As Oakland Raiders’ field goal kicker Sebastian Janikowski was lining up for his game winning 32 yard field goal attempt against the Arizona Cardinals, I couldn’t help but to think back to earlier in the afternoon when New Orleans Saints’ kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 29 yard field goal in overtime as the Saints would eventually lose to the Atlanta Falcons 27-24. But Janikowski is money in the bank right? Well he did miss two kicks earlier in the game, but he’s had a number of game winning kicks in the last several years for this franchise, so 2-1 here the Raiders come right? Uh guess again, the Raiders come up short 24-23 as Janikowski pushes it left as his team and Raider Nation were motionless, in a state of shock so to speak. You know the kind where you went from thinking you won the game, to total disbelief you choked and blew the game. Along with Raider Nation, all I can say is SMH.
The missed field goal is pretty much a microcosm of the Raiders luck the past several years. The missed field goal took the focus away from a lot of positives that were displayed in Sunday’s game. Raiders’ quarterback Bruce Gradkowski stepped into the starting roll with ease throwing for 255 yards and a touchdown score. He lead the Raiders to 20 first half points a feat that haven’t been accomplished since 2005. Running back Darren McFadden rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown score, keeping pace with the stellar season he is having so far. Wide receiver Louis Murphy had another big game with 5 catches for 119 yards showing good improvement from the wideout position.The defense, even though a little shaky, only gave up 17 points and really buckled down on defense in the 4th quarter only allowing the Cardinals’ offense 12 yards on seven plays. Raiders Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha held fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to two catches for 36 yards stating his claim as the “best cornerback” in the game. The Raiders’ special teams even forced two turnovers. This game was clearly their’s to lose and they did.
The special teams started off the game giving up a 102 yard kickoff return on the first play of the game to LaRod Stephens-Howling. Janikowski, normally Mr. Automatic misses three field goals. How often does that happen in the same game, ummmm never! Penalties, the one word the Raiders have always been synonymous with, cost the Raiders greatly in this contest racking up 123 yards on 11 penalties. Lets begin early in the fourth, when the Raiders drove the ball down to the 1 yard line, only to get a delay of game after a rushing attempt that gained no yards, followed by two incomplete forced passes to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Had they scored a touchdown, there would have been no need for Janikowski’s late game heroics attempt. They get a field goal out of the drive, but it would come back to haunt them On their next series, Oakland drove to Arizona’s the 36 yard line, but offensive tackle Mario “The Penalty” Henderson was hit with a false start penalty that pushed the Raiders back. The result was a missed 58 yard field goal by Janikowski. Yet still, they had a chance to win. In the second half the Raiders offense appeared to shut down only scoring 3 points out of three trips to the red zone.
The Raiders still haven’t put a full game together and until they become an above .500 team, they will never progress to the level in which their talent says they are capable of. The good teams know how to take advantage of multiple opportunities, the suspect ones squander them. Coach Tom Cable says “This game will not define us. We will move forward from this” and I believe they will, but in which direction?
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Written by Arthur Kai