NFL 2011 Preseason–Week 3 Raiders Recap

As the East Coast began the slow recovery from Hurricane Irene, once again it was left to the National Football League to provide temporary escapism.

The Oakland Raiders hosted the New Orleans Saints in the third preseason game.

Preseason games supposedly don’t matter, but the Raiders have not looked good in starting 0-2. They were anemic on offense last week.

Sebastian Janikowski offered a touchback, but Drew Brees needed one play to hit Devry Henderson for a 37 yard gain. Henderson beat rookie Marcus Van Dyke, the guy in place of the departed Nahmdi Asomugha. On 3rd and 10 Brees went after Van Dyke again and hit Robert Meacham for 18 yards.  The defense held after that, yet on 4th and 2 Sean Payton decided to go for it. In the regular season it would probably be a field goal. Brees converted, setting up 1st and goal from the 6. On 3rd and goal from the 1,  Mark Ingram banged it up the middle for the score. 5 minutes, 80 yards, and 11 plays came way too easily against the first string defense as the Saints led 7-0.

A fumble on the ensuing kickoff had the Raiders starting at their own 9 yard line. A 2nd and 7 bomb from Jason Campbell to Darrius Heyward-Bey bounced off his hand. Yet on 3rd and 7 a rifle over the middle to Derrick Hagan went for 13 yards and a first down. Short gains set up 3rd and 1. Michael Bush got the job done for  yards and a first down. With Darren McFadden out with an eye injury, Bush was expected to get the load of the work. On 2nd and 8 Bush picked up 12 straight up the middle. From just past midfield, Bush evaded tacklers and gained 11 more. On 2nd and 7 from the 35, a quick pass to Hagan resulted in him shaking a tackle, remaining upright, and racing for the touchdown. A 91 yard, 11 play, 5 minute drive is a nice way to show improved offense when the first stringers are in as the game was tied 7-7.

Another Seabass touchback was academic as Brees went to Jimmy Graham for 24 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the Oakland 48, newly acquired Darren Sproles ran around the end for the first down at the Oakland 39. Brees went deep to Meacham for 22 yards to the Oakland 16. On 3rd and 4 from the 10, Brees hit a wide open Sprole over the middle down to the one. Marcus Allen is long since retired, but Pierre Thomas was able to hurdle over the top for the Saints as they led 14-7 with 33 second left in the first quarter. As they have been for the previous two seasons, the Saints offense looked unstoppable early on in this game.

The Raiders took over at their own 18,  and Campbell quickly completed an 11 yard pass as the quarter ended. After a holding penalty, a curious run up the middle on 2nd and 20 went nowhere. Coach Hue Jackson went conservative as a short pass picked up about half and the Raiders punted. The Saints began at their own 22.

Brees scrambled and found Graham for 19. On 3rd and inches from midfield, Ingram barreled up the gut for 5 yards. A screen pass was blown up in the backfield, and on 3rd and 14 a screen pass came up a few yards short. Yet defensive offsides gave the Saints another chance. On 3rd and 9, Brees made the Raiders pay with a strike over the middle for a 25 yard gain. Brees was not even ready for the snap, but it did not matter.  Another first down had the Saints in the red zone, but three straight incompletions finally gave the Raiders their first stop. A 33 yard Garrett Hartley field goal had the Saints up 17-7.

The Raiders began on their own 16, and defensive pass interference on a long pass had the Raiders at their own 40. On 3rd and 8 a Campbell pass was batted down and somehow caught by offensive lineman Meyer. Big man with football is usually a disaster, but Heyer rumbled forward and even jumped over a guy at the first down marker. Hey, it’s preseason. Let the center have some fun. On 3rd and 3, a perfectly executed screen pass went all the way to the 5 yard line. Unfortunately, it was nullified by offensive pass interference. A 3rd and 13 pass picked up half. On 4th and 6 from the Saints 40, Seabass was brought in for a 57 yard field goal try. To make matters worse, he was kicking off the infield dirt where the Oakland A’s field baseball grounders. It did not matter. Seabass drilled it right down the middle with some room to spare. I love this guy, and so do the Silver and Black fans as the Raiders were within 17-10.

Brees was done for the night, having led 3 scoring drives on all 3 tries. Daniel came in. 1st and 10 saw a long completion just out of bounds. 2nd and 10 saw the long completion inbounds at the 2 minute warning. A deep bomb to Henderson should have been a touchdown, but it bounced off of Henderson’s fingertips. Daniel was sacked on 3rd and 10, ending the drive.

The Raiders took over at their own 33. Michael Bush took a screen pass 12 yards, and a sideline pass stopped the clock with 26 seconds left at the Saints 48. A completion to Hagan went for 22 yards to the Saints 26 as the Raiders called timeout. Campbell went deep to the end zone into double coverage. The ball was batted up in the air and a third defender intercepted it for the touchback to end the half.

