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2014 Regular Season
Preview: Cards @ Raiders

Setting the Stage:
Carson Palmer returned to action as the Cardinals took advantage of 4 turnovers to defeat Washington 30 - 20. Oakland lost a 31 - 28 squeaker to the Chargers when Branden Oliver ran it in from the one to spoil Tony Sparano's debut as interim HC of the Raidiz. The Cards come off their win at 4 & 1. The Raiders are now 0 & 5, having suffered their 11th straight loss.

Opponents' Last Game:
The clock turned out to be 1:56 too long for the Raiders, who played the Chargers dead-even for three quarters before surrendering their 28 - 21 lead late in the 4Q. Rookie Derek Carr threw four TD passes to give the Raiders a 28 - 21 lead with 10:01 left on the clock, but Phillip Rivers responded with two scoring drives, and Jason Verett sealed the deal with an interception with 1:13 left on the clock. The Raiders allowed rookie Branden Oliver to rack up 101 yards as Rivers wound up with a 120 QB Rating for the 5th straight game. Carr was no slouch either, throwing for 283 yards despite being undermined by receiver "dropsies."

First Quarter

  • Raiders received. TB on the KO. On the third play from scrimmage, Carr hit Holmes for a 77 yard TD. (That was fast!). Raiders 7 -Chargers 0.

  • Touchback on the KO. Rivers responded with a 7-play drive capped by a 29-yard Rivers-to-Roayl TD pass. Other key plays: 27-yard completion to L Green. Three penalties (on on offense/2 on defense). Raiders 7 - Chargers 7.

    TB on the KO. Oakland drive stalled attheir own 39. King's punt was fair caught at the SD 17.The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. Chargers fiar caught a King punt at their 15, and Rivers engineered a 13 play TD drive that carried over into the next quarter. Key plays: Completions of +19 and + 20 to M Floyd.

First Quarter Score: Raiders 7 - Chargers 7.

Second Quarter

  • Rivers pecked away to the Raider 5, where he hit M Floyd over the middle for a Charger TD. There were two penalties on Oakland during the drive. Chargers 14 - Raiders 7.

  • Carrie returned the KO to the Oakland 24. Carr presided over an 11 play TD drive capped by a 6-yard completion to J JOnes over the middle. Other key plays: McFadden run up the middle for +12 yards; Completions to J Jones (+17 yards) and Holmes (+30 Yards). Chargers 14 - Raiders 14.

  • TB on the KO. Rivers went into a "no huddle., but the Chargers could get no farther than their own 37. Scifre's punt was muffed by Carrie but recovered at the Raider 17-yard line. 4:53 till halftime. Carr moved the Raiders to the Charger 35 before Janikowski - with 0:04 on the clock - was wide-left from 53-yards out. Longest play of the drive was an 18-yard completion to J Jones.

First Half Score: Raiders 14 - Chargers 14.

Third Quarter

  • Chargers received. TB on the KO.Rivers took SD down to the Oakland 21 on completions to R Brown (for +24 and L Green for +15). But two consecutive penalties on San Diego pushed them back to the Oakland 41 and a third penalty nullified a 54-yard Novak field goal. On a 4th & 35 at the Raider 36, the Chargers attempted a pass out of a punt formation, but Weddle's pass for Ajirotutu was incomplete. Oakland took over on their own 46. Three plays later, Carr hit B. Butler short left and it was run in for a 47-yard score. Raiders 21 - Chargers 14.

    TB on the KO. Rivers responded with an 8-play drive featuring a 44-yard completion to M Floyd and topped off with a one-yard strike to Gates to tie up the score. Raiders 21 - Chargers 21.

    Carrie returned the KO to the Oakland 36. On the first play of the series, McFadden circled left end for 17-yards. But the drive stalled at the Charger 46 and King's punt was downed at the Charger 10. They ran off two plays to end the quarter.

Third Quarter Score: Raiders 21 - Chargers 21.

Fourth Quarter

  • Chargers completed a 3 & out. Scifre's punt was returned by Carrie to midfield. Seven plays later, Carr hit Holmes for 6-yards and a TD to regain the lead. Other key plays: A completion to Reece (for +11), a 12-yard run up the middle by McFadden and a 10-yard run off left guard by Jones-Drew. Raiders 28 - Chargers 21.

    TB on the KO. 10:01 left. No huddle. Rivers started off on fire - he hit Gates for +16. Then he hit K. Allen for +19. Then he hit Floyd for +15 and, two plays later, he hit Oliver for another 20. SD got as far as the Raider 9-yard line, but the Chargers had to settle for a 30-yard Novak field goal to tighten up the score. Raiders 28 - Chargers 24.

