Commentary

Raiders spiraling through pitiful stretch

Struggling Oakland offense amasses only 124 yards in 44-7 loss to Giants

Originally Published: October 11, 2009
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For years, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has used the terms "pride" and "poise" as catchy buzzwords for his once-estimable franchise.

After the Raiders' grotesque 44-7 meltdown against the undefeated New York Giants here Sunday afternoon, however, Davis might choose a different P-word.

Try "pitiful."

"At some point, you've got to draw a line in the sand, put your foot down, and say, 'That's enough,' you know?" said beleaguered coach Tom Cable after his team's shoddy and dispassionate performance, with the loss dropping the seemingly inept Raiders to 1-4.

Uh, Tom, the time has come. In fact, it's way overdue.

Less than two quarters into the rout, Giants coach Tom Coughlin had seen enough of injured quarterback Eli Manning -- who directed touchdown drives on four of the five series he worked -- to pull him from the game and rest his sore heel. If not for Coughlin's moment of mercy, yanking Manning after he had registered a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 (8-of-10,173 yards, two touchdown passes, no interceptions), the final score might have been far worse.

Then again, it's pretty difficult to imagine the Raiders getting much worse than this, really. Particularly on the offensive side, the Raiders are epically bad.

Oakland registered a measly 124 total yards and seven first downs Sunday, and its lone score came after New York's Sinorice Moss fumbled a punt, providing the Raiders with a short field at the Giants' 15-yard line.

The loss marked the fourth game in a row in which the Oakland offense generated fewer than 200 total yards and fewer than 12 first downs. In the franchise's 50-season history, the Raiders had never gone consecutive games with less than 200 yards, before their current streak of offensive futility. In the past four games, including its lone victory of the year, Oakland has averaged just 148.0 yards, 8.75 first downs and 7.25 points, and scored only two offensive touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeJaMarcus Russell
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireThe Giants put heavy pressure on JaMarcus Russell, recording six sacks and three forced fumbles.

The Giants are 5-0 for the first time since 1990, when they started the season 10-0 under Bill Parcells and then defeated Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV.

Since losing to the Tampa Bay Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII to conclude the 2002 season, the Raiders are 25-76. Oakland has not won more than five games in a season since that year. The Raiders entered Sunday's mismatch with what is statistically the worst 100-game stretch in NFL history.

If there was a scintilla of goods news for the Raiders, it was that quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the first player selected overall in the 2007 draft, finally nudged his completion percentage for the season north of 40 percent. Russell completed eight of 13 passes for 100 yards to bump his 2009 completion rate to 42.1 percent. The bad news was that Russell was sacked six times and fumbled on three of them.

The Giants, who got two sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery from defensive end Justin Tuck, recovered all three of Russell's miscues. The recoveries led to one touchdown and two field goals.

"We knew their offense was struggling," Tuck said, "and we wanted to get up on them early, to put some pressure on them and see how they responded."

The Giants certainly achieved the goal of scoring early. With Manning completing 4 of 5 passes, New York drove 77 yards on the game's first possession, finishing off the 14-play drive with a 1-yard scoring run by backup tailback Ahmad Bradshaw. Then, fueled by a pair of three-and-out series by the Raiders and Russell's first fumble, New York scored three times in 5:38 to put the game on ice.

On each of their first four possessions, the Raiders went three-and-out or they lost a fumble. Oakland gained just 18 yards on its first dozen snaps.

Asked if he was concerned about Russell's string of poor performances, Cable didn't exactly offer a strong endorsement of his scattershot quarterback, but conceded: "Well, I'm concerned about this whole football team."

Cable, who is alleged to have punched and choked former Oakland assistant coach Randy Hanson, deflected all questions about the incident. But the Raiders' coach emphasized that he did not meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the incident while in the New York area for the weekend.

"We've got problems beyond [the alleged Cable-Hanson situation]," said Oakland tailback Michael Bush.

The overriding problem for the Raiders is that, having released veteran Jeff Garcia in the final wholesale roster cuts before the season began, there is really no proven quarterback with whom to replace Russell. Both backups, Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski, are journeymen, with a total of nine previous seasons and 32 combined starts. Over the past three seasons, the pair has logged a total of 32 starts.

Raiders quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett, a longtime NFL assistant, was queried about Russell's confidence level, or lack thereof. "Confidence comes from results," Hackett said. "And we're not getting the results right now."

In truth, the Raiders on paper don't appear so bad on defense, especially after the acquisition of lineman Richard Seymour just before the start of the season. The unit, though, is getting little complementary support from the offense. Counting three field goals by Lawrence Tynes, the Giants had eight scoring drives Sunday, and five of them went for 56 yards or less.

In its five games, the Oakland offense has had 56 viable possessions (excluding drives that began with under two minutes left in a half), and the unit has 34 series that lasted three plays or less and 40 that were for five snaps or fewer.

"We've just got to keep fighting," Russell said. "It's got to be a brighter day. At the end of that tunnel, there's got to be a brighter light."

As the old adage suggests, in the case of the woebegone Raiders, it just might be an onrushing locomotive.

Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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