NFL Preseason: Raiders begin what could be another long season
LOS ANGELES, August 9, 2014 — The Silver and Black have now kicked off their NFL 2014 preseason. The Oakland Raiders traveled to Minnesota to play the Vikings in their preseason opener.
Most preseason games lose their luster when the starters come out, but this was a rare game where the backups would matter more. The Raiders just drafted quarterback David Carr, while the Vikings picked up Teddy Bridgewater. They both could be starting by the beginning of the regular season.
The preseason announcing crew of J.T. the Brick and Greg Papa was joined by Super Bowl champions Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett. That is the past. The 2014 Raiders are now.
The Raiders took the opening kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and got back to the 20 yardline. Matt Schaub took his first snap as a Raider after a miserable season in Houston last year. It began with a false start. Really? Yes, really. The Raiders last had a winning season in 2002.
Schaub then went for the deep ball and was nearly intercepted. A pass on 3rd and 9 was widely off the mark although it seemed like the receiver had no idea to turn and look for the ball. The Raiders have a good punter, which is not much solace since that has been their high point since 2002.
The Vikings took over at their own 30 and Matt Cassel immediately hit Cordarelle Patterson over the middle for a 17-yard gain. Adrian Peterson had the night off, but the Vikings moved the ball without him. Cassel would throw a 22-yard strike to Kevin Rudolph to set up a one-yard touchdown run. New Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner saw Minnesota clicking on all cylinders with a 7-0 lead.
As for Raiders coach Dennis Allen, the initial ineptitude on both sides of the football spoke for itself. Allen inherited an 8-8 team and put together consecutive 4-12 seasons. The announcers began reminiscing about the 1976 Raiders and their 32-14 Super Bowl victory over the Vikings. These announcers are forced to relive the glory days because new highlights have been minimal in recent years.
The Raiders got the ball back on their own 20. The first play was a simple run up the middle, which resulted in a 15-yard offensive face mask penalty. On 3rd and 6, a well thrown pass by Schaub was dropped. A solid punt return allowed the Raiders to look bad early on in all three phases of the game. If one does not count the offense, defense, special teams and coaching, the Raiders looked good.
Cassel was done for the night and Bridgewater came in. His first play saw him roll out and fire a strike to the sideline. He even escaped from an onrushing Justin Tuck. Bridgewater threw incomplete on 3rd and 3 but defensive holding had Raider fans wondering if the players even went to training camp. Blair Walsh hit the 30-yard field goal to make it 10-0 Raiders.
Schaub stayed in the game and Darren McFadden finally entered the game. His first carry was a 23-yard run as the first quarter ended. He is the team’s best player when healthy, but gets injured so frequently. As for Schaub, he threw decent enough passes that were dropped, allowing the Raiders to punt again and give up a long punt return.
With 12:12 left in the half, Carr entered the game for the Raiders at the Oakland 10 yard line . After a pair of handoffs set up 3rd and 1, Carr threw a swing pass that gained 12 yards. Dennis Allen loves the “Dink and Dunk with Dennis” West Coast Offense, and Carr dinked and dunked for another first down. On 3rd and 7 Carr fired to the sideline to set up 4th and inches from the Minnesota 48. Allen went for it and a run up the middle got the job done. From the Minnesota 40, Carr threw a pass that was slightly high. It bounced off the receiver’s hands and was intercepted.
A sack of Bridgewater would have meant 4th and 13 for the Vikings, but defensive holding on the Raiders kept the drive alive.
While less than one half of one game of preseason football may be too soon to demand that Dennis Allen be fired, the demand looks less crazy when his first two years are thrown in. The Raiders brought in some talent, but they just looked like the same old undisciplined Raiders. This is a coaching issue.
The overwhelmingly pro-Raider announcers described the first half performance of the Raiders as “nothing to write home about.” Coach Allen noted the number of penalties. It is his job to reduce them, and the job is not getting done.
Another person who is not getting the job done is Christian Ponder, the Vikings third string quarterback. Midway through the third quarter he replaced Bridgewater with the Vikings trapped at their own five yard line. He quickly threw a 23-yard strike, but followed that up with a near-interception that the defender dropped.
With one minute left in the third quarter, Matt McGloin replaced Carr at quarterback. McGloin was given gift field position at the Minnesota 43. After a pair of completions, McGloin threw a perfect pass that was dropped inside the five yard line. After yet another false start, a field goal attempt with a backup kicker was blocked with 12 minutes left in regulation.
An ugly game got even uglier. Ponder threw a pass in the flat that was begging to be intercepted and returned for a touchdown the other way. The defender dropped it. In addition, the Raiders were called for a penalty on the play. After a sack of Ponder, the crowd kept chanting “Teddy” for Bridgewater.
With 6 1/2 minutes to play and the Raiders facing 3rd and 10 from midfield, a strike from McGloin for a 20-yard gain was nullified by offensive pass interference. The tenth Raider penalty killed another drive. The Raiders got it back with four minutes left with another short field until a penalty on the punt return pushed them back to their own 44. Despite more offensive penalties, McGloin is one of the best third string quarterbacks in the league. At the two-minute warning, McGloin had moved the Raiders to the Minnesota 15. McGloin scrambled and ran for a ten-yard touchdown with 1:25 to play to avoid the shutout.
In the regular season, the Raiders would kick the extra point in this situation. In preseason, teams try to avoid overtime. The two-point conversion failed. With a backup kicker, Dennis Allen inexplicably kicked it deep rather than try the onside kick. By the time the Raiders got it back at their own 34, only 19 seconds remained. With two seconds left from midfield, McGloin unleashed the Hail Mary. It was knocked down and the Vikings had the hideous win over the even more hideous Raiders.
Although the Raiders only lost 10-6, but that score is misleading. With the starters playing, the Raiders looked like a team that has had eleven straight non-winning seasons and only eight combined wins in the last two years. Another 100 penalty yards showed the Raiders to be deficient in virtually every aspect of fundamentals. The Raider Nation has every right to be disgusted with this effort.