MAKING THE GRADE
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here is how the Oakland Raiders (4-8) graded in their 31-24 loss Thursday to the Dallas Cowboys (7-5):
Passing offense: For two series in the first half, Matt McGloin gave the Raiders quarterback play that was as good or better than anything they'd seen this season. He led two touchdown drives and was 5-for-5 on third-down conversion passes for 81 yards. Other than that, not much. He lost a snap from center at the 2-yard line that turned into a touchdown. Threw a fourth-quarter interception into the end zone toward Jacoby Ford -- a jump ball to a 5-foot-9 receiver. Andre Holmes had the best game a Raiders receiver has had this season with seven catches for 136 yards.
Rushing offense: The Cowboys, giving up more than 133 yards per game against the run, were supposed to be easy to run against given Dallas' Tampa 2 defense that plays it fairly straight. Instead, the Raiders had their second worst rushing performance of the season (25 carries, 50 yards). Rashad Jennings had only 35 yards on 17 carries, but had two 1-yard touchdown runs. Darren McFadden had 13 on five attempts, a 2.6 yards per carry average below the 3.6 he had before.
Pass defense: The Raiders never got close to an interception against Tony Romo, who started slowly but finished 23 of 32 for 225 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant. Romo completed 17 of his last 19 passes, starting with a 73-yard drive to end the first half that swung momentum decidedly in the favor of the Cowboys. The Raiders were mostly OK with the ``top down'' coverage which prevents deep balls, but Romo too often found open receivers in short and intermediate range.
Rush defense: The big surprise was how the Cowboys, the NFL's 30th ranked rushing offense, pushed around the Raiders in the second half. Lance Dunbar, an undrafted rookie free agent, had 12 carries for 82 yards, including a 45-yard run. DeMarco Murray was kept in check for much of the game but began to gain ground late. He finished with 63 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns. Dallas had only one game of more than 100 yards rushing all season and had 132 of their 144 yards in the second half in taking control of the game.
Special teams: Great start with a 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Greg Jenkins, with Kaelin Burnett forcing the fumble from Terrance Williams. Punter Marquette King continued his excellentccpunting of late, with a 53.0 average, a 43.6 net and two punts inside the 20-yard line. Jenkins averaged 10.5 yards on four punt returns, an upgrade over Ford, who whose duties as a wide receiver were expanded because of injuries. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 45-yard field goal when the Raiders were trying to hang close in the fourth quarter.
Coaching: Another fast start, no finish game for the Raiders, although it's hard to know if the coaching staff can do anything to help the team's psyche. Coach Dennis Allen insisted the Raiders threw everything they had at the Cowboys and didn't play ``coverage'' and limit rushers with a 21-7 lead. If so, they weren't doing it very well. Still hard to fathom why Raiders didn't involve Terrelle Pryor, their most explosive runner, in the wildcat instead of using Rashad Jennings.
-- JERRY McDONALD