NFL 2015 Preseason: Week 1 Raiders Recap

NFL 2015 Preseason: Week 1 Raiders Recap

The nightmare known as the NFL offseason is over. The Oakland Raiders played their first preseason game on Friday night against the St. Louis Rams. These teams both used to play in Los Angeles, and they may do so again. That is business. Friday night was about football, and only football.

Normally the preseason Raider games are called by Jim Plunkett, Tom Flores and Greg Papa. This time it was Tim Brown, Matt Millen and Beth Brown.

The Raiders have fallen on hard times since their 2002 Super Bowl run, but there is significantly more optimism than in past years. Coach Jack Del Rio has young building blocks in quarterback Derek Carr, running back Latavius Murray, receiver Amari Cooper and defensive standout Khalil Mack.

With ACDC’s “Thunderstruck” and Guns n Roses’s “Welcome to the Jungle” blaring, Sebastian Janikowski boomed a touchback to start the 2015 NFL preseason.

Sam Bradford has been shipped off to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Nick Foles. Foles began by immediately tossing a long completion to a wide open receiver. After only two plays, the Rams were in the red zone. The Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley had the night off. On third down and four from the Oakland 14, a well thrown ball to the end zone was well defended incomplete. Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein hit the 32-yard field goal for the 3-0 Rams lead.

Trindan Holliday fumbled the ensuing kickoff and covered it up in the end zone for a touchback. On the second play from scrimmage, Carr and Cooper had their first connection, and it went for a first down. After another short completion to Cooper, Murray took a delayed handoff for 17 yards.

Last year the Raiders ran a boring, predictable, dink and dunk West Coast Offense, especially early on. Del Rio is determined to open up the playbook. Cooper was used on a reverse. On third and four from the Rams 40, Carr quickly fired over the middle to Kenbrell Thompkins for six yards and a first down. Carr was being utilized in various different ways. He took snaps out of the shotgun and behind center. He stayed in the pocket and he rolled out. On third and two from the Rams 26, Carr went for the bomb. The ball was well defended incomplete. Seabass hit the 44-yarder to tie the game 3-3.

On the next Rams drive, on third down and four from the Rams 40, Foles was sacked. However, holding penalties on both teams gave the Rams another chance. Folks was sacked again. Khalil Mack delivered the pressure and Shelby Harris took Foles down for a 14-yard loss. Holliday returned the punt 22 yards as the Raiders took over at the Rams 48.

Carr immediately hit Michael Crabtree for a 15 yard gain. Murray looked good on successive carries, bouncing his way from a loss into a gain that created first and goal at the six. On second down as the opening quarter was ending, Carr fired to the end zone and was intercepted. Carr never saw the defender.

The second quarter began with Foles calling it a night and being replaced with Case Keenum. The Rams punted and a moment of amusement occurred when Carr tried to sneak back on the field to stay in the game. Del Rio was having none of it. Carr came off the field and was done for the night. So was Murray. Christian Ponder and Trent Richardson now had their chance to show that they were not busts.

Ponder avoided a sack and scrambled for a first down. He found Bruce Butler for a 16-yard gain as the Rams got caught twice for defensive holding. Another long completion by Ponder had the Raiders again inside the Rams 10. On third and goal Ponder fired to Andre Holmes for the touchdown. With six minutes left in the half the Raiders decided on practicing a two-point conversion due to the change in the extra point rule. Ponder fired a completion but the officials ruled that while the receiver’s feet were in the end zone, the ball did not break the plane. The Raiders led 9-3.

The Raiders were ready on the ensuing kickoff, as the Rams took over at their own 12. After the two minute warning and facing third and 21, the Rams surprisingly ran the ball, gaining seven yards. A shanked punt had the Raiders taking over at their own 41 with 1:41 left. With 35 seconds left in the half the Raiders were called for offensive pass interference. That was actually the first penalty the Silver and Black had in the entire first half. Curious play-calling in the last two minutes had the Raiders run the ball and throw short. On the last play of the half, rather than throw a Hail Mary or try a 63 yard field goal, Ponder threw a short pass that was intercepted.

The third quarter saw third string quarterback Matt McGloin come in for the Raiders. McGloin’s strength is the deep ball, and on third and nine he found his receiver for a first down. Yet it was some quick short passes that went for big gains as McGloin had the Raiders in the red zone. On second and one from the 19, McGloin fired a pass right in the receiver’s hands near the goal line. After getting blasted by the defender, the ball fell incomplete. An badly designed delayed run on third and one was blown up in the backfield as the Raiders settled for a field goal and a 12-3 lead.

Jeff Fisher is known for discipline, but his team committed critical penalties on both sides of the ball. A big gain was wiped out by offensive holding. The Raiders struggled on third down defense, as the Rams converted six of their first ten third down conversion attempts. Keenum moved the ball well but the drive eventually bogged down. With two minutes left in the third quarter, a backup kicker for the Rams missed a 48-yard try.

With 12 minutes left in regulation, McGloin found Brice Butler for a 16-yard touchdown. The Raiders again went for the two-point conversion and the pass was broken up. The Raiders led 18-3 as McGloin completed 10 of his first 11 passes.

The Rams and Raiders may both have third string quarterbacks who could be bumped up to the second string spot. The Rams had a brief spark until their quarterback got blown up on a blindside hit. With less than nine minutes left the Raiders brought in their fourth string quarterback Cody Fajardo. Also in the game was running back George Atkinson III, son of the Raiders defensive legend. The drive would stall, but not until Fajardo had taken five minutes off the clock. When Marquette King punted the ball with four minutes left, it was the first Raiders punt of the night.

The Rams brought in their fourth string quarterback for some snaps. After converting one fourth down, the Rams suffered a delay of game penalty on fourth and six that was the final mistake on a night filled with them. On the other hand, the Raiders had only two penalties the entire game, and one of them was on punt coverage. The Raiders are a young team, but they are improved from an ability and attitude standpoint.

Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher are both USC guys, and they shared a lengthy and friendly chat during the postgame handshake. This is only one preseason game, but there is legitimate cause for cautious optimism for the Raider Nation.

18-3 Raiders

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