Oakland needs to work on its focus

Published: Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 - 7:59 am

DENVER – Marking up – and marking down – the Raiders' 37-6 loss to the Broncos on Sunday:

Markdown – The Raiders' second-half focus and intensity. Not acceptable.

After a first half that was sluggish but moderately acceptable, Oakland trailed only 10-6. But any NFL team that is outscored in the third quarter 21-0 is taking the field for the third quarter with either insurmountable injuries or improper concentration. The Raiders did not have insurmountable injuries.

Markup – Peyton Manning. At age 36, the old man is learning how to manage his way through an NFL season quite well as the Broncos' designated quarterbacking savior. Of course, it helps that he can go through an entire game without one smudge on his still-optically-strange orange home Denver uniform. But he put every ball he threw in the proper place.

Markdown – Rolando McLain, the Raiders' mid- dle linebacker who continues to show the football instincts of a cricket player.

Seriously, how can you play the game this long and seemingly not be able to anticipate one Denver offensive play well enough to create a game-changing hit or turnover?

Markup – Thunder, the horse that gallops up and down the field whenever Denver scores at home. On a hot day, Thunder had to make the 100-yard sprint seven times (four touchdowns, three field goals) and showed far better form than any Raiders running back, including Darren McFadden, who usually has good games against the Broncos but averaged 2.6 yards per carry.

Markup and markdown – Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is considered the devil in a headset by many of the team's followers. But his game planning Sunday obviously found a vulnerability by the Broncos to misdirection pass plays. Carson Palmer found fullback Marcel Reece on an early pass to the flat where the entire defense had been sucked to the opposite side of the field.

Reece made 31 yards on the play. Knapp repeated the trick twice more on similar plays in the first half. Those plays also worked – but still didn't get the Raiders into the end zone.

Then, in the second half, everything fell part. Also, why was Palmer still in the game with three minutes left and Oakland trailing by 31?

So does this make Knapp a devil or angel? On this day, both.

Markdown – Other than one nice bat-down of a Manning pass at the Oakland 4-yard line by Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour, it's hard to think of anything disruptive that the Oakland pass rushers did all afternoon.

Markup – The game officials. No major glitches and no blown calls and no long-winded discussions. Well done, gentlemen.

Markup – Lamarr Houston, the Raiders' defensive lineman who showed all you kids at home what the word "hustle" really means.

On a second-quarter play, Manning hit a wide-open Demaryius Thomas, who began streaking down the left sideline toward a seemingly inevitable touchdown. But as Thomas tried to shift the ball from one hand to the other, it popped out at the 25-yard line and began rolling toward the end zone. Houston was sprinting downfield – instead of giving up on the play back at the line of scrimmage, as many defensive linemen do – and recovered the ball at the Raiders' 4-yard line.

Markdown – The U.S. Ryder Cup team. Just on principle. That might be the only team in the United States that had a worse back nine than the Raiders on Sunday.

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