. He also forced a throw into traffic on a third down and long situation that was intercepted. However, He did complete some tough throws, including one on a critical third down to receiver Taylor that led to a touchdown. He also threw a perfect 30 yard pass to Taylor that was dropped.

Dante Culpepper fumbled two snaps from scrimmage for the second week in a row. However, he also led two touchdown drives as well. He can still run, and his arm is not in dispute.

Josh McCown is inaccurate on the deeper throws, and by deeper I mean 15 yards, not 60. He overthrew an open receiver on a deep route to the end zone.
Again, most importantly, the quarterbacks had time to throw.

Dominick Rhodes ran well enough, and Lamont Jordan ran very well. In addition to some long gains, he had a bruising short yardage touchdown run. Fargas has not proven himself yet, but he did not make any mistakes.

At receiver, Ronald Curry showed some promise, as he usually does in the pre-season. If he could ever stay healthy, we could gauge him better.

A special honorable mention should go to Head Coach Lane Kiffin. He was hospitalized during the week with a serious viral infection, but he was back on the sidelines. The analogy of “are you injured or are you hurt?” emanates from the top. Players want to play hard when they see their coach is doing likewise. However, his challenge of a pass that was clearly caught out of bounds was a waste of a time out. Although it did not work, a gamble on fourth down and 6 from the 49er 29 yard line was the right call, as opposed to a 46 yard field goal attempt into the wind.

The starting defense still looks solid.

Due to offensive ineptitude early on, the defense was defending a short field throughout the first quarter. Yet the 49ers, with the wind, managed only 13 points. This included two long field goals by the venerable Joe Nedney, and a touchdown pass that started on a short field goal.

Once the offense finally moved the ball, the defense shut down the 49ers for the rest of Alex Smith’s time in the game. The officials seemed to call the game evenly in terms of penalties, but there was one very questionable pass interference call, and an equally questionable illegal contact penalty.

The run defense had many decent stops for little or no gain, but did give up a couple decent runs, including a first down run by Trent Dilfer when the 49ers were backed up by their own goal line. The pass defense looked very suspect against Dilfer. Warren Sapp is 50 pounds lighter, and the old man can still run fast.

Special teams was not special, but did not make mistakes. There were no breakdowns or causes for celebration. Sebastian Janikowski was not kicking touchbacks, but the 49er kicker was (although in fairness, with the wind). Punter Lechler is fine.

The Raiders fell behind 13-0, went ahead 21-13, and led 21-20 in the fourth quarter. Seeing veteran Trent Dilfer against a backup Raider defense is not a perfect gauge for a Raider team that had many fourth quarter breakdowns last year. However, when Dilfer, who played very well, was replaced with the third string quarterback, that threat disappeared.

With nine minutes left, a sure interception for a touchdown on a sideline route was dropped.

For the second week in a row, a young running back named Echimmandu was very impressive.

Lane Kiffin likes to throw the ball. In the fourth quarter, there were seemingly as many short passes as clock grinding runs. The problem with this is that the occasional dropped pass kills the clock and rhythm.

On a critical third down and 27, a perfectly executed screen pass to Echimmandu led to a field goal attempt on fourth and 4 by backup kicker Fredrickson. A week earlier in the exact same situation, he made it. This week, a 40 yard kick was nowhere close.

Some may consider third stringers battling each other as insignificant, but winning is always better than losing. The 49ers went up 26-21 with 47 seconds left, with much help from a defensive breakdown that allowed 49er quarterback Hill to run for 22 yards.

Josh McCown through a Hail Mary to a wide open Alvis Whittet in the end zone. He dropped it. Yes, there was defensive pass interference, but he simply dropped it. With five seconds remaining, the last Hail Mary was thrown in the vicinity of three 49ers and no Raiders.

The Raiders loss to the 49ers is as insignificant as their victory over the Cardinals. However, at this point I can say that there is hope for the 2007 Raiders to be slightly better than the 2006 Raiders.

There is hope, especially if the weakest link of last year, the offensive line, continues to show progress.


No Responses to “Raiders Recap–Preseason Week 2”

  1. Defense has not been a problem, and the running game has improved drastically, especially with the addition of Rhodes. Receivers and QB remain a concern, as well as the line to protect the QB. Hopefully Russell at QB will mature quickly because I don’t trust any of the other QB’s on the staff. And if the Raiders do unfortunately have one more bad season, the addition of Darren McFadden from Arkansas would pull them out of the cellar for good.

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