By Steve Corkran, Contra Costa Times –
MIAMI — Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly sat at his locker, head in his hands, unsure what to make of his team’s resounding 35-13 defeat to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Kelly asked for a few minutes to compose his thoughts. Even then, he said, he still wasn’t certain how the Dolphins turned a 10-7 deficit midway through the third quarter into a laugher.
“I just did not expect this,” Kelly said. “We had a great week of practice, everybody looked focused, we came in at halftime and had the lead. I just don’t know where the wheels fell off.”
The tide turned on a third-and-1 play, when Dolphins running back Reggie Bush bounced off strong safety Tyvon Branch at the line of scrimmage, ran through arm tackles of free safety Michael Huff and cornerback Shawntae Spencer and into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.
Ten plays later, Bush burst through the left side of the line, toward the sideline and outsprinted Branch, Huff and cornerback Joselio Hanson for a 65-yard touchdown.
From there, the rout was on. All that remained was to see how bad things would get in the end.
Never mind that the Dolphins tacked on a meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter. That was simply a bonus for the Dolphins, who won for the first time this season.
Miami lost all its exhibition games and its regular-season opener. Hence, the Raiders expected to even their record at 1-1 entering a three-game stretch against legitimate Super Bowl-contending teams —the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons.
“If the time ain’t now, it’s going to be over here soon,” Kelly said. “You know that. In the NFL, you can’t fall behind too far. You aren’t going to dig yourselves out of a hole on this level.
“This week was must-win. But, Miami, we’re supposed to have this one. I’m sorry. You take your hats off to them, but, hey, if we can’t beat Miami, it’s going to be rough. It’s going to be rough.”
Raiders coach Dennis Allen, quarterback Carson Palmer and everyone else interviewed refused to use the heat and humidity as an excuse for the Raiders’ latest meltdown in Miami.
“I’m not going to use those factors as a crutch,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better. They were the better team today. They out-executed us.”
Oakland’s passing game appears up to snuff. Carson Palmer passed for 373 yards Sunday and has 670 through two games.
It’s the running game that is stuck in neutral. Darren McFadden netted only 22 yards on 11 carries. Overall, the Raiders have totaled 68 yards on 34 carries the first two games.
“We’re going to get it,” fullback Marcel Reece said. “That’s what we do. That’s what we live by. D-Mac is our bell cow, and I take it personal to get him going, as my running back. It’s something that we’re going to make sure happens.”
McFadden said he didn’t notice the Dolphins keying on him any more than the Chargers did in the opener.
“They have a good front seven, and they were getting after it today,” McFadden said. “Running the ball was something that we needed to do, and they stopped us from doing it.”
Allen and Palmer talk about the importance of staying on schedule, meaning keeping the down and distance in their favor.
The Raiders weren’t able to accomplish that Sunday without an effective running game. In the end, the Raiders became one-dimensional in relying upon their passing game.
It also didn’t help that their first 10 drives started from their 20-yard line or worse, with an average of their own 13½-yard line.
“We haven’t helped our offense out by creating field position for them,” Allen said. “We’ve got to do a better job. “. . . We’ve got to take the ball away and create some shorter fields for our offense. In this league, it’s hard to go 80-plus yards on every drive.”
Palmer said it’s incumbent upon the Raiders to make the best of their circumstances.
Twice the Raiders were inside the Dolphins 10-yard line and settled for field goals.
“Offensively, we didn’t help our defense out by “ . . . sustaining longer drives and eating up the clock,” Palmer said. “We obviously didn’t score enough points. It’s unacceptable, and I put that on my shoulders. I’m the quarterback, and it’s my job to find ways to get us in the end zone.”
In the end, the Dolphins executed the kind of game plan Allen envisioned. They rushed for 263 yards—Bush finished with 172 — passed effectively when needed and controlled the clock for almost 35 minutes.
“We stuck with the run game,” Dolphins guard Richie Incognito said. “We kept hitting them with big chunks and then, eventually, those 8-, 9-yard runs, those will start breaking for 20 or 25.”
Kelly called the loss “embarrassing.” In the past, he didn’t see much hope for change on the heels of such a defeat.
“This is different, because we’re a whole lot better than when we went 2-14 and 4-12,” Kelly said. “We have a way better team. We’re more talented. “ .. . . But you have to be able to produce on Sunday, and we aren’t.”