Another bad day at the office

For a team that started off the season on such a promising note, the Raiders have gone completely backward over the last three weeks. More proof of that came in Sunday's 29-6 loss to the Houston Texans in which Oakland's familiar problems were too much to overcome.

A new city, a new opponent, the same result.

Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans was reminiscent of the Raiders' loss to Denver a week earlier. Simply put, everything that could go wrong did go wrong and there was very little to hang a hope of optimism on.

And at 1-3, it could get even worse. The ‘easy' part of the schedule is behind and now Oakland faces the likes of the Eagles, Giants and Jets over the next three weeks.

If things don't change soon, the season could get completely out of hand quickly. Here's a look back on what happened against the Texans:

-- The offense was bad for a third straight week, particularly the ground game which was supposed to be the heart and soul of things. Running backs Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas were nothing special against the NFL's worst run defenses, combining for 31 yards on 19 carries.

The longest run of the day came by wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who took an end-around and gained 20 yards.

McFadden continues to look too tentative running the ball and Bush hasn't looked nearly as strong as he did three weeks ago. The problem is that Oakland's offensive line did very little to help the backs out. The run blocking was terrible, allowing Houston's defense to get deep penetration and knock the Raiders' runners around.

-- Quarterback JaMarcus Russell looked far more comfortable in the pocket and didn't lock on targets like he has in the past, but the final numbers (12 of 33 for 128 yards) were not pretty. You could put up with bad stats if the offense was moving but with only two first downs in the second half, the quarterback is an obvious target to blame.

Russell didn't get much help from his receivers, who dropped a half-dozen passes. He also had to operate behind a makeshift line that didn't provide him much protection. It was also the line that collapsed and gave up the safety when Fargas was tackled in the end zone.

Still, the bottom line is wins and losses and Oakland's 1-3 record hangs on Russell's shoulders.

-- It's bad enough that the Raiders can't stop the run (Steve Slaton and Ryan Moats combined for 121 yards and a touchdown), but the secondary had all sorts of problems. No one was worse than cornerback Chris Johnson, who was burned repeatedly and blew coverage multiple times. He was torched three times for 152 yards alone at one point. Twice it looked as if Johnson was expecting help over the top from one of the safeties but it never came.

The Raiders signed Johnson to a big extension in offseason based on eight games of work after he replaced DeAngelo Hall midway through the 2008 season. But Johnson is looking more and more like the player who was almost bounced out of the league for his lack of production.

-- Oakland was just 2 of 15 on third downs. Terrible.

-- A lack of discipline continued to kill drives and derailed any momentum the offense could muster. After driving into Houston territory in the first half at a time when the game was still close, center Chris Morris and left guard Erik Pears were called for back-to-back false starts and taking what was a good scoring opportunity and putting the offense in a 1st-and-20 hole.

-- Tight end Zach Miller caught three passes for 33 yards, one while on his knees, but suffered a concussion. His status for next week's game is unknown.

If Miller is out for any length of time, it would be a major blow to Oakland's already sluggish offense. Miller has been the one reliable receiver Russell could depend on and teams had been focusing a great deal of attention his way lately. Without him, the Raiders would have to turn either veteran Tony Stewart or rookie Brandon Myers, who was inactive Sunday.

-- For the fourth straight game the Raiders started rookies Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy at wide receiver. The duo caught four passes for 52 yards but couldn't get into the end zone. Murphy, who was robbed of a first-down catch in the first half, had three of them.

It's easy to blame Russell for the offensive problems but Heyward-Bey hasn't done much to justify being a first-round pick and that has hurt the offense as well. Murphy's learning on the run but tends to get too excited at times.

Meanwhile Javon Walker was inactive for a second straight week.

-- On the positive side, Tommy Kelly had his most productive day ever. The often-criticized tackle had 13 tackles (9 solos), including one for a loss. To that, one can only say "It's about time."

-- Despite the problems against the run, the Raiders actually did a good job of pressuring Houston QB Matt Schaub. He was sacked four times (Greg Ellis, Jay Richardson, Gerard Warren and Thomas Howard) and hurried eight others. That's a huge improvement from the Denver game when Kyle Orton was allowed to sit back without fear of getting touched.

-- Right tackle Cornell Green left with a calf injury. No word on the severity of it or how long he could be sidelined.


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