Raiders-Charges Game Grades
Could this be the return of Jason Campbell to the top of the depth chart?
Late in the first quarter, Shaun Phillips delivered a crushing blow to Gradkowski as he was throwing. For now, it's being called a shoulder injury. Gradkowski finished with only 14 yards on one of seven passing.
Campbell came in and played like the quarterback the organization thought they were getting in April. Although he was spotted a 12-point lead, the Chargers offense stormed back to take it back.
At that point, you could almost hear a collective drone from Raider Nation and the only thought was, "here we go again."
But there's something to be said about a quarterback who can lead his team from behind, especially when his team is such a heavy underdog. Campbell led the offense on two masterful touchdown drives in the second half.
Starting at the 7:36 mark in the third, Campbell and the offense moved 97 yards on 12 plays, capping it off with a 1-yard touchdown grab by Zach Miller. On the very next offensive possession, the Raiders used 14 plays to gain 73 yards and ended with a three-yard scoring run courtesy of Michael Bush. Those two drives ate up 6:14 and 8:10, collectively.
Campbell was confident in the pocket and delivered some beautiful passes. When he had time to throw, he took as long as he could to make the right decision. When he was pressured in the pocket, he was able to move around enough to buy himself some extra time. It was the exact opposite of what Campbell showed against the Titans in Week 1.
Campbell finished with 159 yards and a touchdown on 13 of 18 passing.
Running Back: A-
No Darren McFadden? No problem.
With McFadden and Michael Bennett out, the Raiders relied solely on Michael Bush in the running game. He certainly delivered with a 104-yard, one touchdown performance.
When Bush found a hole to run through, he did so with the full force of his 245-lb. body. There were a few plays he could have busted for more yards had he maintained his balance, but Bush's motive as a runner is clear: I'm going to put my head down, hit you hard and see who left standing when the whistle blows.
On top of his physical running, Bush was a factor out of the backfield, catching three passes for 31 yards.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B
Louis Murphy hauled in an important 61 yards on two catches, and that was pretty much of it the Raiders wide receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey was shutout on Sunday, but in truth, he wasn't thrown to that often. There were a few plays where Campbell could have tested the Chargers secondary and thrown a bomb over Heyward-Bey's way, but he elected to stick to the safe stuff. Still, much more is needed out of this group on a consistent basis.
After last week's great performance, Zach Miller follows it up with another one—six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown that brought the Raiders within two points in the third quarter. Not only does Miller have excellent hands, but after the catch, he's shown great balance and an innate ability to seek the extra yards.
Brandon Myers had a great day for the Raiders. His punt block in the first quarter led to a Hiram Eugene touchdown that made it 12-0. In the third quarter, he also made a big time grab for 12 yards on 4th and 1. Two plays later, the Raiders scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Offensive Line: C+
It wasn't a standout performance, but allowing only three sacks and paving the way for a 100-yard rushing performance deserves some credit.
The offensive line opened holes and kept them clear long enough for Michael Bush to find them. Finishing blocks and moving on to the second level is another issue, but at the end of the day, it got the job done.
The line showed glimpses that it can protect the quarterback, but they were all too infrequent to instill any confidence. When Campbell came in for Gradkowski, it might have worried some folks since Campbell has a tendency to hold the ball a bit longer. However, as mentioned above, when Campbell had time, he was very well protected. When he was pressured, the line didn't give up and gave Campbell the second or two he needed to get the ball out of his hands.
Defensive Line: B-
The line held the Chargers to only 91 yards and 3.5 yards per carry. That's 41 yards and one full yard below their season averages, respectively. Quite the task for the Raiders.
Mike Tolbert had a touchdown run, but only gained 11 yards on 12 carries—he's averaging 70.2 yards per game on the season. Ryan Matthews broke away on a few run, especially when he was able to get to the outside and use his combination of power and speed on the sideline.
But still, the defensive line did a pretty good job at initiating contact at the snap, and moving laterally to disrupt the Chargers offensive line. That movement caused enough of a delay for the Raiders linebackers to swoop in and make some plays. It's not perfect, but like the offensive line, it got the job done.
Phillip Rivers was sacked three times and had two costly fumbles, but for a while in the middle part of the game, Rivers was having his way with the Raiders defense. The pressure needs to be more consistent and more violent because Rivers still managed to throw for 431 yards. At the time of this writing, that's the highest total in Week 5.
Perhaps this grade should be a bit higher because the linebackers played a physical brand of football on Sunday. When they hit, they hit hard. Kamerion Wimbley was all around the field, for better and for worse. While the defensive coordinator John Marshall likes bringing Wimbley from multiple positions, he was often exploited in pass coverage. But of course, how many linebackers wouldn't be exploited when going up against Antonio Gates? Wimbley led the linebackers with seven tackles.
Rolando McClain laid some big hits, finishing with six tackles and Trevor Scott had five tackles and two assits.
Had it not been for Michael Huff's forced fumble and Tyvon Branch's touchdown return late in the game, this unit's grade would surely be lower.
Rivers made all the easy throws and the difficult ones as well in working his way to 431 yards through the air. The stat that's really going to hurt this unit is Malcolm Floyd's career-high 213-yards receiving on only eight catches.
Floyd's 41-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter was a complete breakdown of communication in the secondary. Nnamdi Asomugha was playing soft coverage on Floyd, but Branch and Huff both played shallow because of Antonio Gates' presence. Floyd was able to beat them easily down field for an all too easy score.
That play would have normally broken the Raiders backs, but instead, the secondary recovered to make a big play in the games closing seconds to seal the victory. Rivers and the Charger offense threatened late in the game, but John Marshall called an aggressive play to send Huff on the blitz, forcing the fumble that led to Branch's touchdown. A lot of credit should go to Marshall for staying aggressive despite the momentum of the Chargers drive.
Special Teams: A+
Darren Sproles finished with 93 yards off kick returns, but it ultimately did no harm.
At the very least, you want your special teams to do two things: save stalled offensive drives with field goals and provide field position. Sebastian Janikowski certainly did that, going three for three on his field goals, including a 50-yard bomb to put the Raiders up 5-0 in the first quarter. Shane Lechler had four punts that averaged 52.8 yards, and Jacoby Ford had another nice day, returning five kicks for 91 yards. He did have one unfortunate play where he was taken down inside the Raiders 10-yard line, but overall, a nice performance for the rookie.
So at the very least, the Raiders special teams did what they had to do. But of course, the story of the game might be the extra effort they gave to cause some important turnovers. Two blocked punts led to eight points. Rock Cartwright and Brandon Myers had the two blocks, and plays like those mean so much for momentum.
The Raiders did what they had to do to win. They forced the Chargers to make mistakes, and the Raiders capitalized on them—a standout performance for the special teams unit.
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