RAIDERS MELT STEEL

Silver and Black Report

Game Grades: Oakland Raiders 27 – Pittsburgh Steelers 24

December 6th, 2009

QB Gradkowski Looks to Pass in 30-24 Raiders Win Over Steelers

QB Gradkowski Leads Raiders in 30-24 Win Over Steelers

QUARTERBACK: A

Bruce Gradkowski had the best statistical game for any Raider passer in a long time. His poise was stellar along with his ability to extend plays and make clutch throws in key spots. Oakland would have never won this game with JaMarcus Russell at the helm. Early on, Gradkowski missed an open Louis Murphy on a 3 and 3 that would’ve led to a big gain.

But he bounced back from that on the next drive hitting Johnnie Lee Higgins on a 22-yard pass on 3 and 14 – the key play on a possession that ended with a field goal to cut the Pittsburgh lead to 10-6. Gradkowski ended the first half 7-of-9 for 86 yards. He opened the 2nd half with a nice sidearm delivery to Zach Miller for 10-yards on a 3 and 8, and in the 4th quarter, he moved the chains on a 3rd and 3 scrambling for 8-yards.

Oakland’s passer could’ve had at least 30-more yards rushing if not for infractions that negated some nice runs. He made a strong throw to Chaz Schilens for 17-yards with a lineman bearing down on him for a score that made it 13-10 with 8:21 remaining. The 75-yard bomb to Murphy was vital giving the Raiders a 20-17 lead with 5:28 left in the game. Then his passes to Higgins for 17-yards, Todd Watkins for 12-yards on 3rd and 10, and Murphy for 19-yards marched the Silver & Black down the field as time expired.

His final throw, an 11-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Murphy to cap the frantic 4th quarter became the best moment for Oakland in 2009. His final number: 20/33 for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS: C+

Justin Fargas led the team with 15 carries for 63-yards. He kept the Steelers’ defense honest, but was not a major factor in Oakland moving the ball when they needed it most. Darren McFadden had a key run on 3rd and 2 in the final quarter, darting for 6-yards on a pitch near the end of a drive in which the Raiders took the lead. He ended with 9 rushes for 25 yards. Michael Bush was a non-factor with one-carry for one yard and making a cameo as a passer on a toss in which he overthrew a wide-open Schilens. Luke Lawton was flagged for a false start to start a drive deep in their own territory.

WIDE RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS: A

The receivers had their best game of the season, without the presence of rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey – out with a foot injury. Murphy shined when it mattered most with 4-catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns. He had his best game as a pro and could’ve had another big gainer after beating William Gay on a slant and go route on the first play of the 2nd quarter, but Gradkowski overthrew him. He torched Ike Taylor for the 75-yard touchdown and tiptoed his way into the end zone the last 5-yards. Higgins made his first sizeable contribution to this team in 2009. He had 4 receptions for 63-yards. Schilens also keyed the huge 4th quarter with his scoring grab; ending the game with 45-yards on 3 catches. Zach Miller continued his solid play with 43 yards receiving.

OFFENSIVE LINE: B-

Samson Satele was injured, did not return to the line-up and was replaced by Chris Morris. Robert Gallery injured his back and was replaced by Langston Walker. Oakland as a team ran for 109-yards – a win considering that Pittsburgh is the toughest team in the league statistically to run against. They allowed only 2-sacks, keeping Gradkowski’s jersey clean for most of the day, but the passer’s legs were the main reason Oakland was able to extend plays. Mario Henderson was flagged for a hold on a Gradkowski 20-yard scramble.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B-

Yes, they allowed 132-yards on the ground. But the defensive line was stout during some stretches and if you take away Rashard Mendenhall’s 60-yard scamper, the run defense would’ve had one of their best games of the season. They missed Greg Ellis’ pass rushing abilities, but they were able to keep Ben Roethlisberger moving out of the pocket. Pittsburgh’s passer is always dangerous on the run and he showed at times what he could do when improvising. A key play for this unit was a 4th and 1 with their backs to the end zone at the 5-yard line, stuffing Big Ben on a sneak and keeping vital Pittsburgh points off the scoreboard. Richard Seymour was flagged for an illegal hands to the face.

LINEBACKERS: B

Trevor Scott recorded the Raiders only sack of the game. Kirk Morrison finished with 7-tackles. Thomas Howard played decently in his first start as a strong-side linebacker. At times, this unit was late on their assignment on shallower routes when they were in zones, but overall, they played well enough to keep the integrity of the defense on run and pass plays near the line of scrimmage. Scott’s sack was imperative on 3rd and 6 at the end of the 3rd quarter, as it was a 9-yard loss for the Steelers and forced Jeff Reed into a 53-yard field goal attempt  that he missed, keeping another three-points off the board for Pittsburgh.

SECONDARY: C-

Santonio Holmes had a career game (8 rec. 149 yards 1 TD). And far too often, this group either had a blown tackle or a missed assignment. Chris Johnson almost had an interception on a 3rd and 11 early in the contest. On Holmes score, Tyvon Branch and Johnson were beat on the corner route. The previous play, Branch was beaten by Hines Ward for 27-yards on a post pattern. Branch (11 tackles) was taken advantage of in coverage, but was at his best as the last line of defense on run pays and around the line of scrimmage. Johnson had a case for a illegal hands to the face/facemask penalty on Hines Ward during his 11-yard scoring reception that made it 24-20 Pittsburgh with 3:32 remaining. Michael Huff broke up several plays with big hits as the ball approached the intended receiver. Hiram Eugene’s first interception of the season was a stellar grab in the end zone as time expired in the first half. That was the only turnover in the game and it was another play that kept points off the board for the Steelers. Roethlisberger’s throw to Holmes for 57-yards in the 4th quarter was precise and over the head of Stanford Routt – Branch made the touchdown saving tackle.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-

Stefan Logan’s 83-yard kickoff return to open the game startled the Raiders. But Oakland’s defense kept the Steelers out of the end zone. Logan had another solid return later in the game for 37-yards to set-up a Pittsburgh possession at their own 40. Sebastian Janikowski nailed both of his field goal attempts (48 and 43 yards) in a tough outdoor stadium to kick in. Shane Lechler had 6-punts, averaging 46.8 per. Gary Russell had one of his better games with 72-yards worth of kickoff returns.

COACHING: B

Tom Cable got a little mischievous in opening the playbook. Bush’s halfback pass was on a 3rd and 8 – a risky play – considering the field position they had. Ultimately they scored on that drive, but not the player you want passing the ball against a defense that likes to bring pressure. In their opening drive of the second half, Cable called for more trickery on a hand off to McFadden, which he lateral back to Gradkowski and wound up losing 16-yards. The passing plays called were aided by Gradkowski’s improvising, but Cable did make the right calls during that scoring outburst in the final quarter. Something he would have never been able to relay to Russell if he was in the game. The Raiders scored 21-points in the 4th quarter – a stunning development considering their woes on offense late in games. And after disheartening drives by the home team, Oakland answered with big plays of their own – a credit to the coaching staff keeping the morale of this team up in a tough stadium to play in, on a cold day versus a team playing for their playoff lives. John Marshall’s bunch blitzed today from all the levels of their defense and gave the Steelers’ offense all they could handle. The defense played a solid game into the 2nd half until the madness begun and both teams started exploding in the waning moments.

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~ by Sactown Raider Boosters on December 6, 2009.

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