The Oakland Raiders have improved to 6-4 on the season and 4-1 on the road after beating the Minnesota Vikingsover the weekend. This was a should win game for the Raiders as the Vikings are struggling to produce consistently good play. At the same time, this was a game that easily could have been a trap game. The Vikings are better than their 2-8 record suggests, the game was on the road and was easy to overlook considering the Raiders play the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in two of their next three games. Despite all of the potential distractions, the Raiders were able to pull out the win.
Passing Offense: Carson Palmer had a good but not great day. Carson went 17 for 23 and put up 164 yards and one touchdown with no picks. These are by no means great numbers, but they represent a solid performance. Palmer may have been confused with the quarterback from across the bay with how he played. He was asked to be a game manager rather than a game winner and that is exactly what he did. He protected the ball, was efficient with his passing and did enough for the Raiders to get the win. Normally I do not comment on the line play here, but the outstanding performance of left tackle Jared Veldheerdeserves mentioning. The second year player out of Hillsdale College held sack master Jared Allen without a sack all game. That is simply impressive.
Rushing Offense: Darren McFadden who? Never thought I would mutter those words, but lets face it, despite all of the doom and gloom that was predicted when McFadden went down, Michael Bush has made us all but forget about one of the best running backs in the game. Bush had his third straight 100+ yard rushing day and was an absolute work horse for the Raiders as he put up 109 yards on 30 carries and scored one touchdown.
Passing Defense: Christian Pondermay have thrown for more yards and touchdowns than Carson Palmer, but he sure did not have a better day. The much maligned Raiders secondary came up with three interceptions on Sunday (ok, one was by defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, but still). Ponder was forced to throw the ball frequently with the injury to Adrian Peterson, but was unable to do much against the Raiders secondary. In addition, an interception in the fourth quarter by Stanford Routt helped put the game away for the Raiders. If not for the fact that Ponder threw two touchdowns, this would be a grade in the A range.
Rushing Defense: It looked early like the Raiders might have a long day trying to keep Adrian Peterson in check. Peterson did not break any huge runs, but just watching him you could not help but feel that a big run was coming at some point, if not multiple big runs. Then, the Raiders got lucky on a freak ankle roll that occurred while Peterson was being tackled by Michael Huff. Despite his departure, the Vikings still put up over 100 yards on the Raiders, a large part due to the scrambles of Christian Ponder. This was a decent day for the Raiders run defense, but not a great one by any means.
Special Teams: The Raiders special teams had another good day. No big kick returns, which is always a concern for the Raiders. Janikowski went 2 for three on field goals with an injured hamstring (his only miss was a blocked field goal by a 6'8 guy who has blocked a number of field goals this season). Shane Lechlerhelped maintain good field position all game with six booming punts. Finally, the Raiders had two impressive kick returns, a 46 yarder by Denarius Mooreand a 36 yarder by recently signed corner back Bryan McCann.
Coaching: Hue Jackson and the Oakland Raiders coaching staff did another good job of getting their players ready for a potential let down week against the Vikings. However, one of the reasons the game became so close at the end was due to play calling by Hue Jackson. After obtaining a big lead in the first half, Jackson was distinctly conservative in the second half, calling almost 50% more run plays in the second half than he did in the first half (15 runs in the first half, 23 in the second half). In addition, though Jackson was right that the officials made some bad calls, there were still far too many legitimate penalties on the Raiders, something the coaches are responsible for.
Overall: Once again, the Raiders did what they are supposed to in beating an inferior team. However, the Raiders allowed this game to be much closer than it should have been. This was a solid performance, but there is still a lot of room to improve for the Raiders.
Up next, the Raiders return home to play the Jay Cutler-less Chicago Bears.