OAKLAND — As the preseason winds down, attention zeroes in on Sept. 8, opening day for most NFL teams. Packers-49ers. Falcons-Saints. Giants-Cowboys. A current of excitement prickles in the air. Anticipation is running full throttle.
But for the Raiders and their fans, the big game may come a week later: Sept. 15, a home game against Jacksonville. If Friday night's 34-26 loss at O.co Coliseum is any indication, the Raiders just may be the worst team in the league. They could be competing, if that is the right word, with the lowly Jaguars for the first pick in the 2014 draft.
The third preseason game is generally viewed as the most telling tune-up, because the starters get more playing time than in the other three practice games. That was true Friday night, with most first-teamers on both sides playing into the third quarter, and it was a disaster for the Raiders. They were outgained 252 yards to 92 by the Bears in the first half, and outscored 27-3. Only a 58-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski in the closing seconds — off the A's infield dirt, no less — allowed the Raiders to avoid a goose egg.
And it seemed more one-sided than that.
The Raiders did practically nothing right in that first half. They couldn't block for their quarterbacks, and when they did, those passers were dreadful. Starter Matt Flynn completed 3 of 6 passes for just 19 yards, was intercepted twice and left the field to boos. His reliever, Terrelle Pryor, completed 2 of 4 for 32 yards and probably should have been intercepted once, but Chicago safety Chris Conte couldn't hang on to the ball.
The Oakland defense looked equally unprepared. Cutler completed 12 of 21 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown in the half, and Matt Forte ran for 76 yards on just six carries. Michael Bush, the former Raider, scored twice on runs. The home team missed tackles, applied little pressure and let receivers roam freely.
The sliver of hope came early in the third quarter as Pryor, operating behind the first-team offensive line (and against Chicago's first-team defense), came to life. He kept Oakland's first possession moving with a nifty jump pass after scrambling away from pressure, finding Rod Streater at the left sideline for 19 yards. And he one-upped himself at the end of the drive, taking off as the pass rush flew past him, outrunning several Bears and reaching across the goal line to complete a 25-yard touchdown.
Pryor had some other highlights, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Nick Kasa. Third-string quarterback Matt McGloin added a scoring pass to fullback Jamize Olawale, and the final score looked fairly respectable.
But it was largely crafted by backups — guys who will be playing supporting roles in a few weeks, or not playing in the NFL at all. The important minutes were dominated by the Bears, a fact that does not bode well for Dennis Allen's second season as Raiders head coach.
- WR Rod Streater left with a head injury and did not return.
- RB Darren McFadden, S Tyvon Branch, G Mike Brisiel and NT Pat Sims were among the Raiders who sat out with injuries.
- McGloin threw two interceptions for Oakland. Former Raiders QB Josh McCown threw one for the Bears.