Raiders

After giving Raiders' defense a lift, will Bowman be back in 2018? 'I don't...'

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AP

After giving Raiders' defense a lift, will Bowman be back in 2018? 'I don't...'

ALAMEDA – The Broncos were a yard from the goal line, but NaVorro Bowman could tell quarterback Paxton Lynch was trying to throw it in. Eyes were evidence in this regard. Lynch locked on tight end Virgil Green near the baseline, so Bowman stopped tracking the quarterback and drifted toward the intended receiver. He got in Green’s way and defensed the pass. Reggie Nelson batted it back to Bowman, who caught it lying on the ground. In the end zone, of all places.

Interception, Raiders. Drought over.

The Raiders set an NFL record going 10-plus games without a pick. The Raiders went 357 passes without an interception, so this one was a big deal.

“Oh, God. We celebrated,” defensive play caller John Pagano said. “It was like the Holy Grail they brought walking over. It was outstanding. I wanted to put that ball on a pedestal. That’s a great effort play by No. 53 [NaVorro Bowman]. You can’t say enough of him filling in an A-gap, turning, running. The tight end was covered by Reggie. All of the sudden, he loops back inside, the quarterback throws it, but just the effort of 53, getting over there, hitting it, tipping it, Reggie keeping it alive and that ball being able to fall.

“That was a great ball. I touched it. I made sure I touched it. That thing was awesome.”

Bowman hasn’t been here that long. The 21-14 victory over Denver was Bowman’s fifth game in silver and black, his desired destination after the 49ers released him early in the season. The interception gap didn’t have the same weight, but he was happy to lift it all the same.

“Anytime you make a play like that,” Bowman said, “you expect it to propel you in a positive direction.”

It certainly did. It was part of a solid defensive showing that featured five sacks and (drumroll, please)…a real, live turnover. It has to be graded on a curve because Lynch was downright awful, but that defensive effort could be a foundation for better.

“I think it could help us,” Bowman said. “Teams that start figuring things out in November and December have a chance to get hot and close the season strong. We still have a ton of work to do, but that Broncos game was a good sign, and showed that we have the capability to control the game on defense.”

Pagano tweaked some things after Ken Norton Jr. was fired early last week. Head coach Jack Del Rio wanted the team to play faster, so Pagano made assignments easier even when disguised as complex.

“Simplifying things helped everyone, coaches included,” Bowman said. “It got everybody playing fast and got people comfortable and utilize our talents.”

The Raiders have given Bowman on-field control to line the unit up right. The middle linebacker has had some issues in coverage, but has brought stability to the interior defense, with 44 tackles, a pick and two passes defensed with the Raiders.

“This scheme allows you to just play,” Bowman said. “The last scheme I was in asked you to be very specific in some areas. Some times it’s best to just let players go play. You can’t draw it up from A to Z and expect everything to go according to plan. Over here they allow me to play a little bit and utilize my experience.”

Bowman signed a one-year deal with the Raiders in Week 7. They aren’t committed to him beyond that, and have fifth-round pick Marquel Lee as a long-term possibility. General manager Reggie McKenze said during the bye week he was open, yet noncommittal, to re-signing Bowman to another deal.

“Yes, he could be. He’s a football player,” McKenzie said. “Needless to say, his experience, and the way he plays...I’m talking about from an instincts and savvy standpoint, anytime you come two years off an injury, it’s always going to be better than the next year, so that’s not going to be a deterrent, but he can still play.”

McKenzie referred to an Achilles’ injury suffered early last season. It takes time to return from that injury, and it’s possible some lost explosiveness could return as McKenzie suggests.

Bowman believes he can still be an impactful player. He has five games left in this season, but admits he has pondered a future that keeps him in silver and black.

“I still study the same way,” Bowman said. “I still feel like I can play this game at a high level. I feel like I can average 10 tackles a game. I don’t see why they wouldn’t sign me back. I’d love to stay. I like the area. I like the team and the organization. Hopefully we can make it happen.”

Report: Foot injury snaps Penn's ironman streak, ends his season early

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AP

Report: Foot injury snaps Penn's ironman streak, ends his season early

Raiders left tackle Donald Penn had started 170 consecutive regular season games dating back to 2007. That streak will come to a end on Christmas night. 

A foot injury suffered early in Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys will end his season two games early, per an NFL Network report. He will have surgery Thursday to repair the issue. 

