By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Raiders dropped to 0-7 this season with another dismal performance, this time on the road against the Cleveland Browns by a 23-13 score. The Silver & Black turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter when the game was still in reach, and those lost fumbles doomed the team to its 13th straight loss—dating back to the 2013 season.
The team from the East Bay last won a game on November 17, 2013, and it may be well into the 2015 regular season before they win another one if this keeps up.
In truth, the Raiders really aren’t this bad: They just don’t get the breaks they need to win, and the team isn’t talented enough to create a lot of those breaks. Oh, and the defense just isn’t very good, either. In fact, it’s historically bad. But more on that later.
It’s really time for General Manager Reggie McKenzie to step down: Oakland fans deserve a team with a plan that’s headed in the right direction, and right now they do not have that in the organization.
Now, on to the grades.
Derek Carr had a typically good performance for his rookie season: 34 completions in 54 attempts, 328 yards, one touchdown—and one costly fumble inside his own 10-yard line.
There’s nothing wrong with completing 63% of your passes; in this day and age, that’s about league average. The continuing issue is managing just 6.1 yards per attempt; part of the challenge for Oakland is trying to throw when the defense knows you can’t run the ball well enough. The opponents collapse on the passing attack and don’t give you anything deep to complete. The Raiders, as a result, have to dink and dunk their way down the field.
Carr’s effort is good under the circumstances, but the fumble in the fourth quarter—bumping into his own lineman, like a high schooler—was just unacceptable. Oh, and Matt Schaub threw his first official pass as a Raider this season on a fake-FG play; of course, it was intercepted. GRADE: C
The QBs committed two combined turnovers, although Schaub’s INT didn’t really matter; it was mostly like a punt with poor return coverage afterward. Overall, the offense scored just six points, however, that mattered. The garbage time TD at the end didn’t really mean anything.
So once again, the Raiders were held in check; just once this season they’ve scored more than 14 points. You’re not going to win a lot of NFL games when you can’t score more than 14 points. You win in the NFL by running the ball, allegedly, and Oakland can’t run the ball.
Darren McFadden had 59 yards in 12 carries, but his fumble in Cleveland territory was it was just a three-point game in the fourth quarter was the game killer. The Browns took the ball right down the field and scored to make it a ten-point game. Other than McFadden’s exploits, the Raiders had 10 carries for 12 yards. Overall, if you’re counting at home, that’s just 71 yards on the ground on 22 attempts. That’s “three yards and a cloud of dust” football, and it doesn’t win anywhere in football any more.
Nine different receivers caught balls from Carr, including a whopping seven receptions for tight end Mychal Rivera. The Raiders need that kind of production from him. But of those nine receivers, only three averaged as much as 10 yards per catch. That’s again the problem: It’s harder to move the ball in small chunks. And while it helped keep the defense off the field, it didn’t result in any significant scoring drives. GRADE: C-
Can we blame the defense for this one? For the most part, the Oakland defense did fine—and they weren’t on the field for the whole game, either. In fact, the defense was barely on the field for 25 minutes in this game. The Raiders held the Browns to just 2-for-12 on third downs, and Cleveland managed just 306 total yards.
But they couldn’t force any turnovers, and the Browns still managed 5.7 yards per play.
Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer was 19-of-28 for 275 yards and one TD, but the Oakland defense completely stuffed the Browns running backs. Combined, they had 23 carries and just 38 yards. Normally you win on a day like that.
Remember, the defense held Cleveland out of the end zone until the fourth quarter—but they crumbled after McFadden’s fumble. The Raiders gave up the first TD of that after that, on a four-play, 53-yard drive that took 1:06 off the clock for the Browns. That was a collapse, and it was really the end of the game. GRADE: B-
Marquette King averaged 44 yards on seven punts, and Sebastian Janikowski made all his kicks in this one. However, the team totaled just 45 yards on five kick/punt returns, and that could have been better. When will the special teams make a game-changing play for the Raiders? That might help get the team a win in one of these close-in-the-fourth-quarter contests. GRADE: B
It’s on to Seattle next week, and the Seahawks got some mojo back this week with a grind-it-out win over the Carolina Panthers on the road. That means the Raiders will probably lose again next week.
It’s getting to the point that Oakland needs to try something—anything—different, because the same approach week after week isn’t churning out results. The team isn’t really even improving, necessarily.
The Raiders haven’t quit, though, and that’s important to note; they’re just not that good. But Oakland also isn’t as bad as its 0-7 record suggests.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.