There were more positives for the Raiders as they opened a new era tonight than the final score would indicate. Oakland was shut out 3-0, but a number of players acquitted themselves well. Still, some bad plays stood out and the team couldn't get the ball in the end zone or through the uprights.
The standouts for Oakland were Darren McFadden and undrafted rookie Rod Streater. The former was showcased for the Raiders first three plays, picking up twenty yards on two runs and eighteen yards on a screen where he was lined up as a wideout with both tight ends in the game. That was all the action he'd see: Carson Palmer should have checked it down to McFadden on the next play, but overthrew Jacoby Ford deep for an interception. Streater made a big impact, catching the first six passes thrown his way for 66 yards, all in the first half. Still, he couldn't haul in a deep ball from Leinart in the two minute drill, so there's room for improvement.
The Raiders front seven played well early, keeping Dallas from doing much of anything on offense. Big plays from Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, and Rolando McClain mada difference, and Philip Wheeler, Matt Shaughnessy, and Desmond Bryant looked good. When the backups came on, the results were a little more mixed, but Jamie Cumbie, Christo Bilukidi, and Dominique Hamilton all fared well, and long shot LB Chad Kilgore made a couple of big plays.
The Raiders secondary wasn't tested often, and neither failed nor excelled. Mike Mitchell looked good at times, and hauled in an easy interception. Ron Bartell was beat early, but didn't play long. DeMarcus Van Dyke was beat badly a couple of times and also drew a pass interference penalty; he wasn't able to carry over his impressive training camp performances into this game. Chimdi Chekwa was overall pretty good at cornerback, but on special teams he let a punt roll at little bit too far, and when the ball's shadow encroached on the goal line the refs ruled it a touchback. Bryan McCann didn't impress on special teams or at cornerback, but his coverage was tight enough to avoid giving up a big TD on a deep pass, though it wouldn't have been a surprise to see said coverage draw a long pass interference penalty.
The Raiders offense moved the ball pretty well, but was reminiscent of the late season slide last year in failing to put points on the board. They moved with ease when McFadden was in there, but with speedy backups Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson absent, the offense floundered the rest of the game and wasn't a threat to take the ball into the end zone, a bit of a redux of what happened as Michael Bush wore down in the stretch in 2011. Lonyae Miller got a lot of work as expected, and had a handful of nice runs but only averaged 2.6 yards a carry. Rashawn Jackson only had three carries but averaged the same at 2.7 yards a rush, though both backs were able to contribute in the passing game.
Heyward-Bey looked fine but was targeted only once, while Jacoby Ford had a disastrous stinker of a game. Ford went nowhere on the opening kickoff, couldn't break up the interception on the first downfield pass, and then dropped consecutive Palmer passes on the following drive that would have kept the chains moving. To top it off, he muffed his first punt return. Denarius Moore was greatly missed. While Streater had a good game, fellow rookie Juron Criner was a bit of a disappointment. He had a big drop when he was wide open, and wasn't able to turn upfield to pick up a first down on his only catch of the game. Brandon Carswell was the only wideout to mildly impress in the second half. David Ausberry and Richard Gordon each contributed a catch in the passing game, but neither excelled in blocking in the game, with Gordon giving up a big pressure early on. Tory Humphrey didn't flash much to warrant his seizing a roster spot, but he did draw a deep pass interference penalty. Kyle Efaw didn't make an impression.
Palmer looked fine beyond the bad decision and overthrow that turned the ball over on Oakland's first drive. Leinart moved the team okay but couldn't close out his drives. Pryor led the team's offense for the entire second half, with the second string surrounding him in the third quarter and the third string in the fourth quarter. He had a few mildly impressive plays, but overall was inconsistent in his decisionmaking, his passing, and even his scrambling. Allen gave Pryor a chance to lead a game winning drive late, keeping rookie Kyle Newhall-Caballero off the field, but the drive stalled in Dallas territory when Pryor botched a screen play. He was sacked for a sixteen yard loss on the play, and then followed it up with a near interception on an underthrown ball and a fourth down overthrow that was intercepted to seal the game.
While neither Ford nor McCann showed anything in the return game, the kicking game for the Raiders similarly failed to impress. The best that could be said for it was that they drew three big Dallas penalties. A running into the punter penalty and an offsides on a punt extended the Raiders' second drive. Later on, the Cowboys were called for offsides on field goal attempt. The Raiders needed the call, since King couldn't cleanly field the snap and made a run for it. The do-over was no better, with Janikowski hooking a knuckleball wide of the uprights on the 47-yard attempt. Later on, Eddy Carmona had a chance to tie the game with an easy attempt, but pushed it far outside the goalposts. At least Oakland didn't give up any big returns, though Chekwa's too liberal approach to downing a punt didn't help.
All in all, the most encouraging element of the game for the Raiders was the general performance of the defense, the lack of penalties, and the play of McFadden and Streater. The Cowboys were called for 12 penalties while the Raiders only drew 5, and the Raiders outgained the Cowboys, who were held to only 202 yards and three points. Still, the failure to put points on the board and get Pryor going, as well as the awful showing from Ford, overshadowed a decent debut from the new defense under Allen and Tarver.