  • 5:52 left. Carrie returned the KO to his own 25. Raiders were held to 3 & out. King's punt - from jhis own 14 - was returned 29 yards to the Raider 39. Play sequence" A completion over the middle to K Allen (+3); Scramble for +7; Oliver up the middle for +12; Oliver up the middle again for +10; Oliver up the middle a third time for +6; and, finally, Oliver up the middle still again for a one-yard score. Chargers 31 - Oakland 28.

  • 1:56 still left. On the first play from scrimmage, Carr was sacked by Attaochu, but Attaochu was flagged for a face-mask penalty. Three plays later, Carr tried to hit Butler deep left but his throw was intercepted by rookie, Jason Verrett and downed at the Charger 5. Three knees. Game over.

Final Score: Chargers 31 - Raiders 28

What the Game Stats Tell (or Don't Tell) Us
The punt return late in the 4Q by Carrie to the Oakland 39 late in the game, and four straight runs for a total of 35 yards was the game-breaker. The interception by Verrett to end the final Raider possession was simply the cork put back in the champaign bottle. The huge San Diego time of possession edge was a bit strange (given the even-nature of the turnover battle). I think it might be due to a combination of San Diego's "keep the chains moving" dink and dunk approach compared to Oaklands greater emphasis on executing big plays.

  • Carr completed 18 of 34 passes for 282 yards and 4 TD's while throwing that one late interception. He wasn't sacked (though one sack was nullified by a face-mask penalty). .

    Oakland gained 114-yards on the ground (on 20 carries - including 1 carries by Carr). McFadden gained 80-yards on 14 carries. Jones-Drew gained 20-yards on 4 carries.

  • Holmes nabbed 4 passes for 121-yardsand 2 TD's. Jones led the team in receptions with 5 catches for 56 yards and one TD. B. Butler was next with 3 catches for 64 yards and a TD.

  • Neither team lost a fumble. Carr was intercepted once..

  • Moore led Oakland with 10 tackles followed by Burris (7), Woodson (7) and Young (6)

  • Wilson was credited with Oaklands only sack. Carr wasn't officially sacked (though one sack was nullfied by a face-maske flag).

  • Oakland picked up 17 first downs (11 thru the air/5 on the ground). Their 3rd down efficiency was 61%

  • Raider offense netted 396 net yards. Net yards passing: 282. Net yards rushing: 114 (5.7 ypc)
  • Raiders were flagged 11 times for 79 yards. (SD was penalized 7 times for 60 yards).

  • Chargers had a +1 turnover edge (the final Carr interception)..

  • Oakland Rushing Plays: 20/Passing Plays: 34.

    Carrie returned three KO's for an averageof 28 yards per return.

  • Time of Possession: Oakland 22:58/San Diego 37:02

Rosters/Match-ups
Statistically - compared to their opponents - the Oakland offense hasn't fared well: 81 first downs (vs. 109). 17 rushing first downs (vs. 39). 1476 offensive yards (vs. 1884). 360 rushing yards (vs. 749). 92 rushing plays (vs. 180). 3 of 4 FG attempts converted (vs. 10 of 11). Scored 10 TD's (vs. 15). One rushing TD (vs. 5). 25:25 time of possession (vs. 34:35). Turnover ratio: minus-5.

Carr completed 102 of 167 for 1016 yards (61.1%) with 8 TD and 5 picks. Stats to date say he was sacked 3 times for a 81.8 rating. J Jones leads Raider receivers with 26. Holmes next with 15 and is more of the home run guy (averaging 17.8 ypr with Jones next with 12.6 ypc). McFadden third with 13. McFadden is the leading Raider rusher with 59 for 231 (3.9 ypc). Jones-Drew is next with 15 carries for 42 yards (and 2.8 ypc). Carr has run 8 times, averaging about 8 ypc.. Janikowski's 10 of 11in FG attempts (0 for 1 outside the 50).

Oakland Offense

WR1   89 Jones............17 Moore........ 19 V Brown               
LT       72 Penn.............73 McCants                      
LG      66 G Jackson      
C        61 Wisniewski...67 Boothe              
RG     77 Howard.........70 Bergstrom       
RT     69 Barnes...........71 Watson                  
TE     86 Ausberry........81 Rivera..........87 Leonhardt                                    
WR2 18 Holmes...........12 Butler..........85 Thompkins
QB    04 Carr................08 Schaub.......14 McGloin                     
FB     45 Reece............49 Olawale
RB    21 Jones-Drew....20 McFadden..28 Murra
y    

Cardinal Defense

DE        95 Kelly...........96 K,Martin      
NT        92 D. Williams 66 Ta'amu                     
DT        98 Rucker       72 Stinson                    
SLB      57 Okafor........53 Keiser        
ILB       50 Foote..........54 Demens              
ILB       51 Minter..........97 Alexander 56 Carson                     
WLB     94 Acho...........59 Benard    
LCB      21 Peterson.....28 Bethel                      
RCB     31 Cromartie....25 Powers                     
SS        22 Jefferson.....36 Bucannon                 
FS        32 Mathieu.......26 R. Johnso
n   

