Raiders 'D' deserves an 'F' for effort


Raiders 'D' deserves an 'F' for effort

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- That was Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for the Buffalo, not Bills comeback maestro Frank Reich.And yet, the Buffalo quarterback sliced and diced the Raiders defense like it belonged to the old Houston Oilers in that epic Jan. 3, 1993 playoff game on this same field.Only difference was, those Oilers had a defense; these Raiders showed nothing in the second half against the Bills in their eventual 38-35 loss.

Consider: for the first time since Stats LLC started charting such figures in 1993, a team scored touchdowns on all five of its second-half possessions. That team was the Bills, against the Raiders. On Sunday.To paraphrase boxing announcer Larry Merchant from his in-ring interview the night before with Floyd Mayweather Jr., even Merchant himself would have kicked the Oakland defense's, um, backside.It was that bad. It was even more sad, what with the Raiders offense showing up and taking a 21-3 lead into the half and then re-taking the lead with 3:41 to play on Jason Campbell's 50-yard bomb to Denarius Moore. All the Raiders defense needed was one stop. One."When they did get rolling, it wasn't like they were running something different from what they did in the first half," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. "They were running the same stuff. But for some reason, we started helping them out in the second half."There were blown coverages. Sloppy arm tackling. No pressure on Reich, er, Fitzpatrick.It ran from the D-line to the linebackers and through the secondary. It was an embarrassing display that, rightly or wrongly, surely has to have defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan in hot water already with Al Davis, who did not make the trip."Not a whole lot to say other than that effort isn't going to be good enough, period," said defensive tackle Richard Seymour. "We hold ourselves accountable for that."As they should.Buffalo had 25 first downs ... in the second half. The Bills had 326 yards of total offense ... in the second half. They scored 35 points ... in the second half.Perhaps most galling for the Raiders was holding a lead with less than four minutes remaining and the Bills needing to go 80 yards and score a touchdown. Which, of course, is what they did as they lined up on the Raiders' 6-yard line on 4th-and-1 with 18 seconds to play and no timeouts remaining."Finish the game," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said he implored the defense as it took the field for that final, fateful drive.Rather, the Bills finished them. A blown coverage in the middle of the field left receiver David Nelson wide open coming from left to right and he safely cradled Fitzpatrick's throw for the game-winner."I don't know if David's guy got picked or, I don't know what happened, but I think they misaligned, to be honest," Fitzpatrick said. "It looked to be an extra guy on Stevie (Johnson's) side and David obviously made a good catch."Said Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson, who had his own issues on the day though nearly ended things with an interception in the back of the end zone two plays earlier, but Donald Jones knocked the ball away: "Fitzpatrick knew where he wanted to go. It as an easy pitch and catch."Replays showed middle linebacker Rolando McClain leaving his spot and trailing the running back coming out of the backfield on the play, leaving the middle open. Still, no one would finger any particular player for the blown coverage."For a guy to score on the last play of the game wide open, c'mon, man," Kelly bellowed. "Do your job. That's what the man pays you for. Do your job. If you got that guy, follow him to the bathroom."Instead, all that was left was to clean up the mess."They weren't doing nothing different," Kelly said. "They hopped in a draw, run the one-back run, run out of the spread, clog down the middle to slow down the rush and they're going to throw drag routes. And that's what they did. I mean, c'mon now. The third, fourth receiver (Nelson) had 10 catches in the game? C'mon, man. Not a third or fourth guy. Nah. If anybody's going to beat us, Stevie Johnson (should) beat us. Not the fourth wideout. Nah. That hurt. That hurt bad."Just get the man on the ground. And we just didn't do it as a defense for some reason. I don't know why. But we got a six-hour flight to figure out what the hell happened."Indeed, the defense should spend lot of that time looking in the mirror. And beware a punch from Merchant.

Carr admits back injury had an impact: 'I had to deal with it'


Carr admits back injury had an impact: 'I had to deal with it'

Derek Carr was asked several times during the 2017 season whether a Week 4 back injury impacted his throwing motion, his play, his ability to produce. The Raiders quarterback dismissed the inquiries each time, proclaiming full health.

That wasn’t the whole truth. Three transverse process fractures in his back did affect him. Carr didn’t admit that. He didn’t want to use injury as an excuse. His play, Carr figured, should stand on its own.

Now, with the 2017 season in the rearview, Carr was a bit more candid about his physical state.

“When you break three bones in your back, it doesn’t feel good,” Carr said in this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast (Subscribe right here). “I’m thankful God healed me to the point I could walk around and be able to practice. Injuries will never be something I talk about, especially during the season, but since it’s after the season, the (back issue) was one of those things that was there.”

Denver’s Adam Gotsis kneed Carr in the back during a third-quarter sack. The fractures occurred there, and removed Carr from that 16-10 loss. The original prognosis had Carr out 2-4 weeks. He missed but one game and never stopped to rest. He missed a Wedneday practice, was limited the rest of the week and was questionable for a game backup EJ Manuel ultimately played.

Carr pushed to get back in the lineup. He didn’t miss another game, but that doesn’t mean the back injury was behind him.

“I had to deal with it,” Carr said. “I had to do certain things to manage it, but I just didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want it to be an excuse. It was a want more than anything else. I didn’t want it to be a reason. I couldn’t let that be a reason why I couldn’t do A, B or C.”

Carr’s back wasn’t the sole reason for lackluster offensive output, but it played a part. The Raiders dealt with flux in play calling and scheme preference, especially in the run game. On-field struggles splintered the locker room some, and an ironclad confidence began to soften.

Carr stands three-plus weeks from last season’s end. Distance provides perspective, and Carr wishes he could’ve done something to pull his Raiders out of a tailspin.

“I’ve looked back at the season over the past couple weeks and wondered if I could have done something or said something or acted upon something at a certain time,” Carr said. “You’re always looking to get better. …

“I’ve looked back (at) the way things were handled, things that went down and said, ‘Man. I wish I could’ve had the knowledge I have now. I would go back and fix that.’ That’s how things work. You gain experience from every situation you go through and try to be better the next time.”

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'


Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”