Breaking down the 'Immaculate Interception'


Breaking down the 'Immaculate Interception'

ALAMEDA -- The mystery is solved. Somewhat.Why did the Raiders have only 10 players on the field for Michael Huff's "Immaculate Interception" that sealed their 25-20 victory over Houston on Sunday?"I saw two D-linemen run on; I didn't see nobody run off," said safety Jerome Boyd. "So, it was just a miscommunication. Didn't want to be an extra person on the field."Yes, Boyd bolted during the stoppage in play after Texans quarterback Matt Schaub spiked the ball to stop the clock with six seconds to play and Houston at the Raiders' 5-yard line.

There were two defensive linemen who entered the game at the time -- Tommy Kelly and John Henderson. They replaced Richard Seymour and Lamarr Houston, according to Kelly.And when the Texans lined up for the fateful final play, hardly a soul noticed the Raiders were playing a man short. Save for Mike Mitchell, who was supposed to be double-teaming Texans tight end Joel Dreesen."I looked back and wasn't nobody there," Mitchell said. "I said, 'Oh, shhhhhhooooooot, this ain't good.'"Before the ball got snapped, me and (Tyvon) Branch were both just, 'Something's wrong.' But we couldn't do anything. We had to play it out, and we didn't want to be too crazy because then (Houston) would realize it."Mitchell picked up Dreesen, who went to the right. Schaub rolled out to his left, pumped the ball, faked like he was going to run, was closed in on by Branch, then tossed the ball in Jacoby Jones' direction for the potential game-winner.Instead Huff cradled it and fell to the ground to clinch the heart-stopping win."My thing was," Branch said, "I wasn't going to let (Schaub) run it. He was going to have to work for it."Mitchell agreed."Yeah, no chance. I mean, he would have at least had to cut back or do something. It wasn't going to be easy. Great play, though. Great play by Huff. Great pressure. Thank you, Jesus."When I saw Huff catch it, we were so exhausted, and this is only my second game back, I was really exhausted. Only thing I could do was just fall on Huff and lay there."Still, several Raiders admitted they did not know about their "missing man formation" that many have said was an unintentional tribute to the late Al Davis until Monday or Tuesday."We only had 10 helmets on the field, but it was definitely 11 men out there," said cornerback Stanford Routt. "It was definitely 11 men out there."Meaning what, exactly?"It was very strange," said quarterback Jason Campbell. "To be short one guy on the field? Man, Mr. Davis had a hand in that. Even when the fullback went out to the flat and dropped one for a touchdown."Added Kelly: "Al D. probably had a little help in that."All Boyd could do, though was be thankful his gaffe, as well-intentioned as it was, did not cost his team.So what was on Boyd's mind when he realized he should have stayed on the field?"I'm glad Huff got that (stuff)," he said with an uneasy laugh. "That was the only thing."

Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs


Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs

ALAMEDA – NaVorro Bowman was a sponge this week, absorbing the Raiders defense as quickly as possible.

The veteran inside linebacker signed with the Raiders Monday afternoon and did enough to play Thursday night’s pivotal home game against Kansas City.

That’s a huge plus for a Raiders team looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Bowman should be able to help right away despite being new to the scheme.

“He’s a veteran. He understands ball,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday. “We haven’t tried to install the entire playbook, but specific game plans and things. He’s had a good week. Even though it’s a short week, we feel good and he’ll play.”

He’ll probably start at inside linebacker and play the base defense as least. While many have criticized his speed and coverage skills diminished from major injuries, Bowman remains a sure tackler who can provide solid on-field leadership.

Veteran savvy and natural ability should carry Bowman while he masters a new scheme, allowing him to make the immediate impact required with the Raiders reeling at 2-4.

“He is very instinctive,” Del Rio said. "He’s a veteran guy that’s been there before. He understands what it looks like to lineup against a good football team and help us win.”

Bowman’s fresh and healthy, a step above his others at his position. Inside linebackers Cory James (knee), Marquel Lee (ankle) and Nicholas Morrow (ankle) are all questionable heading into Thursday’s game.

