There's an adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the case of the Oakland Raiders, that means the defense still stinks.
A week after an embarrassing performance against Doug Martin and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Raider 'efense' (no "D" whatsoever) was back in all its generous glory, allowing 419 yards and 55 points to the Ravens.
Without Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, maligned offensive coordinator Greg Knapp didn't even bother trying to run, calling just 14 runs in the first three quarters. That put Carson Palmer in an almost impossible situation.
Having to throw nearly every down, the Baltimore defense got a decent pass rush. But more than that, they began to adjust to the Raiders' quick passing game and batted six passes, including one that led to an interception by Paul Kruger.
The offense put points on the board, but it really didn't matter. Even the 1999 St. Louis Rams or 2007 New England Patriots would have likely lost with the defensive performance the Raiders had today.
The Ravens only had to punt once in the first three quarters. Of course, the Raiders promptly fumbled that opportunity away and Baltimore quickly turned it into another touchdown. As bad as the Raiders defense has been, this is the most disheartening performance I've seen in the last 10 years.
The performance from 2010 and 2011 at least lent credence to the idea that Oakland wasn't a bad team, just one in need of more discipline and direction. The last two weeks could be a symbol of the bottom falling out.
And as it has been in the last decade, the Raiders don't even get much luck with the NFL Draft. Not as strong as it was in 2012, there is no elite quarterback, no 15 year left tackle, or dominant franchise altering middle linebacker projected in the 2013 draft.
Heck, the Raiders could lose out and still wind up drafting after Cleveland and Jacksonville. At this point, .500 is not a reality. Forget the playoffs or anything resembling them. Facts need to be faced. This is a poorly-built roster in transition and the lumps are just starting to be taken.
Back to the game in hand, here's a recap of the game I thought would be one of the most important of the 2012 season.
Bend, Bend, Bend but Don't Break. Well, the Raiders defense bent, broke, re-healed, bent and was broken all game long. No first half punts. The Ravens actually scored 34 points before Oakland forced them to punt. When all was said and done, the Raiders had arguably the worst performance since Al Davis took over in 1963. It was really that bad. You can't say the offense handicapped them because 17 points in three quarters shouldn't have any team blown off the field. It is just a pathetic defense.
Reece Lightning! Ironically, Reece had his most productive game of the year. He had 48 yards on the ground and 56 yards in the air. Even more ironic was the fact that he looked better in the zone blocking scheme than Darren McFadden has all of 2012. Reece looked like a more natural fit in the system than the Raiders' best offensive player. That's telling.
Seymour, Do More. As it turned out, Richard Seymour didn't play. I can't honestly say that it would have made a difference since the Raiders weren't exactly gashed on the ground. If anything, his inability to generate much of a pass rush would have likely been completely lost in the shuffle of this nightmare of a game.
Practice Makes Perfect. When you allow points, it's awfully hard to find any positives. But the run defense was better. It didn't mean anything in the final analysis, but Ray Rice was held to 35 yards on 13 carries. Baltimore only gained 78 yards on 28 carries as a team. Seven of those came on a tacky fake field goal call up 41-17 in the third quarter. That's kinda like the '85 Patriots saying they lost 46-10 in the Super Bowl, but they stopped the late Walter Payton. Big deal in the end.
Last Call with Carson Palmer. Well, it's 1997 all over again. Palmer put up great numbers if he's on your fantasy football team (29-45 for 368 yards and two touchdowns). But the reality is, he's a good player putting up good numbers on an awful team. When the Raiders need Palmer to win a game, he is not able to by himself. Fair or not, elite quarterbacks in the NFL are able to do that. This is not Palmer's blame, but there is a consistent pattern of this from his days in Cincinnati. He'll wind up with stellar numbers and not many victories. That said, no quarterback is winning with a team that allows 97 points in two games.
So, the Raiders are done for 2012. Let's not fool ourselves. The question is, how badly does this team bottom out?
With games against New Orleans, Cincinnati, Denver, and San Diego left, the Raiders might wind up 5-11 at best. But really, this is a team that could lose out and wind up 3-13. That's how steep the cliff is.
In the grand scheme of things, that might be the best thing that could happen for this team. No more pretending that they were really close to doing something big.
No, all the past two years proved is that the Raiders were maxed out as an eight win team. To be a team that can eventually compete with the best in the NFL, this requires a full scale makeover and the foundation hasn't even been knocked to the ground yet. The hope is, the losses are not as ugly as they were in Baltimore today.
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