That's a major loss up front. Penn has been Derek Carr's blindside protector since 2014, as reliable as anyone on this roster. Losing him down the stretch will hurt. 

"Absolutely, (he's) our leader," reserve tackle Vadal Alexander said. "Him, Rodney (Hudson), are veterans of the group. Our leaders. Our OGs as we call them."

The Raiders adjusted well without Penn. Right tackle Marshall Newhouse moved to the left side -- he has experience there -- and Alexander took his play on the right.

"We all are experienced," Alexander said. "All seven O-linemen who suit up are experienced. I thought it went really smooth.”

Penn missed last year's playoff loss to Houston with a knee injury that required surgery, but it did not impact his regular-season streak. It was a point of pride, and Penn's certainly sad to see it go. 

He remains under contract through 2019 after renegotiating his deal this fall. He has $3 million in guaranteed money in 2018, part of a package worth up to $8.35 million. 

Inside Carr's final lunge, and what happened to Crabtree on fateful play

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USATI

Inside Carr's final lunge, and what happened to Crabtree on fateful play

OAKLAND – The Raiders had a 3rd-and-3 at the Dallas 8-yard line with 39 seconds left Sunday when Michael Crabtree got tapped on the shoulder. An official told him to leave the field and get evaluated for a concussion.

The veteran receiver was flummoxed. He felt fine, and saw no reason to abandon his unit at this crucial juncture. He headed for the sideline and asked head coach Jack Del Rio for help getting back into the play. Crabtree’s retort was never heard. You can’t argue with the independent concussion experts assigned to look for possible head trauma.

Evaluator concern must’ve come from a pass interference call two plays earlier, where the back of Crabtree’s head hit the turf following a scrap for the ball. Crabtree felt fine. That was confirmed upon evaluation in the medical tent when he was cleared to return.

Problem: There was no reason to return.

The Raiders lost on the play Crabtree missed. Quarterback Derek Carr scrambled free from the pocket and headed for the right pylon. He had the first down secured and a sideline free, but angled for the end zone trying to win the game right there.

Cowboys safety Jeff Heath hit Carr as the signal caller stretched for the goal line. The ball came free before Carr went out of bounds, meaning the ball was technically fumbled through a corner of the end zone. Technically, that’s a turnover and a touchback.

Dallas was awarded possession and a 20-17 victory at Oakland Coliseum a short time later.

That final play wasn’t supposed to go down like that. Coordinator Todd Downing had something else in mind.

“We actually had a play called, a certain play called on the other side of the field, and then the refs made us take (Crabtree) out,” Carr said. “Then we had to change our call.”

It was a major change, not only in design. Availability was also an issue. Carr targeted Crabtree 17 times in 38 pass attempts during a game with Amari Cooper sidelined with an ankle sprain.

Crabtree was livid at being pulled for such a crucial play.

“Of course I was pissed off. It is the last play of the game and I am trying to help the team win,” he said. “But, it is cool. I can't do anything about it now.”

Carr had an opportunity to complete a dramatic comeback. He had four guys in the pattern and Marshawn Lynch in to block on this play. Carr didn’t have open options in a collapsing pocket when he broke free. He tried to pump fake Jared Cook open, but his cover man stayed close. Y’all know what happened next.

“I was just trying to beat No. 38 to the corner,” Carr said. “I was able to beat him, but as soon as I stuck the ball out and he pushed – it just slipped out of my glove. I tried to hold onto it. It wasn’t like I didn’t try. Obviously, there’s a lot of different things (I could’ve done) – throw it away, kick the field goal, run out of bounds. In that moment, I was just trying to win for my teammates.”

No Raider faulted him for it. Carr had been told to go down swinging these final three games after a disastrous loss at Kansas City the week prior. The quarterback did exactly that during a tough, not-always-pretty affair the Raiders had a chance to win late despite some screwy officiating decisions.

“Yeah, you can go back and say, ‘Hey don’t reach that thing across there,’” Del Rio said. “We would’ve all been really happy if he reached it across there and held onto the thing while he did. He moved with his feet there. Made a great play or potentially a great play, that’s just an inch away from a great play and ends up unfortunately going the other way for them.”

Carr understands the rule. He knew how the game would end after the ball came free and then through the end zone.

“I left it all out there,” Carr said. “I’m just trying to win for my teammates. No excuse. I have to hold onto the ball.”