Originally published on SBReport.net on Aug. 13, 2012
The Oakland Raiders played host to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football for their first game under the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era.
Although he only played him one series, head coach Dennis Allen saw all that he needed to see from Raiders star running back Darren McFadden. Upon receiving the opening kickoff, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp ran three consecutive plays for McFadden.
McFadden took the opening play from the line of scrimmage off the right tackle for a four-yard gain. Knapp then used some creativity by spreading McFadden out wide for a bubble screen that gained 18 yards. McFadden then gained another 16 yards on a rush to the left.
"We got him a couple of touches early and he was able to make some explosive gains and that’s what we anticipate out of him," Allen said of McFadden. "We threw the one screen to him and he busted out on a run pretty good. He’s an explosive playmaker and we’ve got to find a way to get him the ball and give him an opportunity to be explosive for us.:
The drive was forced to end abruptly when quarterback Carson Palmer threw a deep ball into double coverage for wide receiver Jacoby Ford and was picked off by Dallas free safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
Oakland’s starting defense looked very good against quarterback Tony Romo and the Dallas offense.
After stopping DeMarco Murray for no gain, Romo found his young wide receiver Dez Bryant on a back shoulder throw for a 24-yard gain on new Raiders cornerback Ron Bartell. But that was all Dallas would get from the Raiders defense on that drive. Murray rushed the ball once and Romo threw two incomplete passes before the Cowboys were forced to punt.
Ford had a rough night on the field, dropping two catchable passes and also bobbling a punt. Punt return duties are new to Ford this season. Ford has had a solid training camp thus far. Allen believes that the entire offense needs to do a better job completing the play.
"With the first group, we’ve got to make sure we catch the ball when we get those opportunities," Allen said of his first team. "We’ve done a good job of that so far, obviously we didn’t do it on a couple of drives today."
Without McFadden, Palmer and the offense found little progress on the next drive but was fortunate to have the drive extended two times by penalties on the Cowboys during punts to give the Raiders two fresh sets of downs.
The Raiders were unable to capitalize. After the Cowboys jumped offsides to give the Raiders a first down for the second time on the drive, Allen replaced Palmer with backup quarterback Matt Leinart. Backup running back Lonyae Miller was able to rush the ball three times for a first time, but then Leinart fumbled a snap which forced a 3rd and 8. Leinart then found Criner underneath for a short gain, not enough for a first down, forcing King back out on the field for a punt.
The starting defense continued to look good with Romo back out with the Cowboys starting offense for the ensuing drive. Defensive end Lamarr Houston almost sacked Romo but instead forced a short throw to tight end Jason Witten for a loss. Romo found no luck in escaping on the next play when defensive tackle Tommy Kelly sacked him for a loss of 12. There, the Cowboys elected to run the ball before punting the ball back to the Raiders.
After the first drive of the game, the Raider defense didn’t give up another first down to the Cowboys until about halfway through the second quarter.
“I thought that they did a nice job,” Allen said of his defense. “They were attacking; they were aggressive; and that’s what we’re going to be. I though JT did a nice job calling the game. I thought in the second half there, I thought we kind of got a little tired and worn down a bit and let them run the ball a little bit too much on us, so we have got to get that shored up.”
The only score of the game came on the Cowboys’ opening drive of the second half when kicker Dan Bailey gave the Cowboys the 3-0 lead. The Raiders had chances to score on their own, but kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed one wide right off of the dirt from 48 yards out, while backup kicker Eddy Carmona missed wide right as well on a field goal of his own.
Safety Mike Mitchell had a good game, pressuring Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee on a blitz, along with coming up with an interception. Mitchell has had a solid camp thus far and feels like the defense fits his style of play better.
“I just wanted to be able to get an opportunity to show the world what I could do,” Mitchell said. “I really haven’t done anything, that interception, I don’t know what he was looking at but he kind of threw it right to me. All camp, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a position to make some plays and I’m healthy this year.”
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor saw his first extended playing time since being taken by the Raiders in the supplemental draft last season and struggled for the most part.
Pryor looked to scramble much of the time, finishing with six rushes for 21 yards and 8-15 passing the ball with one interception. The interception came late on a deep pass when trying to complete a fourth and 26 late in the game.
Though he had a rough night, Allen noted that it had been a while since Pryor had seen the playing field.
“For the first time to be on the football field in real game action, I was pleased that he was able to get out there and get some reps and get some experience,” Allen said on Pryor’s play. “Obviously we’ve got to do a better job of getting in and out of the huddle, and getting the play snapped a little quicker. But those are all things that can be corrected. He’s a work in progress, and just like i’ve talked to him about, I want to see him get a little bit better everyday.”
In the end, neither Pryor or Leinart were able to lead the Raiders to the comeback victory, with Oakland falling 3-0 at home. The loss marked the first time in history the Raiders have been shutout at home in the preseason.
The Raiders have a short week as they travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals on Friday. While it is a quick turnaround, Mitchell believes that the team will be ready.
“In the end of the day, it’s going to be a game,” Mitchell said. “There’s going to be another opponent out there, so i’m going to get myself ready. I’m a competitive guy and will try to beat you in anything that we’re playing in so it’s going to be easy for me. I think the way our culture is now, we are all competitive and we are all here to win games. Yea, our bodies are going to be a little sore but Arizona’s bodies are going to be sore so we are going to come read to play and definitely try to come out with the win.”