He has also been a willing teacher to a group of inside linebackers featuring a second-year pro and three rookies.

“They’re just soaking it up,” Del Rio said. “They’ll ask, ‘When do you lift? How often do you lift? When do you meet? When do you cover this?’ It’s good stuff to have for a really young group.”

In other injury news, right tackle Marshall Newhouse is out, leaving Vadal Alexander to start in his spot. David Sharpe should be the swing tackle in reserve.

Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’


Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’

ALAMEDA – Todd Downing has friends with fantasy football teams. Those faux general managers, like many across the roto world, took Raiders with high draft picks.

They would like to know why Derek Carr isn’t throwing touchdowns in bulk, Amari Cooper’s in a slump and Marshawn Lynch isn’t getting more carries.

“I have friends that have him on their fantasy team that are mad at me for that,” Downing said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s part of the business.”

Ah, the life of an NFL coordinator. Players get credit when things go right. Play callers sit over a Bunsen burner the rest of the time.

Downing understands that part of this gig.

“I welcome the responsibility that this job has afforded me,” he said. “I understand that I’m going to have to deal with negative comments and consequences when things aren’t going well. I’m looking forward to standing up here in a more positive fashion some time soon.”

Positives were expected right away. He was given the keys to a Lamborghini with a franchise quarterback under center, 1,000-yard receivers on each flank, an older back considered among the best of his generation, and the NFL’s biggest and most expensive offensive line.

The Raiders ranked No. 6 in total offense before adding Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Now they’re 30th heading into Thursday night’s game against Kansas City.

The mob is lighting torches, armed with pitchforks. After six weeks.

Everyone has an opinion on what’s wrong and how to fix this offense. More interior runs, less outside zone. More play action, please. Go deep, a lot. Have Derek hold on to the ball longer. Have Derek get rid of it quick. Do all that at once. Do it now.

Downing’s going to stick with his system. The Raiders will stick with their process, thank you very much, with faith that things will turn.

“When you look at the tape, you can see that we’re so close on so many things,” Downing said. “I know that sounds cliché and I know that sounds like someone sitting up here and trying to give you the rose-colored glasses, but it’s the truth. We know that we’re just this close to making a couple more plays each game and being able to come out on top and feeling like we put together a good product.

“…We’re looking for answers right now, but we know those answers exist in our room and in our scheme. Once we hit our stride, we’re excited to see what it looks like.”

There’s reason to believe that can happen. Take the season’s first two games, for example. The Raiders scored 71 points in that span. There’s talent everywhere in the starting lineup and behind it.

That’s why concern reigns during a four-game losing streak where the offense is averaging 13.1 points. They can’t sustain drives, come through on third down or block consistently in the run game. Their play count is dismally low. According to the Associated Press, the Raiders aver averaging 54 plays per game. Every other team has at least 60. The 2005 49ers were the last team that averaged such a sum. The Raiders haven’t had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver.

Offense is blamed for a dismal 2-4 start. Even the universally beloved Carr has taken some heat for lackluster performances.

“I don’t think there’s a single guy that can look back over the last few weeks and say, ‘You know what, I’m really pleased with how I’ve played over the last three weeks,’ or, ‘Called the last three weeks’ or, ‘Coached my position the last three weeks.’ We all own this together,” Downing said. “There’s no one guy that is going to save it or break it or anything in between. We need to do this as a team and everybody needs to make the plays they’re afforded the opportunity to make and I need to call the right plays when afforded the opportunity to call them.”

The Raiders can and must do better before falling further. Righting the ship too late to reach the season’s goals might hurt as much as a completely dismal campaign.

Pressing, however, isn’t the answer.

“You do have to stay patient,” Downing said. “I tell the offense this every week, but it’s never been more true than where we’re at now as an offense. We have a belief in what we’ve done this far, and the system we’ve put in place, and the playmakers we have in that room, and the coaches that are up in the room with me, and you will never see me waiver in my belief of any single one of those guys, including myself. If I did, and I started acting different or started calling games differently, then that would mean I didn’t really believe in the first place.”