MINNEAPOLIS, August 16, 2014 — After a listless 10-6 loss at the Minnesota Vikings, the Oakland Raiders played their second preseason game at home against the Detroit Lions. If this were a regular season game, it would go down as an instant classic and one of the great Raider wins of all time.
Unfortunately, it was only the preseason, and the score cannot hide how bad the 2014 Raiders seem to be.
Quarterback Matt McGloin may be the best third string quarterback in the National Football League. This guy can play football. The problem is in the regular season, barring some serious injuries, he will never take the field.
After a fourth quarter injury to second string quarterback and first round draft pick Derek Carr, all McGloin had to do was produce with the game on the line. From the Oakland 32, McGloin led the Raiders 68 yards in 13 plays, throwing the winning touchdown pass to Brice Butler with six seconds to play. After Sebastian Janikowski kicked the 33-yard extra point, the Raiders had won a 27-26 thriller.
Preseason football is not about the final score. The Lions’ backups blew the game against the Raiders’ backups. When the starters were in, it was all Detroit early on. For the second week in a row, the Raiders got manhandled when it mattered most.
Raiders starting quarterback Matt Schaub was less awful than the week before, but the bar was low. He started out strong, completing a pair of third down conversions to move the Silver and Black from their own 20 to a second down and six at the Detroit 33. In Raiders coach Dennis Allen’s “Dink and Dunk with Dennis” West Coast Offense, one too many dink passes means an increased chance for mistakes. Schaub threw another short pass that bounced straight off of the receiver’s hands for an interception. The Lions began on the Oakland 28.
The Lions are coached by Jim Caldwell. He does not dink and dunk. He goes for the quick strike. Caldwell may have never made a facial expression in his life, but the quality of his coaching says it all. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate to make it 6-0 Lions. The 33-yard extra point was no good, which proved that the experiment of moving the try from the one yard line back to the 15 is working. The least exciting play in all of football now has some intrigue.
The Raiders do not have intrigue. They went three and out, with a terrible punt setting up the Lions at their own 42. Stafford carved up the Oakland defense, with a four-yard touchdown pass capping off an 11 play, seven minute drive. Stafford completed nine of his first ten passes as the Lions led 13-0 after the opening quarter. This was with Lions receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson taking the night off.
Forget McGloin’s heroics. The Lions thrashed the Raiders on both sides of the ball when the starters were in.
In the second quarter, the Raiders again ran three plays and punted after Schaub was nearly intercepted again. This time the defense held and the Raiders began their fourth drive at their own 40. On third and ten from the Detroit 45, Schaub completed a pass for seven yards. This is the Dink and Dunk with Dennis West Coast Offense, where throwing past the first down marker is not permitted. There was no word on whether Allen was going to bring back Captain Checkdown Matt Leinart to throw two yard passes on third and four.
Seabass is already in midseason form. The Polish Cannon drilled a 56-yard field goal to get the Raiders on the board. Oakland received a break when a defensive penalty against the Lions meant an automatic first down. Oakland took the points off the board. On third and eight from the Detroit 30, Schaub threw incomplete, but defensive holding against the Lions again kept the Raiders offense on the field.
The ground game did the rest, as Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew moved the Raiders close enough for McFadden to plunge in from one yard out.
The Raiders only trailed 13-7 at halftime, but the Raider Nation is under no illusions. Had Stafford and the Detroit starters played the entire game, this would have been a Detroit victory by a wide margin.
The Raiders are a mess. Schaub is not back to where he was two years ago, although Carr looked good for a guy who has never started a regular season game. With the Raiders trailing 23-10, Carr threw deep balls for completions of 38 and 30 yards. Carr followed that up with a short touchdown pass, his first of the preseason.
Last year, Matt Flynn was brought in to be the starter. By the end of the season, McGloin had moved from third string to starter and Flynn was gone. The whispers are wondering whether Schaub can hold off Carr. It may seem crazy, but McGloin deserves a serious look. All he does is play well.
The problem is McGloin never would have seen the field in this preseason game had Carr not left injured with only 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation. McGloin promptly threw a deep ball that would have been the winning touchdown if not for terrible officiating. The receiver got blasted on a helmet to helmet hit that should have been a personal foul. The helmet even came off, yet no call was made. Instead the resulting fumble inside the five yard line became a touchback. Luckily for the Raiders, McGloin brought them back again. For a guy not supposed to play, he sure does when given the chance.
The same cannot be said for most of the Oakland starters on offense or defense. When the emergency quarterback is the high point, the low points are many. Saying Carr looked good until getting hurt is what Raider fans have heard about McFadden for five years. Throwing beautiful deep balls when backups are in means nothing when the starting quarterback is told to throw the ball a few inches past the line of scrimmage.
In two preseason games, the Raiders’ starters have been outscored by a combined 23-0 in the first quarter. In the regular season, what matters is how teams finish. This is preseason, and the Raiders are far from where they need to be.