I had a chance to re-watch most of the game, and the added perspective was interesting. I'm not going to do a play by play breakdown (I do have a full time job and three little pink lions ya know) but I sure do wish I had the time to do it. That would be awesome! If any of you know a place/person who does that let me know -- I'd be there reading every week.
I'll save the numerous thoughts on the offense for second. First, I want to focus on the matchup between the Oakland offense and the Detroit defense. I know the big press coming into this week was how badly the Raiders played in their last two games, but there was much more than meets the eye in that equation -- after all, the Raiders were 7-6 and looking to get back into the playoff hunt with a win over the Lions. Say what you will about there recent egg-laying, the Raiders have been far from a joke all year and a tough, competitive team.
Despite the headlines surrounding (QB)Carson Palmer, and the injury to (RB)Darren McFadden the real story of the Raiders offense has been the wide receivers and the offensive line.
Al Davis was almost as obsessed with speedy wideouts as one Matt Millen. A big difference is that his picks A. were not all in the first round, B. were not overweight, lazy, or drug addicts, and C. can actually catch the ball. The result is an offense stacked 4 deep with very fast WR on the field -- none of them a CJ caliber (who is?) but they don't have to be. They are more a bunch of faster Titus Young clones. The Raiders' problem the two weeks before? 3 of them were injured. Two made it back against the Lions and the difference was noticeable. YAC is a very underrated statistic, and an area where Oakland's group will make you pay. (as they did to Chris Houston on the long TD when he bounced off the WR instead of wrapping him up) Carson Palmer (and Jason Campbell before he got injured) rely on lots of quick hits to the open man, depending on yards after the catch to get then the gains they need. Screens especially mixed in with their strong run game make this tactic especially deadly.
To make matters worse for the Lions, on top of Delmas being out (and losing Harris) at Safety, their CB's were banged up. Both Wright and Houston were having speed and cutting issues as they recover from injury. This meant they were limited in their type of play they could use to defend. No matter what Jim Schwartz blathers about the health of the secondary played a big role in the big cushion look the Lions gave the Raiders. The intent was almost a man-up version of the Tampa 2, keeping everything in front of them to limit any big plays. They also were selling out on the rush and the pressure to keep the Raiders in their short game only and counting on the Lions defenders to limit YAC.
The result was that despite a long TD on a missed tackle, the Lions defense held the Raiders to just 20 offensive points scored in what on paper should have been a bad matchup for them on that given Sunday. Even though Palmer was taking 2-3 step drops and runing smoke routes, the Lions still got to him for three sacks.
So while the Lions were playing with 3/4 backups in the secondary, they still played a solid game and did their part to help the Lions win, and to get the ball back to set up the Megadrive.
Tonight I'll look at how the Detroit Offense and Oakland Defense matched up.