Matchup: Oakland Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Oakland has decided to roll the dice on their rookie, Carr with the veteran, Schaub available to back him up. Although Carr isn't posting Hall of Fame figures just yet, he did throw for 4 touchdowns and 282 yards last week. His main targets are receivers, Holmes and J Jones, with Holmes the home-run threat. Holmes has had good games back-to-back. Coaches love Jones' strong hands (which enable him to win most jump ball battles as a possession receiver. He's got Jones-Drew to come out of the backfield but the deceptive speedster hasn't put up the numbers you'd expect. There doesn't seem to be very much going on at TE or FB in the passing game (which figures to cut a break for the Cardinals who have their challenges covering TE's). Raider pass blockers seem to do a pretty good job protecting Carr. Carr says that - although he has to be aware at presnap of where Peterson and Cromartie are on the field - he can't allow defensive matchups to dictate where he's going to go with the ball ("It's important I thru my progressions").

The Cardinals continue to deal with "life without Campbell, Shaughnessy and Abraham." The return of Alex Okafor (who immediately netted 2 sacks vs. Washington last week) and the rounding into shape of Tyrann Mathieu present cause for mild optimism concerning the Card pass rush. Card pass rushers got their hands up better vs. Washington (although Cousins was good enough to loft the ball over and around those obstacles).

What did concern us last week were a falling-off of tackling fundamentals one-on-one and too many break-downs in gap-protection and coverage on short crossing patterns and in the flat (i.e. too many times, you'd see a Cardinal defender trying to run after a Washington pass-catcher left wide-open by a breech in coverage). Hopefully, the defense will clean this up as the new guys get acclimated.

So far this season, the Cardinal pass-defense has had to deal with opponents who'd have one or two dominant players with freakish talents - a fleet QB or one of those big, fast guys. This Sunday's game figuress to be more traditional - with Carr operating behind a more balanced cast of characters - more of an accurate drop-back QB throwing to a solid but unspectacular group of receivers. Wild cards in all this are: (1) the potential explosiveness of Jones-Drew coming out of the backfield, (2) the little-known fact that Carr has carried 8 times for an average of roughly 8 yards per carry and (3) changes in offensive phiiosphy that Sparano may bring with him. My impression of Sparano is that he's "old school" and more likely to emphasize solid fundamental football over "go for broke" tactics or trickery, but that's more speculation than fact on my part.=.

Key Matchups: Peterson and Cromartie usually play on the left and right sides respectively (rather than flip from right to left to allow Peterson to cover their #1 receiver), which allows opposing OC's to determine who they want their top receivers to go up against. Nevertheless, a key matchup figures to be Holmes vs. Peterson. Despite the stats to date, I still see a second key matchup being Jones-Drew vs. Mathieu.

Matchup: Oakland Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
McFadden was drafted to be Oakland's bell cow several years ago, but never has lived up to expectations. But that doesn't mean he can't be a thumper or occasionally gash a defense for big yardage. Jones-Drew (listed #1 on the depth chart) looks to be a passing down specialist but is deceptively strong running between the tackles. Oakland has only run the ball half as often as its opponents, but I suspect that could all change under Sparano.

Cards lost their best run-stopper in Shaughnessy who was placed on Retrievable IR a week ago, but still seem to have the necessary horses to keep most running attacks in check. Chief concerns figure to be (1) possible wearing down of the Front Seven late in games and (2) our backups needing to play "catch-up" when it comes to diagnosing running plays. The hope remains that guys like Stinson, K-Mart, Gaston and a healthier Ta'amu) will step in and pick up the slack.

Key Matchup: McFadden vs. Cardinal Front Seven. Bucannon and Mathieu vs. Jones-Drew.

Cardinal Offense

WR1     11 Fitzgerald....19 Ginn...............13 John Brown   
LT         68 Veldheer......79 Sowell                      
LG        62 Larsen..., ....61 Cooper                     
C          63 Sendlein......62 Larsen                     
RG       74 Fanaika.......78 Watford                   
RT        70 Massie........79 Sowell                      
TE        87 Niklas..........85 Fells            
WR2     15 M. Floyd.....13 Jaron Brown              
QB        03 Palmer........05 Stanton.........06 Thomas        
RB        38 Ellington.....30 Taylor.............39 Hughes....34 Parmele
TE        89 Carlson.......84 Housle
r

