Raiders

Five-time Pro Bowl DE Mathis plans to retire after Colts' season finale

Five-time Pro Bowl DE Mathis plans to retire after Colts' season finale

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Robert Mathis speaks, the Indianapolis Colts listen. Every time.

It's a right the outside linebacker earned by playing 14 productive NFL seasons - all with the same team, all with the same passion, all with the same penchant for putting quarterbacks on the ground.

So when he finished practice Friday and gathered his teammates, Mathis stood in the center and made his announcement quickly and clearly: Sunday's season finale against Jacksonville will be his last game. He made it official a short time later in an emotional news conference.

"This will be 98's last game," he said.

Mathis had been around long enough to know how fickle the football business can be.

He's seen the Colts let some of his closest friends - Dwight Freeney, Reggie Wayne and Antoine Bethea - walk away in free agency. He remembers Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison failing to get a call when Indy didn't re-sign him after 2008. And he'll never forget the mind-blowing moment on March 7, 2012 when team owner Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning tearfully announced they were parting ways.

If it can happen to them, Mathis knows it can happen to anyone.

And at age 35, the signs were all there that he could be next big game to hit the street.

After missing 13 games in his first 11 pro seasons, Mathis has missed 19 over the last three, including the entire 2014 season - the first four to serve a performance enhancers suspension for what he claimed was a banned fertility drug, the last 12 after tearing his Achilles tendon.

His stats have taken a hit, too.

From 2004 through 2013, Mathis never had fewer than seven sacks or 35 tackles in a season. Those numbers dropped to seven sacks and 24 tackles in 2015 and four sacks and 22 tackles this season. He's never complained..

So Mathis decided to leave the game on his own terms.

"Rob has nothing more to prove, he's such a damn good football player," kicker Adam Vinatieri said. "He's just a hard-working dude, a silent warrior."

That's how Mathis wants to be remembered. Yes, he can be pithy and poignant, with succinct and strongly worded one-liners, but he'd rather just work.

Not many pass rushers have done it better than the Atlanta native, who almost didn't get a chance to prove himself.

Back in 2003, Mathis remembers many scouts downgrading his draft-day stock because they thought he was too small, too slow and too untested to become a key player in the NFL. Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian and the Colts' scouts valued something else in the undersized Alabama A&M product. It didn't take long to find out they were right.

After Polian traded Indy's 2014 fourth-round draft pick to Houston for an extra fifth-rounder in 2013, he wasted no time selecting Mathis with the 138th overall pick despite coach Tony Dungy's contention the price may have been too steep. Turns out, the Colts got a steal.

"We saw an explosive guy, a game-changing player who we thought could play two positions," Polian said. "You could see it almost from the first time he got on the field. He was quiet - except when he put the uniform on and then everyone knew he was around."

Mathis made sure nobody ever overlooked him again.

His resume includes six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances; two Super Bowl appearances with one world championship; the Colts' career record for sacks (122); the 2013 league sacks title (19½); and his trademark tomahawk chop that has forced a league-high 51 fumbles since 2003.

Numbers only tell part of the tale.

"I think pound for pound, he is probably the best pass rusher ever," Colts linebacker Erik Walden said. "You don't find many guys doing it from both sides. He can line up anywhere and get to the quarterback."

Yet Mathis' contributions inside the team complex go far beyond stats.

Tight end Dwayne Allen calls Mathis a treasure trove of information. Coach Chuck Pagano calls him a model of success. Everyone else calls Mathis captain.

But the most apt description might be this: a winner.

"We wouldn't be sitting where we are today and had the success that we have had over the last five years without that guy," Pagano said. "It's a debt I cannot repay. I have the utmost respect for him, not only as a football player, but as a man, father, husband and a human being. All that he does inside this building and all that he does outside this building for the community, he is a warrior. They don't make them like that.

"I guarantee he has walked in this building every single day for 14 years and walked into that locker room and looked up and saw his nameplate still up there and a jersey number still up there and said, 'I'm going to die before I let somebody take this from me.'"

He just never had to say it aloud - until Friday.

"The game of football," he said, "has been like my best friend."

Carr takes responsibility for Raiders loss, 'it is all my fault'

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AP

Carr takes responsibility for Raiders loss, 'it is all my fault'

Derek Carr sees the world through rose-colored lenses. The Raiders quarterback can find light in dark days, put a positive spin on most anything.

Not Sunday. He refused to sugar coat a 26-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs might’ve killed the Raiders’ playoff hopes.

Frustration was visible on his face, audible in his tone. This one hurt. Might for a while.

Carr wasn’t mad at anyone else. He was upset with himself, and made it clear the angry mob should stay at his door.

“It sucked,” Carr said after losing a virtual must-win game. “It was not good enough and you can put it all on me. Don’t you blame one coach, one player. It is all my fault.”