Kyle Boller came in for the Raiders to start the second half at their own 20. Taiwan Jones got caught in the backfield but somehow bounced to the outside for a 10 yard gain. Jones took another handoff 12 yards. Boller went deep to Hagan. Boller got drilled as soon as he threw it but Hagan made the grab for a 33 yard gain. Taiwan Jones then ran around the edge for a 22 yard trip to the end zone. Americans want to know who this kid is, with McFadden and Bush ahead of him. Well the Saints defense saw him as the guy who ran all over them for the tying touchdown as the Raiders and Saints were at 17-17.

A penalty on the kickoff had the Saints starting at their own 11. An incomplete pass was followed by Mark Ingram getting blown up in the backfield. On 3rd and 14 Daniel went deep to Arrington that was almost caught but fell incomplete at the last moment. After a punt, the Raiders took over with a short field at the Saints 44.

On 2nd and 7, Boller hit Hagan on a quick pass. Hagan shook a tackle for a 1st down after an 11 yard gain. on 3rd and 3 from the Saints 22, a quick pass was batted up in the air and this time able to harmlessly hit the ground. Seabass drilled the 39 yarder and the Raiders led 20-17 midway through the third period.

The Saints took over at their own 25. From the 30, a screen pass went for a long gain. A helmet to helmet hit on the quarterback added 15 more yards to the Raiders 18. Bell then ran around the end to set up 1st and goal at the 3. Daniel then hit Corey Humphrey for the score as only 5 plays and less than 2 1/2 minutes were needed to go 75 yards and put the Saints back on top 24-20. The Raiders took over at their own 28. A short pass over the middle to Barnett went for 14 yards. A well thrown 3rd and 4 pass was dropped as the Raiders punted. The Saints began at their own 13.

A couple plays later a wide open Bell caught a sideline pass, hurdled one defender, stiff armed another, and ended up all the way at the Oakland 15 after a 60 yard gain. On 3rd and 15, a screen pass to Ingram went all the way to a 1st and goal at the 3. The last play of the 3rd quarter had the Saints with 3rd and goal at the 1. Bell hurdled over the top before being knocked back, but the ball broke the plane. For some strange reason, the Saints went for a 2 point conversion and made it as Daniel hit Arrington. The Saints led 32-20 after three quarters.

The Raiders kick returners were having a tough time all night, with phenom Jacoby Ford not playing. The Raiders began at their own 18, and Trent Edwards came in at quarterback. He quickly hit Jones for an 18 yard gain. Jones broke free again on the ground and bounced outside for a 13 yard gain just shy of midfield. On 3rd and 10, a high snap out of the shotgun was bobbled by Edwards and recovered by the Saints at the Oakland 39.

Daniel needed one play to go deep to a wide open Arrington for what may the easiest touchdown they will have all year. Coach Payton decided again to for two. This was not running up the score. It was also not practicing the two pointers in preseason. In the regular season it certainly would be classless. It was because kicker Garrett Hartley hurt his hip on a kick earlier in the game. Anyway, Bell ran it in and a 20-17 Raiders lead in just over half a quarter turned into a 40-20 Saints blowout lead with 13 minutes left in regulation.
The Raiders went 3 and out from their own 20 as Edwards got belted for a sack on 3rd and 4. The Saints took over at their own 29 looking for more. Bell quickly ran for 25 yards. The drive stalled after that and the Raiders received a punt with even worse field position at their own 7.  Edwards moved them little by little down the field as they passed midfield with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game. Yet a second sack by Swanson Miller killed another drive and led to another punt as the Saints began at their own 18 with less than 5 minutes to play. They ran out the clock, although they easily could have scored again.
The Raiders are now 0-3 in the preseason with plenty of reasons to be pessimistic. Yes, the Saints went 12-4 last year with he same team that won the Super Bowl 2 years ago. Yes, the Raiders lost their top defensive star Asomugha to Philly and their best receiver in tight end Zach Miller to Seattle. Yes, the Raiders played this game without defensive standout Richard Seymour, all world running back McFadden, and electrifying kick returner Jacoby Ford. These are excuses.

The defense was a mess, giving up large gains at will. The offense actually played well most of the game, and running back Taiwan Branch and receiver Derrick Hagan are impressive. The Raiders gained almost 400 yards of offense, but gave up in excess of 500 on defense. Seabass and Lechler are fine as kicker and punter, but the return game was awful. The bottom line is the Raiders looked good in spots but have not played an entire complete preseason game. This is why they have lost them all. Their final chance is on Thursday September 2nd, at Seattle.

New Orleans Saints 40, Oakland Raiders 20.

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