Five plays that decided the Raiders' fate against the Lions


Five plays that decided the Raiders' fate against the Lions

OAKLAND -- Still looking for something, anything on which to focus your rage, Raider Nation, after the Raiders' kick-in-the-teeth 28-27 loss to Detroit?Look no further.Sunday's white-knuckle defeat could be traced to five game-turning plays, in which the Raiders came up empty and could not close the door on the Lions. With hindsight always being 2020 and everyone a revisionist historian, a look back, then, at what could have been, what, in the Raiders' view, should have been

Play 1: Going for it on 4th and 1 in the first quarterThe Raiders had driven with seeming ease from their own 31-yard line to the Lions' 24 on their first possession but faced a 4th-and-1 with 9:01 to play in the first quarter.Knowing the importance of getting off to a quick start and getting on the scoreboard early after falling behind by a cumulative 68-0 in his last two games, at Miami and at Green Bay, Raiders coach Hue Jackson, ahem, lived on the edge and went for it. Carson Palmer dropped back and tried to hit rookie receiver Denarius Moore in the end zone. But Moore was held up by cornerback Chris Houston as he ran down field (no, there was no flag) and Palmer put just a little too much on the ball as it fell incomplete."The guy grabbed him early," Palmer said. "I don't know, that's a tough call to make. But that's completely on me. I need to give them a chance to score a touchdown there."Jackson defended his play call."I thought that was a penalty," Jackson said. "Obviously, they didn't call it. What I saw, from what my vantage point is, I seen the guy grab, kind of hook Denarius, and to me you have to take that shot. It looked and the guy was wide open. If you're going to do it, it's good to do it early in the game so it doesn't determine the outcome of the game."Obviously every play now will get questioned that is the reason why we did or didn't win, but we're going to stay aggressive. We took a shot there, I thought we had a good chance at it but we didn't hit it. We came up short."True, but had the Raiders kicked the relatively chip-shot 41-yard field goal, they would have had 30 points, or, two points more than the Lions finished with on the day.Play 2: DHB getting strippedA week after dropping three passes in the first quarter against the Packers, Darrius Heyward-Bey had the game of his life in catching a career-high eight passes for a career-best 155 yards.He streaked by Houston for a 43-yard touchdown catch and run when Houston made like it was a friendly game of two-hand touch in the second quarter. But in the third quarter, in hauling in a deep pass and taking off for the races, Heyward-Bey was caught from behind by linebacker Justin Durant, who stripped the ball loose at the Lions' 15-yard line.The football bounded about and was recovered at the Detroit 8-yard line by cornerback Alphonso Smith.So what, exactly happened on the fumble?"You saw it," Heyward-Bey said.If the Raiders don't lose the ball there, they are sitting pretty near the Lions' 10-yard line. And at the very least, a chippy Janikowski field goal gives Oakland another three points.It all made for a bittersweet day for Heyward-Bey."I don't think about what kind of game I played," he said. "I just think about how we lost."And his fumble contributed mightily.Play 3: Not going for '2' following Curry's touchdownTommy Kelly's strip-sack of Matthew Stafford at the Detroit 5-yard line preceded Aaron Curry's recovery and six-yard return for a touchdown that seemed to seal the game with 7:47 to play.But with the Raiders up by 12 points, 26-14, Jackson declined to go for the two-point conversion that, if successful, would have given the Raiders the true two-touchdown lead and, would have probably led to overtime.Kicking the extra-point was the same difference as missing the two-point attempt."Yup, you just kick it, you go for one," Jackson insisted. "There's a time to go for 'two' and there's a timeto me, I thought going for 'one' in that situation is the right thing to do, O.K.?"WellPlay 4: Carson Palmer throws deep incompletion on 3rd and 3 late in the fourth quarterIt worked to perfection against Chicago four weeks earlier.This time? Not so much.Needing three yards to salt the game away from the Lions' 48-yard line with 3:32 to play and nursing the six-point lead, Palmer tried to hit a streaking and wide open Chaz Schilens down the right sideline. Schilens got a hand on it, but the ball was a tad flat and just missed Schilens by half a step."I put too much on the ball," Palmer said. "I need to give him a better chance to make a play on it. That's a game-changing play."Against the Bears, the Raiders were facing 3rd-and-4 at the 50 with 3:59 to play when Palmer threw the ball to the same spot. That time, though, the ball was delivered perfectly and Louis Murphy hauled it in at the 3-yard line and one play later, Michael Bush plunged in for the game-winning score.Play 5: Um, Rolando McClain in deep coverage on Megatron. Seriously?I'll admit it: I Tweeted a Joe Montana reference as the Lions set up shop on their own 2-yard line with 2:14 to play and no timeouts left needing a touchdown to win -- isthatjohncandyinthestands?It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have made a John Elway reference.In any event, the Raiders middle linebacker finding himself in deep coverage on Calvin Johnson was a thing of beautyfor the Lions.On 1st and 10 from his own 39-yard line, Matthew Stafford lofted a high ball in the general vicinity of Johnson. The throw was short, but with McClain looking lost and oncoming safety Jerome Boyd not looking back at the ball, Johnson came back to it and easily caught it for a 48-yard gain to the Raiders' 13-yard line.So again, yes, McClain was in deep coverage on the most physically imposing and gifted receiver in the NFL."Go make that play," Jackson huffed. "It isn't a scheme issue. The ball's laying up in the air, you've got to go make that play when you've got an opportunity. Their guy made it and we didn't, so they won the game."
OK, but McClain, running 40-plus yards downfield?"Yeah, that's called the 2 Tampa," Jackson insisted. "That's what the middle linebacker does -- he runs right down the middle of the field. They made the play and we didn't."Two plays later, Stafford hit Johnson from six yards out for the game-tying score before Jason Hanson's PAT proved to be the winning point.Boyd had a similar experience on a hanging pass in Houston on Oct. 9.On 3rd and 23 from the Raiders 39-yard line, Matt Schaub floated a pass downfield and rather than make a play on the ball, Boyd made a play on Joel Dreessen, who hauled the ball in at the 5-yard line. That time, though, Michael Huff stepped up and made the play for the Raiders, intercepting Schaub in the end zone to end the game.Oh yeah, Huff was inactive with a strained hamstring against the Lions.

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.”