ALAMEDA -- You could say the Raiders have been relatively fast-starters this season.You could not say the same about closing out games. Especially of late.Consider: Oakland has not scored in the fourth quarter since Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 42-yard field goal with 10 minutes to play in Houston on Oct. 9. The Raiders have not scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter since Jason Campbell hit Chaz Schilens with an 18-yard pass 10 seconds into that period against the Texans.Carson Palmer, who was still more than a week away from joining the Raiders, raised his eyebrows when told of the fourth-quarter scoring drought."Wow, I didn't know that," Palmer said Thursday. "We've got to get that fixed this week. That's a stat I wasn't aware of."But as we go on and the better and better opponents we play, you've got to be able to score in the fourth quarter, so that's something we need to work on and something we need to fix."Interestingly enough, the Raiders have won three of five in that stretch, including the Houston game."Been lucky, yeah," Palmer added. "We've got to find a way to finish, and we'll do that."In the four games since, against Cleveland, Kansas City, Denver and Kansas City, the Raiders have scored cumulative totals of 17 points in the first quarter, 31 points in the second quarter, 24 points in the third and, of course, offered up nothing but goose eggs in the fourth. The Raiders have been outscored by a combined 31-0 in the fourth quarter of their last four games.So is it a scheme thing? A play-calling thing? A conditioning thing?"I can't put my finger on it," said coach Hue Jackson, the Raiders' playcaller. "I just know it's something I have to get fixed. I have to make sure that we find a way to get in this end zone in the fourth quarter. We haven't. We have to do a better job."We've been down there, but for some reason, whether it's turnovers or penalties or whatever it's been, we haven't been able to close it out with a score. We haven't harped on it but I know that that's true, I understand that, and that's something that I have in the back of my mind, that we have to make sure we do a better job of closing out in the fourth quarter of games scoring points."Still, it must be troubling then?"No it's not a troubling thing because we won a week ago, we won some of those games, so it's not troubling, but it's become a trend that we don't want to have happen," Jackson said. "You have to make sure you're paying attention to it because that's what we need to do. It seems like we get stuck on the 24(-yard line) a lot, I know that. So we have to get off the 24 and get more points."Then again, the Raiders could have kicked a 22-yard field goal with less than five minutes to play against the Browns, rather then going for it, and not making it, on 4th and 1."It's real strange," rookie receiver Denarius Moore said about the Raiders' fourth-quarter drought."I know it's something I'm going to take to heart right now and actually think about it and then ask the offense if we've thought about it. But that's something we really got to hone into and focus in on."Entering the Houston game, the Raiders had scored a combined 37 points in the fourth quarter against Denver, Buffalo, the New York Jets and New England."There's no doubt that we actually are producing on offense, but if you really look at it, it's something that you really got to think about," Moore added. "I mean, it's really on my mind right now that we didn't score in the fourth quarter. So I'm pretty sure that we're going to focus in on that and try to score in the fourth quarter."
ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.
There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest.
Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.
This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.
Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.
Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.
Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.
Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present.
It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.
Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.
“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”
ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made
Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.
Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.
“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”
Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.
“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”
The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.
The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.
While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.
Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.
Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.
“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”