by Mike Ridley
This week in Any Given Sunday, we have two familiar faces filling familiar roles. The Oakland Raiders were able to pull off another upset, this time besting the Pittsburgh Steelers, who first appeared in AGS after losing in Week 1 to the Titans.
The story from Pittsburgh's perspective is also familiar: they were unable to create any rhythm on offense due to the constant pressure up front. Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked five times, was continually under fire from the Oakland pass rush. He was rarely able to reach the top of his drop and deliver a pass, forcing plays to be ad-libbed. With a disjointed passing game, the Steelers constantly saw drives stall out early, amassing six three-and-outs on the day.
The pressure Oakland placed on Roethlisberger was largely a by-product of the injuries the Steelers suffered in their front five. Left guard Ramon Foster was lost early to a concussion. Backup Guy Whimper replaced him, only to suffer a left knee injury 18 offensive snaps later, which thrust Cody Wallace into his first action of 2013. Right guard David DeCastro also left the game with an ankle injury. With Pittsburgh playing backups to backups, Lamarr Houston (one sack and two tackles for loss) and company were able to control the line of scrimmage and harass Roethlisberger at will.
With Pittsburgh lacking any offensive cohesion for most of the game, the Raiders were able to slip by the Steelers even with a less-than-stellar performance from Terrelle Pryor. After starting the game with a record-breaking 93-yard touchdown run, his production quickly faded. Pryor, who had started to show signs of an improved passing game against a weak Chargers defense, struggled through the air on Sunday. He averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt with two interceptions, giving him a DYAR of -101, his second-worst total of the season. With their quarterback playing poorly, the Raiders managed to generate only 35 yards of offense in the second half as they narrowly escaped with a victory.
By the VOA
Outside of Pryor's first play from scrimmage, this game lacked any offensive fireworks.
|Dewey Defeats VOA|
|Team||Off. VOA||Def. VOA||Special Teams VOA||Total VOA|
Oakland actually had an above-average rushing game (10.2% DVOA), but their offense was undone by a horrific passing DVOA (-108.3%), despite Pryor's 96.2 QBR (which factors rushing into account).
Although Shaun Suisham missed two short field goals and Oakland deflected a punt, Oakland's special teams ranked slightly worse on Sunday. The Raiders failed to bring the ball past the 20 on three different kickoff returns, allowed a 44-yard punt return to Antonio Brown and saw Jacoby Ford outright struggle with punt returns. In addition, the punt deflection doesn't figure into DVOA since it isn't predictive; however, if we're solely looking backwards at the game, that's obviously a very good special teams play and Oakland had a better special teams performance than DVOA would otherwise indicate.
Darren McFadden and the Raiders Offense
Darren McFadden helped the few fantasy owners who hadn't buried him yet by generating 73 yards and two touchdowns on the ground Sunday.
Last year, McFadden finished dead last among qualifying running backs with a DYAR of -153. His DVOA of -26.7% was only better than new teammate Rashad Jennings' -31.8% mark. So far this season, McFadden has a DYAR of -20, which ranks 26th out of 37 qualifying backs. In his six games, he's failed to produce a DVOA above average in all but one (against Washington when he only carried the ball five times).
On Sunday, McFadden's struggles to do anything remarkable continued. He averaged a measly 3.0 yards per carry and, despite his two touchdowns, had successful plays on just six of his 24 carries. He was stopped for one yard or less on an astonishing 46 percent of his rushes, even though he plays in a read-option system with one of the best running quarterbacks in the league. With McFadden in the last year of his contract, you have to wonder if his days in silver and black are coming to an end.
McFadden wasn't the only issue with the Raiders' offense on Sunday, though. After gaining 244 yards and 21 points in the first half, their offense essentially shut down. Oakland generated only one first down and 35 yards on 26 plays in the second half. Save for their recovery of Pittsburgh's onside kick, Oakland's longest drive ended at their own 30-yard line. As Andy Benoit described it: they did an unbelievable amount of nothing.
It Hit Them in a Bad Spot
Dropped passes don't show up in the box score, but they played a pivotal role in this game. For the Raiders, rookie receiver Brice Butler was the main culprit. On Oakland's second drive, Butler dropped a pass on third-and-2 that would've given the Raiders a first down around the Pittsburgh 40-yard line. Later in the quarter, Butler bobbled another ball that Troy Polamalu picked off, giving Pittsburgh the ball at the Oakland 48-yard line. The Steelers went on to score on a Suisham field goal five plays later.
The normally sure-handed Antonio Brown had his fair share of drops for Pittsburgh, as well. Deep in Raider territory, Brown dropped a would-be first down from Roethlisberger that would've given the Steelers first-and-goal. The Steelers, instead, had to settle for a short field goal attempt, which Suisham pushed right.
Brown's second drop was likely just as costly. After setting up the Steelers with a 44-yard punt return, he dropped a pass on third-and-3 from the Oakland 24-yard line that Tracy Porter made a miraculous play on for an interception, ending another scoring opportunity for the Steelers. Despite having nine catches for 82 yards, it's likely the two passes he missed that had the biggest impact.