Sunday, December 24, 2006
Contra Costa Times (MCT)
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Raiders' offense Saturday night featured a different quarterback, a backup running back, different players at the guard positions, the third and fifth wide receivers as starters, and a new tight end, as well as a new offensive coordinator.
Anybody else have a suggestion for coach Art Shell? He now has tried just about everything through 15 games. To no avail. Try though they may, each game the Raiders add another inglorious chapter to a season destined to be remembered as the one the offense forgot.
Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp (99) tries to rally the fans during the team's final home game of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders, 20-9, at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California, Saturday, December 23, 2006. (Sherry LaVars/Contra Costa Times/MCT)
Saturday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs provided yet another glaring example of how nothing else matters when your offense can't get out of the way of itself, this time in a 20-9 loss at McAfee Coliseum.
"Again, we just can't do the things that we do, turn the ball over, and expect to win," Shell said after the game in what sounded like a tape loop from any number of previous games.
The Raiders fumbled away the ball three times, lost it twice more on interceptions and made life easy on a Chiefs team that entered the game on a three-game losing streak and in need of a pick-me-up.
On the bright side, the Raiders offense hit its target number of nine points, its average for the season. Nine points doesn't cut it in most games, as the Raiders have learned through 13 hard lessons that doubled as losses.
The 13 losses match the franchise record for most in a season. It's also the most losses for a Raiders team since managing general partner Al Davis arrived in 1963. The `62 team went 1-13.
"Personally, I've never been so frustrated," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "This game took something out of me because we came into the game knowing we could beat the Chiefs."
Instead, the Raiders concentrated their efforts on beating themselves. Time and again, the Raiders embarked upon promising drives, only to be undone by their own miscues.
"Ball security is the No. 1 thing we start with way back," Shell said. "It's something we harp on and it continues to be a problem."
It's more than a problem. It's an epidemic. The Raiders' five turnovers increased their league-leading total to 43, or an average of almost three a game.
Four of the turnovers were committed by quarterback Andrew Walter, two on fumbles, two on passes the Chiefs intercepted. Walter started for the first time since Nov. 12 in place of injured regular Aaron Brooks.
"Hold on to the ball, that's the biggest thing ... ," Walter said. "It's unacceptable."
So is the Raiders' inability to score points. Eleven times they had the ball, three times they scored. All field goals.
Overall, they have scored only 12 touchdowns on 171 drives this season, by far the worst percentage in the league.
On Saturday, the Raiders offense at least showed signs of life, an ability to sustain drives. It's the finishing off part that keeps eluding the Raiders.
Walter completed 27 of his 37 passes for 226 yards. Running back Justin Fargas rushed for a career-high 90 yards on 19 carries. Overall, the Raiders outgained the Chiefs.
"We moved the ball but still we couldn't get it in the end zone," Shell said. "It hurts."
An end to the pain is in sight. The Raiders conclude their season a week from today against the New York Jets.
"We improve in some areas and then kick ourselves in the foot in other areas," left offensive tackle Robert Gallery said. "We've got one game left, then we have to find the answers because no one's going to go through this next year."
It would be difficult to imagine the Raiders approaching the lows achieved by this year's offense.
This is the lowest-scoring offense in Raiders history. Oakland has a franchise-record 70 sacks. Its offense is last in just about every meaningful statistical category.
Each game brings about a new milestone, the kind the Raiders would just as soon avoid.
Through it all, Shell has preached patience on the fans' behalf. He said things are headed in the right direction and that soon the hard work will manifest itself in victories.
"All I can say is, we're just as disappointed as they are," Shell said. "We really are. We don't go out and try to lose games."
Regardless, the losses keep coming at a record clip, no matter what Shell does or how well the defense plays.
"Stupid (stuff) has happened this year," Gallery said. "(This was) par for the course."
(c) 2006, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).
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