Injuries, lack of speedy playmakers the problem for Raiders


Injuries, lack of speedy playmakers the problem for Raiders

MIAMI -- Are you buying what the Raiders are selling when they say Rolando McClain's legal escapades this week did not distract them against Miami?Even after the Dolphins thoroughly embarrassed the Raiders, 34-14, in a game that wasn't even that close?"No," huffed coach Hue Jackson. "That has nothing to do with getting beat like we just got beat."Added free safety Michael Huff: "No, this is football. Once we line up between the white lines, all the distractions are gone. It's man on man and they just outplayed us today."And this from Raiders defensive tacklepoet laureate Tommy Kelly: "That didn't have nothing to do with it. Whatever happened with Ro, it didn't have nothing to do with what went on out there today. Everybody knew what it was, so it wasn't no distraction. He probably got himself in trouble, and it's something he is going to have to handle, and something he is going to have to clean up, but that didn't have nothing to do with what happened today."Thing is, I believe them. Whole heartedly.In this corner, the Raiders falling to a lousy 6-25 on the East Coast since December of 2002 had more to do with their injuries finally catching up to them than any off-the-field shenanigans provided by their middle linebacker.Or, who was not on the field for Oakland, rather than who was on the field.Explosive offensive playmakers Darren McFadden (who has not played since Oct. 23), Jacoby Ford (Nov. 10) and Denarius Moore (Nov. 20) and even rookie speedster Taiwan Jones (also Nov. 20) all being inactive for the second straight game was simply too much to overcome.Against Chicago last week, the Raiders slugged it out and prevailed.Against a nastier, more physical Dolphins defense? Not so much.The Raiders could not establish their running game. Simple as that. And by the time they started making any noise offensively, it was already 34-0."We got behind and got away from the run," said Michael Bush, who was held to 18 yards on 10 carries. "We just got our butts kicked today."Earlier this week, I questioned whether Bush was starting to wear down from his increased workload in the absence of McFadden. Now, I wonder if it's actually the offensive line that's hit a wall.For the second week in a row, Oakland's grunts up front have had it handed to them."We just got killed," offered rookie left guard Stefen Wisniewski."Our offense is only going to work when we run the ball. We're a run-first team and last couple of weeks haven't been running it like we should have been, and that's why we're not performing at our highest."See, both lines getting dominated has nothing to do with McClain's arrest and the wake of negative attention."They didn't show us anything we weren't ready for; they just beat us," Wisniewski said. "They were more physical than we were."And getting bullied by the Dolphins for the second year in a row -- Miami allowed the Raiders only 46 yards on the ground on 14 carries Sunday after giving up just 16 yards on 12 carries in a 33-17 Miami on Nov. 28, 2010 -- might be a more damning indictment than being distracted."Umm, I'm going to choose my words carefully," said usually verbose safety Mike Mitchell. "Miami played very well. They played very physically. We didn't play very well, and we, I don't know if we matched their physicality in the run game."That's an extremely tough pill to swallow because we had done so good stopping the run for three weeks and we came out here knowing what they were going to do. Today really feels like an ass-whupping more than a loss, because they didn't run anything we didn't know they were going to run. I think we just more got beat physically than tricked, so to speak."The Raiders' playmakers bring more than speed; they also bring trick plays that supplement Oakland's mauling style. At least when it works.Sunday, nothing worked for the Raiders.And as far as McClain was concerned, he had a game-high eight tackles, despite missing several snaps due to missed practice time this week, and not because of any punitive measures.Distraction? McClain was approached by a veteran teammate in the hours after he met the team in South Florida."I done got a DUI and you don't want that," Kelly said. "I told Ro that himself, 'You don't want that type of attention on yourself. You don't want people to remember you as that. You get a label in this league, it's hard to wipe it off.'"I told him, 'Dog, that ain't you. I work with you everyday and I know that ain't you. You're not that guy. You made a mistake, learn from it. That's the big thing.' As long as he learns from it, he'll be alright."Are you buying it?

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots


Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

MEXICO CITY – Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City:

1. So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders aren’t stacking wins as they’d like. Nobody in the AFC West is, either. The Chiefs lost another one, meaning the AFC West crown remains within reach. They’re two games back in the division and one back in the wild card race.

That, above all else, will keep the Raiders motivated after a disastrous loss to New England.

“We're professionals and to me, so long as you have hope, you keep your hope, you keep hope alive,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So, we'll continue to scratch and claw and fight for everything we can.”

