Oakland Raiders: Notes & Observations From The Week That Was

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Sep 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith (89) is defended by Oakland Raiders linebackers Khalil Mack (52) and Malcolm Smith (53) in the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Ravens 37-33. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Defense Is In Trouble

For the second consecutive week, the Raiders defense surrendered 33 points to an opponent. Needless to say, for the second consecutive week, the Raiders defense looked bad. Really, really bad.

Given the talent the Raiders have on the defensive side of the ball, their struggles are mind boggling. Against a very good Bengals offense, the Oakland defense surrendered a tick under 400 yards for the game. But a Baltimore offense that aside from Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett and Steve Smith, don’t have much in the way of established talent, lit up the Raiders’ defense for 493 total yards.

Lucky for the defense, the Raiders’ offense had a big day, posting 448 yards of their own and pulling the D’s bacon out of the fire.

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Flacco and Smith in particular, carved up the Raiders defense, with the veteran receiver catching 10 of 15 targets for 150 yards. If not for Smith’s late miscue though, the outcome of the game could have been very different. Following Carr’s interception, Flacco found Smith alone in the endzone after Raiders’ corner D.J. Hayden allowed himself to get picked on the play. Smith hauled in the pass but failed to get his second foot down, forcing Baltimore to settle for the field goal and setting up Carr’s game winning drive.

For the second straight week, the run defense was solid. Forsett – just like Jeremy Hill of the Bengals last week – went over a thousand yards for the season last year and was held under 100 yards by the Raiders’ run defense. For the game, Forsett ran 15 times for just 68 yards and was held out of the endzone.

It was Flacco though, who tore up Oakland’s defense. The Ravens’ passer was 32 of 45 for 384 yards and two scores. He and Carr went toe to toe in a wild shootout, matching big play for big play. Fortunately for the Raiders, the defense did just enough to hold on for the win.

But they may not be so fortunate every week.

Oakland’s young corners are getting absolutely torched by opposing receivers. Even Travis Carrie and Neiko Thorpe, who both had very solid games in week one, were getting carved up by Flacco and Smith. Hayden had a better game against Baltimore but he still made his share of mistakes. On that fourth quarter play that Smith very nearly hauled in for a touchdown, Hayden has got to recognize and avoid the pick being thrown at him by Baltimore’s second receiver.

But even more than the players, part of the problem is with DC Ken Norton‘s play calling. While he did mix in a few more blitzes and odd man rushes against the Ravens, he is not utilizing the considerable talent he has on that side of the ball to the fullest extent. The lack of pressure the defense is generating is allowing the opposing quarterbacks – Dalton and now Flacco – to sit back and pick apart the Raiders defense. They simply have too much time.

In the second half of the game, Norton threw more pressure at Flacco and it had good results. Flacco had to get rid of the ball earlier than he wanted on several throws that resulted in incompletions and even a couple of near interceptions. For the most part, when Norton turned the dogs loose, the Raiders had good results. His play calling is still tentative and it’s hurting this defense and this team.

We can only hope that Del Rio lights the same fire under Norton that he did under this Raiders team and that it has the same, effective results against the Browns.

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