So I was there, and it was great to see the guys up close and in person. I went with the idea of texting periodically as things happened and posting a few pics too. It didn't quite work out that way, though.
First and foremost, it's is virtually impossible to text to this website from within that stadium, and believe me, I tried all day long.
3 reasons: 1) having thousands of people in one place all trying to get on the network at the same time turned the Now network into the Molasses network, 2) if you're inside the structure, it's built with enough concrete you'd think you're in bomb proof bunker, and 3) having the TST open thread page try to load a hundreds comments makes it impossibly slow on a wireless connection phone, even 3G. For those of you who wonder why we need a new thread after a few hundred comments,try to keep in mind some guys are trying to participate while being limited to something MUCH less than 50MB cable speeds and it's a hell of a lot easier when the page doesn't have to load mass commentary.
Now, about this game --- this was one hard hitting game on both sides of the ball. James Laurinaitis is a fired up leader of this D. Early in the 1st quarter he was running around yelling and hopping, waving his arms and getting the energy up. It was great to see. He's a born MLB, I'll tell you that. From the skills to the leadership you want in that position, he brings it all.
The Rams did ok on the pass rush, enough to rattle Jason Campbell into making just flat out scared mistakes that got him benched. Backup QB Bruce Gradkowski came in the the whole Raider team got fired up and played harder, which is exactly what happened when he came in last year when Jamarcus got benched. If the Raiders weren't so dysfunctional they might just start him.
On the Rams D side, just when they started to get pressure on the passer, the Raiders started to do that little pitch out to Darren McFadden on the outside. That was good coaching, because it not only slowed down the pass rushers but it also got McFadden out into open space where he is most effective. I'm not sure the Rams coaching staff was prepared for that, because the players really seemed like they didn't have any idea what was coming for long stretches at a time.
From watching the Rams players, I can tell you this beyond any doubt: when they got down 16 to 7, the whole team slumped. You could just see it. The way they stood, they way they walked....they were really deflated. The D was standing around with their hands on their hips, there was no energy, they looked like they were defeated. Now, I'm not saying they gave up....they were still trying....but the fire had been completely taken out of them and it just didn't look like they believed the could still compete. I'm not sure what it was, whether they knew they were getting beat on the line or whether they thought the offense couldn't catch up from that much of a deficit, or whether they were just doubting themselves in the coverage decisions, but it was very obvious they were not playing with an energy level needed on the road, at an opponent's home opener.
As many games as I've seen, I really thought right then and there that the game was basically over, even with almost 10 minutes left and a good passer like Bradford, and in fact it turned out the game was basically over. This attitude or belief or whatever it is, definitely needs to change. And I believe it will, in time. Great teams (which the Rams are obviously not yet) never stop believing they are going to win until the game clock is all but done. This Rams team got down on themselves pretty early and although there were some good plays here and there, I think the reason they lost was almost all mental at that point.
Just a couple of player notes: Saffold doesn't always finish his run blocks. I saw him a couple of times block a DE who later ended up in the pile in the middle of the line. He should've run his man out to the sideline, not block until he thought the play was mostly over.
Jason Smith, still a good run blocker and he doesn't like to get pushed around. He got into it a couple of times with Raider players, almost fights, which was really good to see. He wasn't taking any crap from anyone. His pass blocking was not the greatest. In fact, the Rams O-line really didn't give Bradford enough time to be able to use his accuracy.
Mark Clayton had Nnamdi Asomugha on him most of the day which is why he accounted for only 2 receptions, but he looked like the best WR on the Rams by a long way. He's a very smooth athlete and I think they got a steal in him by only moving down from the 6th to the 7th round to get him. When the Raiders let him loose, Bradford was smart to find him, because without those points...well, you know.
I was disappointed they didn't use Amendola and the TE's more. The Raiders are ripe for that kind of attack, and I think the coaching staff fell short there. And how about Danny Amendola, getting body slammed (and man did that fire up the Raiders team and stadium) but he pops right up and then comes right back to make another reception.
I've bitched about the Rams secondary for about two years now, so I won't pile on anymore, but I think it's clear that a team with O-line problems like the Raiders (OT's are crap, starting LG out) and QB problems like the Raiders (benching your new traded-for QB half way through game 2??) should not have been able to work the Rams like they did. Yes, a couple of Ram INT's, hurray....but Louis Murphy and Darrious Heyward-Bey looked great, each with 6 Rec's and a combined 171 yards and a TD. The truth is they are not great and besides the INT's, the basic coverage was definitely not consistant enough.
This was the Raiders home opener, guys. Because of that it was not the easy game most thought it would be, and because the Raiders defense is a lot better than people think...when they want to play. They're awfully inconsistent, but in the home opener the energy was enough to make them wake up and they do have some talent wandering around out there. There were a lot of big hits in this game, thoroughly enjoyable for me since I was so close I could practially feel the "thud" and I could definitely hear the crackin'. But it was the kind of the hard fought defensive game a casual fan might have found a little boring.
This was a winnable game. Especially if they wouldn't have lost it mentally with 10 minutes left. This Raider team has problems all over the place, but in the final analysis I believe this game was lost in part because the Rams wre not prepared to face the kind of offense the Raiders came out with, and in part because they didn't believe they could win it even with plenty of time left on the clock. Both these things are fixable. The good news is they have the talent in place to learn how to avoid those things in the future. It's a young team and a young coaching staff and games like this are growing pains that they'll just have to learn how to defeat. It's a hell of a lot better than simply being devoid of talent, I can tell you that.
* When I find the stupid cable to get the camera hooked up to the computer I'll post the the GAME pics. Pro photographers take many shots in a row (full-auto fire, so to speak) and that's how they capture good stuff. My cam is nothing special, it's an older digital camera that takes the picture 2 seconds after you push the button so you push the button right before you think something might happen....anyway, I'll post them as soon as I can.
In the meantime, all I have are a couple of phone snaps that show the joyous harmony Rams fans and Raiders fans enjoyed...no, really, it was all good fun.