By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND — At 0-3 in the United States, the Oakland Raiders look to foreign soil to gain their first win of the season when they will “host” the 1-2 Miami Dolphins Sunday at Wembley Stadium in the NFL’s International Series in London, England.
Even after the Raiders 15th consecutive loss in the Eastern time zone, a 16-9 loss to the New England Patriots at Foxborough, Oakland gave New England everything it could handle, according to head coach Dennis Allen following the loss.
“Tough loss. Tough pill to swallow,” Allen said.
“I thought our guys fought their tails off, gave ourselves an opportunity to win. I thought we tied the football game or at least got within an extra point of being able to tie the football game there at the end of the game. Disappointed about that. Still we have to be able to…at the moment of truth, there’s time where we have to be able to make some plays and we didn’t do that enough today and came up on the short end of the stick. But I thought it was a better effort by our team and we get on a long flight and head to London and get ready for the next one.”
Oakland appeared to have tied the game on Darren McFadden’s touchdown run, but the play was nullified by a questionable holding call on rookie guard Gabe Jackson. On the next play, Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr’s pass bounced off the hands of wide receiver Denarius Moore, falling into the waiting arms of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for the game-ending interception.
“I did not [think that was a holding call on Jackson]” Allen would later say.
Carr completed 21-of-34 passing for 174 yards, with that lone interception. Oakland
“I thought Derek was solid. I thought he was solid. I didn’t think we did anything offensively spectacular, but I thought, especially early in the game, I thought we were able to control the clock a little bit,” said Allen.
Carr will be without one of his favorite targets for the foreseeable as wide receiver Rod Streater was lost for next five-to-six weeks after fracturing his foot Sunday.
With a depleted wide receiver group, Carr is going to have to rely on James Jones, the recently signed Vincent Brown, Andre Holmes, and Moore to improve a Raiders passing game that ranks 31st in passing yards (190 ypg), and dead-last in points per game (12.3 ppg).
Defensively, Oakland played strong, holding quarterback Tom Brady to 234 passing yards and one touchdown on 24-of-37 passing. Strong safety Tyvon Branch led the Raiders with seven tackles (four solo) but just like Streater, Branch fractured his foot as well. Branch was placed on injured reserved, ending his season early again. Branch missed the final 14 games in 2013 with a lis franc injury.
Wednesday, Oakland claimed former Dolphins safety, Brandian Ross off waivers. Ross is expected to see plenty of action Sunday.
Ross played in 30 games for the Raiders from 2012-13, making 14 starts. He started 13 games at safety last year for Oakland, totaling 101 tackles (59 solo) and two sacks. His career totals include 31 games played with 14 starts, 115 tackles (72 solo), two sacks, six passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Miami, is coming off a tough loss at home to the Kansas City Chiefs, 34-15 Sunday. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw three touchdowns, but the Dolphins defense sacked Smith five times; linebacker Jelani Jenkins and defensive tackle Randy Starks each recorded 1.5 sacks.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown five touchdowns and two interceptions, but his 5.0 yards per pass attempt ranks near the bottom in the league among the 32 starting quarterbacks. In two of the Dolphins three games this year, Tannehill has been sacked four times. Oakland needs to apply pressure to a Dolphins offensive line that has trouble protecting their third-year quarterback.
The Raiders secondary must have their eyes on Dolphins speedster, wide receiver Mike Wallace the entire game. Wallace is one of the more dangerous wide receivers in the League, and can go off in a hurry.
Wallace leads all Dolphins wide receivers in catches (17), yards (211), and touchdowns (2).
Players to Watch:
Oakland – The running backs. Whether its Maurice Jones-Drew or Darren McFadden, Oakland’s ground game has got to wake up sometime. Opponents have out-rushed the Silver and Black 476 to 193. With MJD sitting out Sunday’s game with a broken hand, McFadden rushed for 59 yards on 18 carries upping his team-leading 111 yards rushing for the season. Carr, not MJD, is the team’s second leading rusher with 57 yards.
Miami – Mike Wallace, wide receiver. As I mentioned before, Wallace is a game changer and Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver better have a great game plan to stop him. Wallace and Tannehill have had their issues connecting on deep passes, but if Tannehill gets the ball in Wallace’s hands, look out. Cornerbacks Terrell Brown and Carlos Rogers could be in for a long day.