In what was the Raiders’ final full dress rehearsal _ the starters won’t play very long in the preseason finale _ Oakland went out and laid an egg in front of their hometown fans in a game that started on the NFL Network before it was pulled due to the lopsided score.
“Everything that could have possibly went wrong went wrong today,” said Russell, who completed 12 of 18 for 153 yards. “When things like that happen you have to go back to your fundamentals, and as a team, you have to buckle down and become one. It was very embarrassing today. It was disrespectful to our fans, ourselves and our family to go out and perform that way.”
The biggest problems came on the defensive side of the ball but the offense wasn’t without blame.
Rookie wide receiver Louis Murphy dropped two passes and fumbled away a key possession. Johnnie Lee Higgins also had a drop. And the vaunted running game, expected to be one of Oakland’s strengths, managed all of 52 yards on 11 carries.
Running back Michael Bush, who started the game, carried the ball just once for one yard while Darren McFadden had three carries for zero yards. The only back to do anything of note was Gary Russell, who had 42 yards on three carries but 26 of them came on one run.
The Raiders also fumbled three times, once by Russell after a sack, and committed 10 penalties for 94 yards.
“Obviously I’m embarrassed by that effort,” head coach Tom Cable said. “It was not very good in terms of the third preseason game. It just seemed like early in the game we could not make a play on either side of the ball. The biggest issue I see is really … we looked like a team that didn’t have a lot of zip in us. We were not able to make any plays early in the game.”
Russell felt a lot of the heat from the frustrated crowd at the Oakland Coliseum. Boos rained down around the team after the Saints scored their second consecutive touchdown, and the third-year quarterback took his share of criticism from the fans.
But save for his tendency to hold onto the ball too long _ a mistake that was costly on his fumble _ Russell actually played fairly well and garnered a QB rating of 93.1.
“I thought he was pretty much right on,” Cable said. “He has progressed the way you hope he would. That one (fumble) he probably could have put it in the back’s hands a little sooner. He held it, trying to find Zach (Miller) I believe.”
It was one of the few mistakes Russell has made this preseason. In the three preseason games he has completed 65.8 percent of his throws (25 of 38) for 279 yards and one touchdown. He’s been sacked five times but hasn’t thrown an interception while putting together a 96.3 rating.
He did have some down moments against New Orleans. He missed Higgins on a third-down throw that would have given the Raiders a first down early in the second quarter. He also failed to feel the pressure and coughed up the ball after being sacked by safety Roman Harper on Oakland’s first possession of the game.
At one point, when the teams came out from halftime, a frustrated Russell stood on the sidelines when he was approached by defensive end Greg Ellis who tried to console the quarterback.
“As a teammate that’s what you do, you try to fill a need when a need is there,” Ellis said. “You’ve got to keep in mind (that) JaMarcus is still a young football player playing a very important role on this football team. I was just encouraging, letting him know ‘You’re one of the leaders of this football tea so go out there and lead.” Just to keep it in perspective with him.
“He’s a good football player _ he’s a huge talent obviously _ and he just needs to keep his spirit up because this football team’s definitely going to need him for this season.”
Jeff Garcia replaced Russell late in the third quarter and went 9 of 15 for 111 yards and a touchdown to wide receiver Jonathan Holland. Neither Bruce Gradkowski or Charlie Frye played.
Other news and notes from the game:
-- Defensive tackle Terdell Sands did not play against New Orleans after playing sparingly against San Francisco a week earlier. That’s led to speculation the 6-foot-7, 335-pounder is on his way out while William Joseph and Desmond Bryant _ who had the Raiders’ only sack _ have assumed more of a prominent role in the defense.
“It was just the rotation and those young guys are coming on, particularly Joseph and Bryant,” Cable said. “They’re getting it down right now.”
-- Wide receiver Jonathan Holland scored the Raiders only touchdown on a 43-yard pass from Garcia in the fourth quarter and is pushing Nick Miller for the sixth receiving spot. Holland had a solid but unspectacular training camp, making numerous catches in tough spots.
-- Safety Hiram Eugene intercepted a Mark Brunell pass in the end zone and returned it 31 yards but that’s not the play he’ll be remembered for. Eugene blew the coverage Brees connected with Devery Henderson for a 40-yard TD in the first quarter which put Oakland in a 14-0 hole.
“When (the receiver) runs right across your face and you’re the center field player, you pick him up,” Cable said in explaining the breakdown.
-- For some reason the Raiders played pass-rush ends Greg Ellis and Trevor Scott the majority of time despite New Orleans’ success on the ground. Jay Richardson, who is a better run defender than Scott, played only a handful of snaps.
-- Wide receiver Javon Walker played sparingly in his first preseason game and did not catch a pass.
“I thought I might play more, but you never know,” Walker said. “A lot of young guys, it’s good for them to get some reps and get the feeling for playing a whole game. But I was expecting to play a little bit more, but we just wait to see what happens and go from there.”
-- Give rookie wide receiver Louis Murphy credit for being a stand-up player. After his terrible afternoon, Murphy noticed a crowd of reporters surrounding his locker and politely told them he’d be back to answer their questions. A lot of times players will say that just as a ploy but the fourth-round draft pick returned and owned up to his mistakes.
“Aw man it was my worst game ever,” said Murphy, who finished with three catches for 84 yards. “Two drops, a big time fumble, costly when we tried to come back and at least give a spark to the offense. So I take that responsibility on my own. The NFL is faster and the DBs are right on you so you just have to work on tucking the ball away right away.”
-- Kick returner Justin Miller had a turf toe injury that prevented him from finishing the game. Safeties Michael Huff (quad) and Rashard Baker (stinger) were also unable to finish.