Look, Carr wasn’t good. This might’ve been one of his worst games as a pro, since his rookie year at least.

He had a 36.3 passer rating through three quarters, with 69 yards to his credit. The Raiders had three plays or less in six of their first eight drives. He finished with 211 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, totals padded during a too-little, too-late fourth quarter comeback try.

Despite Carr’s desire to take all the blame, there’s plenty to go around. The game plan wasn’t great. The pass protection wasn’t superb. Michael Crabtree dropped two passes. Johnny Holton lost a fumble and had a pass clang off his hands and get intercepted.

Carr still points back at himself as the root of the Raiders’ offensive woes. He’s the triggerman. The buck apparently stops there.

“I get patted on the back when I throw for 300 yards, but I could tell you 15 plays that I screwed up,” Carr said. “I can play better all of the time. That is the life of this business, especially when you lose.”

Carr has taken his fair share of criticism this season, maybe more than at any point in his career. That comes with a high profile and a massive $125 million contract, with a fifth of that coming this year.

Carr is his harshest critic, and doesn’t point fingers. That’s not his style. He will use this experience and frustration to improve as a quarterback, and sure sport a smile next time he meets the press.

Not Sunday. Not after a disappointing day at Arrowhead Stadium. He’s 0-4 with dismal numbers in Kansas City, and wasn’t able to buck that trend in this one. That will stick with him when he looks back on a disappointing season.

“I am just frustrated with myself,” Carr said. “There are going to be plays that you want back, but that is every game. For a whole, I saw the coverage fine. I was going to certain places with the ball that I thought were right and all of those things.

“…we had some opportunities that we just did not connect on. Just can’t happen. There is no easy way to go through this one. This one sucked.”

The three things you need to know from Raiders' 25-16 loss to Chiefs

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AP

The three things you need to know from Raiders' 25-16 loss to Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Here are three things you should know from Friday’s 26-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday:

Raiders down, virtually out: Try as they might to ruin a once-promising season, the AFC West kept giving the Raiders life. The Chargers started slow. The Chiefs went into a tailspin in the season’s second half. That gave the Raiders control they didn’t deserve, with a real chance to with the division by taking care of business.

Players felt blessed to have that opportunity. It was ultimately squandered Sunday with an awful performance against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The days of, “so you’re saying there’s a chance” are basically numbered. It would take three straight wins and a whole lot of help to get back in this thing. The Raiders aren’t and shouldn’t to be in the hunt. Not after such a terrible showing in a game that could’ve established pole position.

“We don’t deserve to be No. 1 in our division,” tight end Lee Smith told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “when we just went out there and pissed on our leg.”

Colorful, yet accurate.

The Raiders were flat in a huge moment. There’s no discounting that.

“This was a tough one,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We obviously came into this with high hopes. Everything that we wanted to accomplish in our season was in front of us. It was a big day and a big moment, and we did not play well.”

Another offens(ive) showing: The Raiders offense has underwhelmed all year, with poor execution leading to long scoreless spells. Sunday’s showing might’ve been the worst yet.

The Raiders had three or less plays on six of their first eight drives against the NFL’s No. 28-ranked defense. Quarterback Derek Carr had a 36.3 passer rating in that span, with a pair of late touchdown to put lipstick on the effort.

Players and coaches were scratching heads over exactly what went wrong. In this case, the “what” is more important than the “why.”

“That is a good question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “That’s something we have to take a look at. Bottom line: We did not (establish an offensive rhythm). The first five drives were four punts and a pick. That’s not the kind of productivity we needed today. Obviously.”

The Raiders have all these weapons, from Carr to Michael Crabtree to Jared Cook to Marshawn Lynch to the most expensive offensive line in NFL history, and they can’t produce consistently. Frustration among those power players is starting to mount, especially after struggling in a game the Raiders had to win.

“It was not good enough,” Cook said. “No first half points. Barely any second-half points. The offense didn’t pull our weight today.”

3. Raiders lost in big moment: The Raiders understood the magnitude of this moment. They knew this game was vital to winning their first AFC West title since 2002. They were not up to the task.

They played poor in each phase. Offensive struggles are well documented. The defense held strong and forced a lot of field goals, but didn’t make the game-changing plays required with the offense scuffling. Even Marquette King had a rough day, with several uncharacteristically poor punts.

Del Rio insists the preparation was good. The execution, however, was not. The Raiders weren’t up to this challenge, and struggled in the spotlight. It seems strange considering how good they were under pressure last year, but this year’s group has not been clutch.

That was a disappointment to many veterans in a subdued locker room. They had a great opportunity, and blew it.

“We have a young team,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “I don’t think guys understand that when you get opportunities like this you have to take advantage of them. The NFL is about winning in December. If you don’t do that, you won’t be playing in January.”

Odds of the Raiders playing beyond the regular season are slim, virtually nil all because of what happened here at Arrowhead Stadium.