The Oakland Raiders had a chance to finish their 2009 season the way they had finished their 2008 season, ending another team’s playoff hopes. The Raiders played it close until the end, but they could not get over the hump and make it happen as they fell 21-13 to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
For the second time in the last four games, benched starter JaMarcus Russell was pressed into action when the team returned from the halftime break. Russell was able to rack up respectable statistics for his half of play, but his mistakes resulted in turnovers that cost the Raiders either points or a chance to take the lead.
As always the defense has to shoulder its share of the blame. Ravens backup running back Willis McGahee ran for 167 yards on 16 carries. Starter Ray Rice added a 5.0 average as the big plays and breakdowns were once again a huge factor.
The Baltimore Ravens opened the scoring on their second drive when they drove 74 yards down the field in eight plays. Two of those plays combined for 50 yards with Ray Rice breaking off a 28 yard run off the right side for 28 yards and tight end Todd Heap adding a 22 yard reception. That set up a one yard touchdown plunge.
The Raiders answered with a field goal of their own in the opening seconds of the second quarter. The play before, Darren McFadden narrowly missed a touchdown when he could not bring his feet down in bounds after a throw from Frye.
After an exchange of punts, the Raiders appeared to be set to gain momentum. Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler had just pinned the Ravens in their own territory. It took all of two plays for the Ravens to move the ball 95 yards as the Raiders defense had one of their patented implosions. Joe Flacco hit Todd Heap for 18 yards on the first play. The second play was a 77 yard run by McGahee that literally went right through Hiram Eugene. McGahee hit Eugene with a stiff arm and he meekly stumbled away as the back rumbled onward to the end zone. Ravens coach John Harbaugh marveled over that play, “I don’t know if it was a stiff-arm or a beat-down. That was a physical play, as physical a play as you’re ever going to see. Impressive.”
Charlie Frye led the Raiders down the field to answer with their only touchdown of the game. Frye completed six of seven of his passes for 60 yards on the drive,with the capper being a touchdown strike to tight end Zach Miller. That touchdown throw would be Frye’s last pass of the game as he would be pulled for Russell when the team returned from intermission.
Prior to Russell taking the field, Cable would call the offense together for a huddle to rally the troops. “I didn’t want us to let up. JaMarcus was going to go in and play quarterback, and let’s rally around him and he’s going to rally around you, and let’s find ways to go out there and execute and stay on the field, stay in drives and take some shots at scoring some points.”
Russell would start out moving the ball. He completed seven of his first eight passes and led the Raiders on a 9 play drive to set up Sebastian Janikowski’s field goal before he thew an interception that would set up the Ravens’ final touchdown.
Russell would open the fourth quarter by driving the Raiders to the Ravens’ 25 yard-line, appearing that he may stage his third late game comeback of the season. However, Russell fumbled away that opportunity. After a missed field goal gave the Raiders a fresh chance, Russell could not get anything going at all.
When asked to assess Russell’s play, wide receiver Chaz Schilens gave a flat but telling, “No comment.”
Running back Michael Bush, didn’t see much difference between the two quarterbacks, “JaMarcus was still throwing the ball good, completing balls, moving the team down the field. He had one setback and that’s the fumble. He had time in the pocket so there wasn’t no dropoff to me.”
Despite the mistakes, Russell termed his play as “OK.” He explained that the interception was because “I was hit from behind and it kind of sprayed the ball into a different area.”