Raiders Recap–Preseason 2010 Week 3

The 2-0 Oakland Raiders had their first home preseason game against their crosstown rival San Francisco.

The Raiders should continue to feel good about the play of Jason Campbell, who started 6 of 8 for 93 yards. Yet in the second quarter, a sack on Campbell left him on the ground for several minutes. He was carted off the field, although it seemed he merely had a stinger.

A bigger concern is that running back Michael Bush left the game with a broken thumb. He might not b ready for the regular season opener. His return to the field is critical.

At quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski came in for the first time this preseason, and he picked up where he left last regular season. He threw for a pair of touchdown passes.

While Jason Campbell is a significant upgrade over JaMarcus “Purple Drang” Russell, I still wanted Gradkowski to be given a chance to compete for the starting job this year. He did not get that. Campbell is obviously the starter. However, Gradkowski must be solidly entrenched as the backup. He showed fiery leadership last year in several impressive wins, including on the road. If Campbell gets hurt, the quarterback play will not drop off. Whatever it takes, Gradkowski must be signed to a deal that keeps him in Oakland.

The game got off to a perfect start for the Raiders. Campbell led an 81 yard drive that included a 22 yard completion to Darrius Heyward Bey followed by a 34 yard completion to Reese. This was Al Davis football. On 3rd and 2 from the San Francisco 7, Michael Bush was stopped for no gain. However, defensive offsides gave Oakland a 1st down. Bush banged it in from a yard out and the Raiders led 7-0 after the 5 1/2 minute drive.

The Silver and Black have been solid on defense this preseason, but they did have a breakdown in the second quarter when Frank Gore ripped off a 49 yard gain. Yet on 2nd and 1 from the Oakland 11, Alex Smith fumbled. The 49ers held on, but settled for a short field goal attempt. From 37 yards out, Joe Nedney was no good as the 49ers remained without points. The defenses then clamped down, and the teams exchanged punts.

The 49ers finally got a drive going, but the much improved Raiders run defense was impressive in the red zone. From the Oakland 16, runs up the middle on 2nd and 1 and 3rd and 1 were stuffed. On 4th and 1 Mike Singletary decided to go for it. Smith threw incomplete, but standout Nahmdi Asomugha was called for defensive holding. Yet from the 11, the 49ers went nowhere. This time Nedney connected and the 49ers were within 7-3.

5 minutes into the second quarter, Shale Lechler boomed a 57 yard punt. However, a major special teams breakdown had Adams return the punt 83 yards for a score. Just like that the 49es led 10-7. After Campbell got injured, Smith led the 49ers on a 60 yard, 10 play, 7 minute drive. This time the defense did not get the stop as Smith hit Morgan for a 16 yard touchdown and a 17-7 San Francisco lead with just over a minute left in the half.

Yet Al Davis had to smile widely again after that. Gradkowski came in and fired a 74 yard touchdown bomb to speedster Louis Murphy. Just like that the Raiders were within 17-14.

The problem was not that the deep ball is passe. The problem is that the players were not executing it. These Raiders executed it perfectly.

In the third quarter, the Raiders began at their own 28 after a San Francisco punt. Gradkowki continued to dazzle. He hit Michael Bush for 11 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the 45, an incomplete pass was nullified by defensive offsides. Gradkowski had the free play and just went incomplete to Zach Miller deep. On 3rd and 15 from the 45, Gradkowki hit Heywar Bey for 17 to the San Francisco 38. Heyward Bey has been fairly criticized in the past, but Gradkowski was bringing out the best in everyone.

Then there was a Darren McFadden sighting. He picked up 9 yards, and 2 more for a 1st down. Gradkowski then went deep to Zach Miller for a 27 yard touchdown as Al Davis partied like it was 1969. The Raiders were back on top 21-17.

David Carr came in for Smith and fired incomplete on 3rd and 2 from the Oakland 40. Singletary again gambled (after all this is preseason) and an incomplete pass was nullified when defensive pass interference had the 49ers at the Oakland 20. The defense held, and Nedney connected to get the 49ers within 21-20.

On the next drive Gradkowski completed a 3rd and 9 pass for a 24 yard gain to Cartwright at the Oakland 47. The 5 minute drive stalled, but Tom Cable decided to have Sebastian Janikowski try a 57 (hey, why not in preseason) yard field goal. Seabass drilled the thing, and the Raiders were back up 24-20.

In the fourth quarter both teams moved to about midfield before being forced to punt. With 10:15 left, David Carr led a staggering 16 play, 8 1/2 minute, 80 yard drive. Yes the backups were in, but after 2 games of getting it done, the guys on the buble finally saw the bubble burst. Dixon ran it in from one yard out at the 2 minute warning. For some reason Singletary called for a 2 point conversion, which was successful as the 49ers led 28-24.

A 33 yard pass interference penalty had the Raiders at the San Francisco 40. Yet despite being a brilliant 14 of 18 for over 200 yards up to that point, Gradkowski finally threw 4 straight incompletions. The defense did hold for the Raiders, but only 6 seconds remained. For some bizarre reason the punt was fair caught, never giving Gradkowski one last chance. The 49ers had the win.

The main thing is that after 3 preseason games, I can clearly say that the Raiders are improved.

The punt return for a touchdown cannot happen, and the Raiders defense gave up a long first half drive. The running game did not do much, but part of that was the near total success of the passing game. Campbell was good and Gradkowski was brilliant.

There is not a quarterback controversy in Oakland. However, the team clearly seems to have a pair of capable quarterbacks. The players are responding in ways they did not do last year.

While the Raiders “lost” the game on paper, this team is competitive, and I can say that the cautious optimism of the Raider Nation is now justified.


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