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Fan-Demonium: Redemption In Oakland

Posted Nov 2, 2013

The Eagles have never won in Oakland. They have played there three times and lost each game. The Eagles did win in Los Angeles when the Raiders moved there in the 1980s, but never in Oakland.

1971 - Loss, 34-10
1995 - Loss, 48-17
2009 - Loss, 13-9

That's only three games. Those teams have nothing to do with 2013. But there are some quirky things about the NFL that seem to hold true over time. I hope this isn't one of them.

I wasn't an Eagles fan in 1971 so I can't say much about that game. I was also just 2years old so I was much more focused on Fisher-Price toys, Sesame Street and clean diapers than football. The other two games I did watch. They were both painful games.

In 1995, the Eagles got out to a 17-0 lead. The team was 1-2 and Randall Cunningham was playing to save his job. It was huge to get that lead and show some real signs of life. Then the bottom fell out. The Eagles threw a pair of interceptions and the Raiders returned two fumbles for touchdowns. Rodney Peete came in at quarterback, but didn't fare much better than Cunningham. That loss dropped the Eagles to 1-3 and forced Ray Rhodes to make some changes. That was the last game that Cunningham started for the Eagles. Talk about the end of an era.

The 2009 game wasn't quite as meaningful, but was every bit as painful to watch. The Raiders were 1-4 and coming off a 44-7 loss to the Giants. Everyone knew the Eagles would go out there and kick some butt. Unfortunately, the Raiders didn't listen to everyone. Donovan McNabb struggled to throw the ball and Andy Reid wouldn't run the ball. There were 52 passes and 14 runs. Ugh. For the Raiders, skill players like JaMarcus Russell, Justin Fargas and Zach Miller looked like stars. Miller had an 86-yard catch-and-run for the only touchdown of the game. Even reliable David Akers missed a pair of field goals. Bad, bad showing. Ugly loss.

The Eagles won't take the Raiders lightly in this game. At 3-4, the Raiders have the better record. The Eagles are just 3-5. The Raiders are coming off a win over the Steelers. The Eagles have a two-game losing streak. I will be shocked if the Eagles aren't completely focused and ready to go in this trip to Oakland.

The big story will be Nick Foles' return to action. He is going to start on Sunday. I think that is great news. First, it is good the concussion was of the temporary variety. You see some guys sidelined for multiple weeks. Foles was just out for one game. It is also important for Foles to get back on the field. He struggled mightily in the game against the Cowboys. That showing caught everyone off-guard. The Eagles, fans and the media were all surprised by Foles' struggles. The good news is that Foles controls his own destiny. If he plays well in Oakland, people can look back at the Dallas game as an anomaly. If he struggles again, that will be a bad sign.


Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

This won't be an easy test for Foles. The Raiders have held four opponents to 300 yards or fewer. I thought a description in another story summed them up nicely.

"The Raiders defense is a hodgepodge of castoffs from other teams, and the unit plays with a collective chip on its shoulder. It is a fast, physical group that gives maximum effort on every snap."

That's dead on the money. The best player is homegrown star Lamarr Houston. He leads the team with four sacks and is a very disruptive pass rusher. He will go up against Jason Peters for the most part. That's a matchup Peters needs to win. Foles is a pocket passer. He needs time in the pocket to find the open receiver.

I am curious to see if Chip Kelly does anything special to get Foles going early. Do the Eagles throw a lot of passes early on? Do they throw a lot of wide receiver screens? Does Kelly decide to focus on the run game? The Raiders defense has played well this year, but they have fared better against more standard offenses. When going against Washington, Denver and San Diego, the Raiders gave up yards and points. Those three teams will spread you out and attack creatively. I'm sure Kelly has seen this and will build his gameplan accordingly.

My bet is that the Raiders will load up the line of scrimmage and dare Foles to throw the ball on them. They will focus on stopping LeSean McCoy and the ground game. We do know the Raiders will blitz and attack. They have 21 sacks this year and half of them come from defensive backs or linebackers. The more players the Raiders have close to the line, the better they are. That can also leave them vulnerable in the secondary. Foles will have chances to burn them. If he can get the ball to DeSean Jackson, the Eagles can come up with some big plays.

The Eagles defense has been good for the last month. They will face a struggling Raiders offense. Oakland is dead last in the league in passing. They do run the ball well, although a lot of that is quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He leads the team with 391 rushing yards, with 93 of them coming on a touchdown run last week. Pryor has great speed and it takes only one defensive breakdown can lead to a big play. That's what happened to the Steelers last week.

If you watched that game, you saw Oakland get out to a 21-3 lead. Then they held on for dear life. On their final nine offensive drives, only one exceeded 6 yards. Think about that for a second. Those drives netted just 29 total yards. This is a team that Bill Davis and the defense can shut down. I am interested to see what strategy Davis uses. This should be a game to focus on run defense and play aggressively. Make Pryor beat you as a passer.

The Eagles will likely play lots of zone coverage. That way defensive backs can keep their eyes on Pryor in case he decides to run. The back seven will need to tackle well if the Raiders are able to complete some underneath throws. Make them drive the long field. That offense needs big plays in order to move the ball. The Raiders offense has not scored more than 21 points in a game. They need help from the defense and special teams to score more than that.

The Raiders are not a good team. The Eagles aren't exactly a juggernaut, especially considering the last two weeks. Still, I think the Eagles are the better team. They need to play like it to win the game. If you play sloppy and make mistakes, that takes pressure off the Raiders and allows them to play their style of football. If the Eagles play clean football and keep Pryor contained, they should win. Pryor will be a big challenge for the linebackers. They need to take good angles and tackle well when he does run.

This game gives the Eagles a chance to break a losing streak and it gives Foles a chance for redemption. Hopefully we'll feel better about the team and Foles about 7:30 on Sunday night.

Midseason Awards: McCoy, Thornton Lead The Way

The Eagles are halfway through the season. 

My offensive MVP is LeSean McCoy. He has really carried the offense.

My defensive MVP is Cedric Thornton. He's the key man up front this year. It is great to see the young guy playing so well.

My special teams MVP is Colt Anderson. He leads that unit in tackles with nine. I've also been highly impressed with Brandon Boykin. He is a terrific gunner and excels in punt coverage, where the Eagles are among the league leaders. Boykin's hustle on the bad punt snap last week helped Najee Goode recover the ball and score the touchdown.

The rookie of the year would be Lane Johnson. He has been solid at right tackle. There have been some ups and downs, but Johnson generally holds his own.

The comeback player of the year is Jason Kelce. Did he really tear his ACL last year? You watch Kelce pull and block on the move and he looks as athletic as ever. It is great to see him back and playing well. Nate Allen didn't have to come back from an injury, but there is no question that he is a very different player this season than he was last year.

The best free agent acquisition is Connor Barwin. He is a solid, all-around linebacker. He's stout against the run. He can cover. He is tied for the team lead with three sacks. Barwin isn't a star, but he's a darn good player.

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