Paul G's Instant Replay: Dolphins 35, Raiders 13


Paul G's Instant Replay: Dolphins 35, Raiders 13


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The heat, humidity and Reggie Bush were too much for the Raiders as their troubles in South Florida continued in a 35-13 defeat to the Miami Dolphins as Bush carried the ball a career-high 26 times for 172 yards and two scores. He had 197 yards of total offense.Oakland could not build on its 10-7 halftime lead and, as former coach-turned radio broadcaster Tom Flores said on the air, "Kind of sad to see the Raiders, especially the defense, wilt in this humidity."The offense was no better. Late in the game, the Raiders had -1 yards rushing in the second half.McFadden's Miami troubles continue: Darren McFadden has had his issues with the Dolphins in his career. Entering the game, he had just 15 yards against Miami on 11 career carries in two games and it barely got better Sunday. Early in the game, McFadden was poked in the eye and had to leave the game before returning with a protective shield on his facemask. At the half, McFadden had just 17 rushing yards on seven carries and he finished with 22 yards on 11 attempts. he also dropped a sure touchdown pass in the right flat from Carson Palmer late in the first half.Condo makes his return, to no avail: Two-time Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Condo was back and did not have any errant snaps, unlike his replacement last week in Travis Goethel. But he was high on several, though they did not cost the Raiders.Moore is less?: Denarius Moore made his season debut and had three catches for 67 yards. He left the game, though, in the third quarter with cramping issues.Tackling issues return: Long a bane of the Raiders' existence, the run defense, or lack thereof, returned. Against San Diego, the Raiders allowed just 32 yards rushing for the game. The Dolphins, meanwhile, carved up the Raiders for 259 yards on the ground, including long runs of 34 yards and a TD run of 65 yards in which four Raiders had a shot at himand missed.Cornerbacks get toasted: Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill picked on Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson all day as Brian Hartline finished with a career-high nine caches for 111 yards. Yes, Tannehill vs. Lee was my No. 1 matchup to watch, and the rookie gassed the Raiders' defense with the no-huddle offense. Imagine what Peyton Manning will do in two weeks at elevation.Who stood out, in a positive way?: With McFadden getting his eye tended to, Mike Goodson took a screen pass in the right flat and, following a huge block from Mike Brisiel, scooted 64 yards for the score. It was the only time the Raiders would lead, 10-7. Also, tight end Brandon Myers caught six passes for 86 yards. And Palmer threw for 373 yards on 24 of 48 passing with a TD and a pick.Who stood out, in a negative way?: Too many to talk about...

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was twice asked about making in-season changes at his Monday press conference.

He wouldn’t rule it out. Del Rio said he would do anything necessary to help the team “win now,” and later said "we're not getting into staff questions this week."

Then he fired Ken Norton Jr. the next day, hoping the dismissal will provide a spark.

It might. More likely, it might not do enough.

It is a shot across the bow at its base, a signal that subpar play won't be tolerated. 

“We played under our talent level,” defensive tackle Justin Ellis said, “Those things come with consequences.”

New play caller John Pagano has a unique style and knows how to bring creative pressure, disguise a simple play as complex and exploit weak links, but he won’t be using his system this season. He’ll still be working within Norton/Del Rio’s scheme and, more importantly, he’s still playing chess with existing, often inferior pieces. The Raiders understand that, and likely won't judge him on this final stretch alone. 

Why? The defense doesn’t have enough talent in the secondary, the interior defensive line or the inside linebacker corps. That’s not on Norton or Pagano.

Pagano can’t do a thing about an offense struggling mightily to catch passes, block consistently and let plays develop downfield.

The Raiders have some major talent problems, with rush and coverage rarely working together as desired. That, and some uninspired schematics, have produced awful statistics.

The Raiders don’t have an interception, and are the first team to go 10 games without a pick. They’re on track to have the second-worst opposing completion percentage (72.3) and passer rating (113.3) in NFL history, per the Associated Press.

They’re also last in sacks for the second straight year, with just 14 this season despite having reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack.

They're thin because last year's second and third round picks, Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun aren't contributing. This year's draft class had to make an immediate impact, but Gareon Conley played two games, Obi Melifonwu spent eight games on IR and Eddie Vanderdoes as underwhelmed after a promising start.

Highly paid free agents haven't performed well enough, and many could be shown the door.

It’s possible roughly half of the starting lineup doesn’t return next season, with Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin and NaVorro Bowman likely out the door as free agents or roster cuts.

In sum, this isn’t all Norton’s fault.

He was, however, the easiest cut. You can’t fire players en masse during the year, and Pagano was an easy replacement without disrupting the position coaches. Pagano has extensive experience calling plays. He was the then-San Diego Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2012-16.

Norton wasn’t an innovative play caller. He was passed over for coordinator jobs while serving as Seattle’s linebackers coach, after Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn were hired as head coaches. Del Rio, who played with Norton in Dallas back from 1989-91, hired Norton shortly after being hired by the Raiders.

The Raiders' defense has never been good under Norton/Del Rio, and Norton was on a hot seat most of last season. It was surprising when Pagano was hired that Norton was retained and allowed to continue despite underwhelming performance.

Norton was immensely popular in the locker room, especially with members of the front seven. Mack and Irvin in particular were Norton guys. Norton and Irvin go way back to Irvin’s Seattle days, where the coach helped the player get and stay on the right path.

That’s why this firing was deeply felt on Tuesday. The players were told in an afternoon meeting, following a walk-through focused on corrections from Sunday’s New England loss.

"The axe came down on everybody," free safety Reggie Nelson said. "Everybody felt it in this building. Players, we love Norton, regardless. Unfortunately, the production wasn't a high standard this year and it's a production league. He's not playing. We are.”

The Raiders are 4-6, and can’t afford to lose many more games. They might need to be perfect down the stretch to avoid a messy tiebreaker situation. That’s a tough ask for a team that’s been woefully inconsistent on both sides. This team was always expected to shoot for the middle defensively and have a potentially great offense score points by the bushel.

The offense has been most disappointing, performing far below its pay grade and talent level. There was no movement on that side of the ball. The Raiders hope, with fingers firmly crossed, this defensive change provide the spark necessary to create turnovers and quarterback pressure than has been lacking in a disastrous season to this point.

Raiders fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Raiders fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Ken Norton Jr.'s time with the Raiders is up.

With the team underperforming, Oakland has fired Norton as the defensive coordinator, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. John Pagano will handle the play calling duties when the Raiders take on the Broncos this Sunday.

Head coach Jack Del Rio issued the following statement regarding the news:

“After careful thought, I have made a difficult decision to part ways with Ken Norton, Jr. as defensive coordinator. I have the utmost respect for Ken as a person and as a coach, but I feel that moving John Pagano into the play-calling role will best utilize his wealth of experience. I appreciate Ken’s passion and commitment to the Raiders since coming aboard and wish him the best going forward.”

The Raiders defense under Norton this season ranks 26th in the NFL in yards allow per game (367.0), is allowing 24.7 points per game and has yet to record an interception through 10 games.

"We played under our talent level. Those things come with consequences," defensive lineman Justin Ellis told reporters shortly after the news broke.

"The axe fell on all of us. We love Coach Norton. We didn’t want to see this happen," safety Reggie Nelson said.

Norton joined Del Rio's staff prior to the 2015 season.