The Raiders can harken Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber.” So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders will only stay in it if they start a prolonged winning streak. There’s a chance do that on an upcoming two-game home stand. They play Denver and the New York Giants, respectively, in Oakland over the next fortnight. Those teams have five wins between them.

Wins can’t be assumed with the Raiders. With their inconsistency and mistake-prone play, they can lose to anyone.

Fight remains in this group. They’ll continue to push, especially with a 9-7 record being a legitimate playoff contender. They haven’t played worthy of such consideration, but remain hopeful a switch gets flipped.

“We are who we are, we're not going to turn on each other, we're not going to turn on anything about what we do,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Obviously, we know that our culture and everything that we do works, because we have seen it work.”

2. Receiver corps becoming a weak spot

The Raiders have a talented group of receivers lacking consistency and production. That was the case on Sunday, when pass catchers hindered offensive flow and scoring opportunities.

Seth Roberts was the biggest offender. He had a drop, a false start and lost a fumble near the goal line with the Patriots up 14-0 late in the first half. Roberts had 12 yards in his pocket but held the ball one-handed, away from his body fighting for more. Marquis Flowers knocked it free and Patrick Chung recovered.

That was the turning point, a true 10-point swing. The Raiders lost a chance to reach the end zone, and allowed New England to get a field goal as the half expired.

“That was a major turn of events,” Del Rio said.

The slot receiver wasn’t the only receiver who stalled the Raiders offense. That group had five drops, according to Pro Football Focus, including two from Michael Crabtree. Johnny Holton wasn’t credited with a drop, but he had a perfectly thrown deep ball clang off his helmet and shoulder pads.

It’s a bad night in a bad year for the Raiders receivers, who haven’t been producing.

3. Lopsided score keeps Marshawn from going Beast Mode

Running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player who had a good Sunday. The bruising back ran roughshod over New England’s front seven, right from the start. He totaled 67 yards on 11 carries, and seemed primed for a big day and a higher-than-usual carry volume.

He and the Raiders run blocking was consistent, allowing him to reach the second level on several occasions.

The lopsided score, however, meant the Raiders had to abandon the ground game.

“I thought we ran the ball well early,” Del Rio said. “I would like to have ended up with 30-plus rush attempts in the ball game, but you got to stay within reasonable amount of the score in order to stick with the run.”

The Raiders were down two touchdowns in a flash, and were three scores behind at the half. That forced Derek Carr to chuck it towards an unreliable receiver corps. That method proved inefficient and never created the big moments.

Lynch has run well since returning from a one-game suspension. He has 25 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. If there’s a positive to take from Sunday’s beat down, Lynch’s efficiency might be it.

Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad


Del Rio calls out NFL for Raiders losing home games to go abroad

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders have played in Mexico City the last two years, and have given up a home game to do it.

You already know head coach Jack Del Rio’s stance on the matter. He doesn’t like it. Not one bit.

The NFL announced Sunday morning that Mexico City will host games annually through 2021. The Raiders will be on the short list to return during that span.

“They’ve done a nice job for us over the last two years,” Del Rio said. “If it was a road game, I’d enjoy it. If they stop making (international contests) our home games, we’ll be fine.”

Hate to be the bearer of bad news Jack, but the Raiders will keep giving home games away. That’s expected each year until the Raiders formally move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders might not come back to Mexico for a third straight season, but could host a game in London next year. The NFL sent four games to the United Kingdom this year.

The Raiders have a massive fan base in England and Mexico, which makes them an attractive option to play abroad.

It might make financial sense for the team and the league to expand its base beyond borders, but the football people don’t find it fun.

The Raiders had more fans watching Sunday’s 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca, but it’s no substitute for playing in Oakland.

“I think the crowd down here is pretty excited for the Raiders, so we appreciate that,” Del Rio said. “When you travel four-and-a-half hours, you’re not at home. We appreciate the hospitality and the good people who came out and supported us, but it’s hard to call it a home game.”

This one, especially. The Raiders had overwhelming support last year’s game against Houston, but Patriots fans were a large and vocal minority. They had plenty to cheer, as the Patriots waxed the Silver and Black over four quarters.

It’s hard to say the Raiders had a home crowd this time around, with plenty of noise when they were on offense.

“You know what, traveling down here, I think it was like four hours or something like that, and getting here, I think that hospitality was great, but it really wasn't, it wasn't the Coliseum,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “It didn’t have that feel. Now, we loved playing here, we loved coming down here and playing, but it felt more neutral.”