ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Add yet another low to a long list of them for the Oakland Raiders during a seven-year run of losing.
The Raiders' latest loss dropped them to 25-75 since the start of the 2003 season, the worst 100-game stretch in the team's 50-year history. And never in that half-century of football has the offense performed as poorly as it has to start this season.
Bucky Brooks live chat
In a recent live chat with fans on NFL.com, analyst Bucky Brooks was asked why the Raiders haven't benched starting QB JaMarcus Russell.
"The Raiders' woes are far bigger than JaMarcus Russell. The team's young receivers aren't ready for prime time, and their offensive line is suspect. The Raiders' rushing attack is not providing the stability that Russell needs to be successful.
"While he has not played up to par, Russell's surrounding cast members have yet to step up to the plate. Until they put a talented cast of players around him, it is impossible to determine if Russell has the goods to be a solid pro quarterback." **Transcript ...**
Oakland failed to score a touchdown for a second straight week in a 29-3 loss at Houston and managed just 165 yards of total offense. That marked the third straight week the Raiders failed to reach even that low bar, the first time the team has ever had three such games in succession.
Adding to the woes was news Monday that starting running back Darren McFadden will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair torn cartilage in his knee and miss two to four weeks. With a quarterback who can't even complete 40 percent of his passes, a hit to the struggling running game will only make things worse for Oakland.
McFadden injured his knee during his worst game as a pro, finishing with negative-3 yards rushing on six carries. He is averaging 36.3 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry this season -- far from the production the Raiders expected when they drafted him fourth overall in 2008.
Since rushing for 164 yards in his second game as a pro last year against Kansas City, McFadden has been held to 434 yards in 15 games with a 3.3 yards per carry average. He's dealt with two turf toe injuries, an injured shoulder and now a knee problem.
The running game will be placed on the shoulders of Justin Fargas and Michael Bush, who lack McFadden's breakaway speed but are better between the tackles. Oakland is fifth worst in the league in rushing, averaging 3.5 yards per carry and 88.8 yards per game.
"It's really surprising," tight end Zach Miller said. "That's always been something we've been good at no matter what. We're just not blocking guys well. Teams have done stuff before and we've still been able to run the ball. We're just not getting the job done up front."
The Raiders spent so much time working on developing the passing game in the preseason that maybe the running game isn't as sharp as when it ranked in the top 10 each of the past two seasons.
Fargas, the team's leading rusher the past three seasons, got his most extensive action Sunday, but managed only 24 yards on 10 carries, including being hit about 5 yards deep in the end zone for a safety.
"We ran the ball a little bit, but it was more of a thing where we say, 'Well, we know we can run it. Let's work on the pass,"' Fargas said. "You can't hang your hat on what you did before. It's kind of like you have to still improve it. Like yesterday, teams stack the box against us. And if you're not really detailed and if you don't control the line of scrimmage, you're not going to be able to run the ball."
Coach Tom Cable dismissed that theory by saying Oakland had its best half of running in the first half of the opener against San Diego. He said it's just a matter of the linemen getting lower and doing a better job attacking the defense.
Fixing the running game will be crucial to helping out Russell. He has topped the 40 percent completion rate just once all season, and is the only quarterback in the NFL to have a mark so low in a game this season. He was 12 for 33 for 128 yards against the Texans, but Cable said it was one of his best performances of the season.
"He was on target all but really two throws," Cable said. "When you have that many drops -- I think there were nine that I counted -- if you put nine completions or at least the opportunity of nine completions on his deal, you'd say he might have been as good as anybody in pro football yesterday."
Oakland is starting a pair of rookie receivers in Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy. Heyward-Bey, the seventh overall pick, has just two catches in four games. Murphy is tied for the team lead with 11 catches, but lamented four dropped balls Sunday.
With the passing game performing this poorly, the Raiders' offense is worse at this point than after four games in 2006, when the team went 2-14 under head coach Art Shell and offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. The Raiders have scored five fewer points this season than after four games in 2006, and have gained 67 fewer yards than the team did that year.
"The most frustrating part losing here is I feel we are really a good team," Murphy said. "I don't care what the stats say, I don't care what the media says about us, I feel like we have a really good team. We have some really good core leaders on this team and I feel we're just waiting for that one exciting play, exciting moment to take us over the top so we can just keep it rolling."
NOTES: Cable also said RT Cornell Green will miss two to four weeks with a strained calf. ... LG Robert Gallery has been out since breaking a bone in his left leg Sept. 20 at Kansas City. Cable said he's a long shot to return this week.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press