A short review of how each AFC West team performed in Week 9. For more on the Raiders, please visit Silver and Black Pride.
It was a painful and regrettable week for all three teams locked in a tie for first place atop the AFC West. Any of the teams could have taken a commanding lead with a victory, but all three teams were defeated. Let's take a look at each individual game.
Dolphins (31) @ Chiefs (3): If you look at the box score, this game looks pretty even. The Chiefs led in rushing yards 116 to 107, and the Dolphins led in passing yardage 244 to 227. Both teams punted five times, and the Chiefs had eight penalties while the Dolphins had seven. Neither team committed a turnover. The biggest difference in the game is that Miami sacked Matt Cassel five times, and the Chiefs were never able to sack Matt Moore at all. Moore completed 73.9% of his passes for three touchdowns, two of those to tight end Anthony Fasano. Reggie Bush also had a big day, gaining 142 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown.
This was a game the Chiefs were supposed to win against one of the worst teams in football, so what happened? The Chiefs had come off two impressive divisional victories, and they completely fell flat on offense and defense. They could not cover Brandon Marshall and they could not get to the quarterback, something that has been a strength for them this year. Jackie Battle only rushed for 2.9 yards per carry, and Cassel only completed 51% of his passes. This looks in hindsight like a classic trap game, and the Chiefs fell right in.
Broncos (38) @ Raiders (24): With the Chiefs having lost and the Chargers facing a tough test vs. Green Bay, the Raiders had a clear opportunity to establish themselves as the leader in the division. For the first half of the game, it appeared they would do just that. The defense was containing Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee, and the offense led by Carson Palmer was getting into gear and stretching out the Bronco defense.
However, in the second half things completely turned around. Tebow began to play like a madman and Willis McGahee would refuse to be tackled. The defense didn't really make any adjustments and were frequently caught out of position and with broken coverages, allowing Tebow to hit wide-open receivers. Perhaps the Raiders were not certain Tebow could hit wide-open receivers when presented with the opportunity, but now they know he can and he will. Tebow also used the success of the running game to use misdirection and rush for 118 yards of his own. This is the Broncos offense we should become accustomed to seeing. If the rushing game works, then Tebow can use his spread-option skills to get yards on his own and that will open up their passing game.
The Raiders, on the other hand, seemed unable to cope with Tebow or McGahee, who broke two long touchdown runs. Denver scored four touchdowns in the second half, and this looked for all the world like the Bills game, wherein the Raiders played lights out in the first half and were totally lost in the second. The Bills and Broncos both run elements of the spread offense, and it gives cause to wonder why the Raiders have no trouble with it in one half and totally fall apart in another.
On the good side for the Raiders, Carson Palmer made some spectacular throws fitting the ball into tight windows and threw for over 330 yards with three touchdown passes. He needs to cut down on his interceptions but the field was very slick due to rainfall the day before the game and his receivers were often falling down during their routes. I believe Palmer will be an excellent quarterback for the Raiders given time to fully mesh with his talented receiving corps.
Packers (45) @ Chargers (38): Philip Rivers giveth, and Philip Rivers taketh away. Rivers threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers did not have any such trouble, throwing an easy 247 yards with an 80% completion percentage and four touchdowns with no interceptions. This game did turn into the shootout we all thought it would be, but Rivers' two first-quarter pick sixes were too much for the Chargers to overcome.
With Malcolm Floyd out due to injury, Rivers keyed in on Vincent Jackson, tossing three touchdown passes his way. Rodgers wes not forced to focus on anyone, and each of his four touchdown passes went to a different receiver. There's not much else to say about this game; Rivers continued his erratic play, and the Packers proved why they are the best team in football.