Oakland Defense

LDE.....58 Woodley...95 Mayowa.       
DT.......94 A Smith.... 92 McGee          
NT.......90 Sims.........78 Ellis              
RDE.....91 Tuck.........98 CJ Wilson       
WLB....55 Moore.......56 Burris..........54 Fillmoeatu               
MLB....51 Chaney.....57 Armstrong              
SLB ....52 Mack     
RCB    23 Brown......xx Hayden........35 Chekwa.......31 Thorpe
LCB....27 C Rogers..38 Carrie..........39 McGill          
SS      24 Woodson..41 Dowling                    
FS      26 U Young....29 Ros
s

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Oakland Pass Defense
Wilson has 2 of Oakland's 5 sacks. Woodson and Carrie credited with the two Oakland picks. Palmer is said to have survived his first game back last week and is expected to have more zip on his throws with each successive week. Stanton will have left his concussion symptoms one more week behind him so that our depth at QB should be closer to normal.

Although the Oakland front four looks pretty formidable with Woodley, A Smith, Sims and Tuck (and CJ Wilson the leading sacker with 2), our OL should be able to do a good job of protecting Palmer. On paper, Oakland's coverage strength appears to be at safety (with Rogers a wiley old veteran at LCB and young Carrie leading the team with 2 interceptions). DJ Hayden is coming off the PUP list, but. Sparano is playing it coy (i.e "We don't want to rush him back into the lineup before he's ready"...yada; yada). Should he return to the lineup Sunday, it could prove to be a major shot in the arm for the Raider defense. Oakland's linebacking crew looks kind of thin and inexperienced, so we might go to screens and other short passing plays designed to disrupt Raider linebackers in coverage.

Key Matchup (Depends on who's QB): Veldheer vs. Wilson &/or Moore. Carlson vs. Woodson. C. Rogers vs. Fitz.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Oakland Run Defense
Burris was leading Raider tackler (34) followed by Woodson (32) with a bunch of guys with tackles in the 20's.
Oakland has been hit hard at LB with Chaney and Armstrong added to their roster to replace Roach and his backup at MLB. They might be vulnerable to cross-blocks and misdirection running plays up the gut. Ellington has suddenly discovered starting his runs inside (to suck in the backers) and then bouncing or bellying outside for big yardage. Expect him to continue doing this to confuse Oakland backers.

Fanaica was called out for lack of pop blocking for the run. Will this be the week when Cooper is given the chance to show the coaches what he's got? This may be the week when Ellington explodes for big time yardage (but don't forget that Sparano will probably make "run the ball/stop the run" a key priority).

Key Matchup: Ellington vs. Chaney.

Special Teams

Oakland

P          07 King                      
K          11 Janikowski                            
H          07 King      
LS        59 Condo                               
KR      38Carrie..... 28 Murray                         
PR      38 Carri
e

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                             
H          02 Butler                               
LS        82 Leach                                  
KR        19 Ginn             12 John Brown               
PR        19 Ginn             21 Peterson        12 John Brow
n

Matchup: Washington Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Janikowski has been a fixture for many years and still has a heavy leg to prove it. King gets good yardage on his punts. Carrie in the return game is one of Oakland's few bright spots.

Catanzaro is still perfecto in FG attempts-made. He's consistently kicked off deep into the end zone (which hopefully will neutralize Carrie). Butler lacks Zastudil's directional punting skills but gets pretty good yardage and hang time. Ginn has his (good) moments; we just wish there would be more of them.

Key matchups: Cardinal coverage teams vs. Carrie.

Coaching
Tony Sparano took over as interim head coach of the Raiders before last Sunday's game. When a coach is replaced early in a season, it generally means that things are going pretty poorly and Management wants changes made. We're not sure what that means regarding Sparano. I've always thought of him as "old school" and he is still considered "interim" so I wouldn't expect there to be any major innovations (other than, maybe, sticking with the rookie at QB). But you never know. One thing's for certain: 0 & 5 isn't fun. Sparano can't be having fun. The Oakland locker room can't be fun. Reading between the lines of Sparano's pressers, it sounds as if he considers boosting the confidence of his 0 & 5 club a major challenge (something along the lines of: "First, we need to give our young players opportunities to win small battles..."). On the opposite side of the field, Coach Arians' team sits atop the much-hyped NFC West, and their press clippings seem to be quite favorable, but BA doesn't seem to be having any of this - he called out his team for 40 mental errors (20 on offense/20 on defense) committed last week vs. Washington. It is unlikely he will take his foot off the pedal anytime soon.

Last Word
On paper, this game looks like a gimme (as in T-R-A-P). Major question-marks figure to be (1) the intensity and focus of Cardinal players as they go up against a 0 and 5 opponent in "The Land of Halloween Costumes" and (2) Whether a 0 and 5 team (who's actually lost 11 straight) will come out like rabid, cornered dogs in an effort to get the monkey off their back. Cards should expect a dog-fight, and play with a combination of fire and poise to win a game we're supposed to win.


 
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