For almost three quarters on Sunday, the Raiders dominated the Bills defensively. The Bills first 10 drives yielded just 157 yards and one touchdown, with the Raiders forcing five punts, two fumbles, an interception, and a missed field goal. The touchdown came off a JaMarcus Russell fumble that gave the Bills the ball on the Raiders 23. We were aggressive and never let Trent Edwards get comfortable in the pocket by effectively utilizing different blitz packages. Basically, it seemed like Rob Ryan had finally heeded calls from Raider Nation to ramp up the pressure on opposing QBs.
Then the Raiders backed off.
The result? Three straight Buffalo scoring drives, the first of which started on their own 4 yard line and lasted almost 9 minutes. That was a demoralizing, backbreaking, tiring blow to a defense that had played well the entire game. There were missed tackles and penalties for sure, but the reason that drive was successful was because we backed off. Instead of keeping the pressure on and going for the jugular, we went out and invited them to make plays. This game was gift wrapped and delivered to the Bills, a team that is starting to get recognition as perhaps the class of the AFC this year. They certainly seem to be a balanced, patient group, with good leadership that quickly took advantage of the opening we gave them.
The Raiders had the ball for three minutes and 10 seconds in the fourth quarter. The offense was not able to run off any of the clock - but they only had two chances. At least they scored a touchdown (awesome Russell bomb to Higgins) on one of the possessions. I still can't fathom how we managed to lose this game by one point on a last second field goal. We had this one in the bag and let it get away. The coaching staff let the team and the fans down this time around, but there are still some positives to take away from it and build for next week and beyond.
We dominated what looks to be a very good Bills team in their own house for almost three quarters. I have no doubt we could have shut them out if Russell doesn't fumble and the defensive calls remained aggressive throughout the entire game. Kiffin's excuse (for Ryan, I suppose) that the Bills "went from a normal 50/50 play/pass to more of a hurry-up, spread-out situation" doesn't quite cut it. The worst thing a QB wants in a hurry-up situation is blitzes coming from all over. They drool over defenses that back off and allow plays to develop.
It's just the most confusing thing in the world to me; why can every fan and media pundit see that the prevent defense only prevents winning? I can understand it only in "Hail Mary" situations with seconds left on the clock. Otherwise, play the defense that got you the lead and force their offense to make adjustments. We adjusted first, and it was nothing other than coaching folly.
I still think Lane and Ryan are capable. I know the team is. We may very well end up 1-3, and that may cost Kiffin his job - but if he sticks, look for some good things after the bye week. Our remaining home schedule looks fairly inviting after we get San Diego out of the way... Jets, Falcons, Panthers, Chiefs, Patriots, Texans. I'd personally love some revenge on the Patriots and Texans - I was at the Houston game when we lost a few years back. Turns out it was the Texans' first ever winning streak (2 games in a row!), and you would have thought they won the Super Bowl with it coming against us. What a horrible experience that turned out to be, not a pleasant experience for anyone wearing Silver & Black. I think the Panthers are the toughest home game left after the Chargers.
The road schedule is certainly a lot tougher - Saints (defensive test), Ravens (offense likely to get stifled, defense will have to keep us in it), Dolphins, Broncos (we won't go there), Chargers, and Bucs (hope we have a chance to knock them out of playoff contention). Let me put it this way, even with the tough road schedule I think a monkey could guide us to eight wins. If these coaches have any skill, we'll get 10 and a possible playoff berth. Maybe that's a little too much optimistic homerism, but I think I've been fairly critical of this team - and I'm still very impressed. The coaches have turned this team into a competitor, digging us out of a horrible funk, and now they just need to take us to the next level. Yes it was a heartbreaking loss, and yes we're 1-2. I'm still in.