All’s well that ends well. And this one did, as the Oakland Raiders downed the Detroit Lions 27-26 on the back of quarterback Matt McGloin‘s late-game heroics.
The game did not begin so rosily. Throughout the first quarter, the Raiders looked more like the enervated team that lost to the Vikings last week in a snoozefest than the spirited bunch that showed up to the Dallas Cowboys Oxnard training facilities earlier this week. Fifteen minutes in, the Raiders may have wished they were playing golf; they could have used a mulligan or two.
The first certainly would have come in handy on a Matt Schaub interception that ended a promising opening drive. After marching the team 47 yards to Lions’ 33, a Lions defender in tight coverage tipped Schaub’s pass to James Jones right into the breadbasket of safety James Ihedigbo, who, naturally, this being Schaub, almost returned it the distance.
Two plays later, the Lions went up 6-0 on the strength of a Golden Tate touchdown after Tarell Brown badly whiffed on the coverage. It was the beginning of another rough night for Brown, coming off of a similarly ineffective night against the Vikings’ Cordarelle Patterson. Perhaps Brown left his heart in San Francisco.
Rookie kicker, Nate Freese, flubbed the extra point. Keep that in the back of your mind.
Following a quick three and out on the Raiders’ second possession, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford led an 11-play, 58-yard scoring drive, capped off with a Kris Durham touchdown reception over the outstretched arms of rookie cornerback TJ Carrie on 3rd and goal. The inability of the Raiders defense to get off the field on third downs was a problem throughout the first half.
The Oakland Raiders offense finally got things going in the second quarter. A long drived that consumed almost half of the period ended Darren McFadden touchdown from one yard out. McFadden appeared in his usual springy and sprightly preseason form, rushing eight times for 27 yards, and far more important, avoided injury.
Rookie quarterback Derek Carr was not so lucky. After replacing Schaub midway through the second quarter, Carr turned in a solid performance, demonstrating predominantly accurate throws and good pocket poise, particularly after offensive coordinator Greg Olson seemingly opened up the playbook a bit in the second half. Until that point, the Raiders’ offense appeared reticent to go down the field, relying upon short passes and an overabundance of screens.
Carr’s game was brutally ended when defensive end Larry Webster bounced him off the turf after blowing by tackle Jack Cornell. Carr came up clutching his ribs, noticeably wincing and short of breath. He was escorted to the locker room shortly thereafter, giving a pained wave to the Raider faithful on his way into the tunnel. The Fresno Bee is reporting that Carr suffered a concussion. There is no word yet on the severity of any additional chest injury he may have suffered.
Carr finished the game 9/16 for 109 yards and his first career passing touchdown to fellow newbie, tight end Jake Murphy.
That left McGloin to head the Oakland Raiders comeback effort. McGloin entered the game with the Raiders down three and 335 ticks remaining on the clock.
He worked efficiently to get the Raiders in scoring position, and looked to have the tides turned with a well-thrown pass to tight end Scott Simonson inside the Lions’ five yard-line. Simonson appeared headed for the end zone when Lions corner DeJon Gomes laid a vicious – and blatant – helmet-to-helmet hit on him, jarring the ball loose. The Lions scooped up the fumble from a flag-less field, leaving Simonson dazed as a tidal wave of boos coruscated from the stands and the announcing crew held back disbelief as best they could.
In a preseason thus far marred by ticky-tack penalties, allegedly in service of player safety, it is absolutely mind-boggling that the refs could blow the call on a violent, dangerous hit right in front of them. Worse still, it was just one of many blunders committed by Bill Vinovich’s crew.
The Lions converted the turnover into a field goal, leaving McGloin and company two and half minutes to drive 78 yards.
It was not always pretty – McGloin missed several throws, and Andre Holmes, relegated to second-team duties after starting last week was a one-man Katy Perry music video, Hot N’ Cold – but McGloin came through on a 19-yard strike to Brice Butler to tie the game with six seconds left. Butler found a hole in the Lions zone, capping off an excellent performance in which he led the team in both receptions (4) and yards (74). Fighting for a final roster spot, Butler made a strong case for himself.
Sebastian Janikowski knocked home the extra point, handing the Oakland Raiders a one-point victory. Janikowski was perfect on two field goals and three extra points. He also made a 55-yard field goal early in the game that was negated due to a Lions’ penalty that gave the Raiders a fresh set of downs and eventually resulted in the team’s first touchdown.
On a night of poor officiating, it was sweet irony to see the game decided on a new rule – the extended PAT – that worked exactly the way it was supposed to.
- Maurice Jones-Drew, sharing first-team reps with Run DMC continued to look sharp and rejuvenated from the injuries that plagued his last two seasons in Jacksonville, particular in the screen game. Second-year man Latavius Murray paced the backs with five carries for 28 yards.
- Khalil Mack played well into the second half. It is clear that he is still adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. That goal is the impetus behind the he coaching staffs’ decision to give him extra reps. And it culminated in back-to-back highlight plays from Mack, albeit against back-ups, in which Mack registered his first sack and followed it up with a stuff of running back George Winn for no gain. From all accounts is a dedicated work, and should continue to improve.
- The Raiders struggled mightily at times with missed tackles, particularly in the secondary. On a single play early in the third quarter, Lions running back Theo Riddick broke at least four tackles by my count en route to a 36-yard reception. Rookie safety Jonanthan Dowling was victimized repeatedly, the result of his penchant for attempting the big knock-out blow rather than executing sound tackling technique.
- Punter and fan favorite, Marquette King, rebounded from a poor initial efforts with two good-looking kicks that hung high. It is common knowledge in Raider Nation that King has the ability to become a premier punter with additional mastery of the finesse game. He appears well on his way to doing so.