What, a blown call? Raiders fans can relate


What, a blown call? Raiders fans can relate

Forgive the denizens of Raider Nation if they give a collective sigh and a hearty "so what" to the recent botched ending of Monday Night Football by the replacement referees.What, a team as celebrated and as venerated as the Green Bay Packers got hosed by an egregious call that cost them a game? Welcome to our world, was being shouted from the mountain tops of Silver and Blackdom.REWIND: NFL releases statement on Packers-Seahawks blown call
Hey, it's not paranoia if they're out to get you, right? At least, that's how the saying goes. And it got me to thinking of calls that have have gone against the Raiders. No, not the ham-and-egger numbers like San Diego's Vincent Jackson rolling the ball forward and it being called an illegal forward pass in 2006. Or the Louis Murphy touchdown catch that wasn't in 2009, against those same Chargers.We're talking all-time greats that altered the course of pro football history and have Raiders fans thinking they should have at least five more Lombardi Trophies. So without further adoThe Otis Taylor One-Foot-Inbounds Catch
It's Jan. 4, 1970, the last AFL game ever played. The Raiders are playing host to Kansas City at the Coliseum and the winner would go on to face Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.The Raiders had already played in Super Bowl II, lost the AFL title to Joe Namath a year later and on this day were locked in a 7-7 game early in the second half, with the Chiefs at their own two-yard line facing a daunting third-and-14. But Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson spied Otis Taylor down the left sideline, just beyond Raiders cornerback Willie Brown, and hurled it.Taylor made a remarkable one-handed catch for a 35-yard gain, even if he only had one foot inbounds. Which would be fine in college but not in pro ball. The Chiefs would continue their drive and score what would prove to be the winning touchdown in an eventual 17-7 victory before going on to throttle the Vikings in the last Super Bowl played before the AFL-NFL merger.The Immaculate Reception
It's Dec. 23, 1972, the divisional round of the AFC playoffs and Ken Stabler had scored on a 30-yard run with 77 seconds to play at Three Rivers Stadium to give the Raiders a 7-3 lead.And with the Steelers looking at a fourth-and-10 from their own 40 with 22 seconds to play, what happened next will be debated until the end of time.Terry Bradshaw heaved a pass downfield toward Frenchy Fuqua but Jack Tatum arrived just as the ball did, resulting in a violent collision. The ball popped up and back, where an onrushing Franco Harris plucked it out of the air -- or did it hit the turf first? -- and rumbled in for the game-winning score.The question, though, was off which player did the ball ricochet? If it was Fuqua, then Harris' catch would have been illegal. If it bounded off Tatum, then the play was clean.There was a lengthy discussion as to whether the play was a TD or not and the refs called the supervisor of NFL officiating from a dugout phone to confer. There were also tales of the refs calling the police department to ask if there was enough protection from Steelers fans if they ruled it an incompletion. Shockingly (add sarcasm font here) It was ruled a touchdown and the Steelers had their first-ever playoff victory. They would go on and lose the AFC championship to undefeated Miami but Pittsburgh would go on to win four Super Bowls in the decade.The Rob Lytle Fumble
It's Jan. 1, 1978 and the defending Super Bowl champion Raiders are in the AFC title game at division rival Denver. The Broncos already lead 7-3 and have a first-and-goal at the two-yard line midway though the third quarter.Broncos running back Rob Lytle dives into the pile and is stopped midair by Jack Tatum and the ball pops out. Mike McCoy scoops it up and is gone, 10-7, Raiders, right?Um, no. Lytle was ruled to have been down, that his forward progress had been stopped, before the ball squirted free, despite replays showing that not to be the case. The Broncos go on to score and hold on to win, 20-17, before getting pummeled in Super Bowl XII by the Dallas Cowboys.The Siragusa Flop
It's Jan. 14, 2001, early in the second quarter of the AFC championship game at the Coliseum, and Baltimore had just taken a 7-0 lead on a 96-yard pass play from Trent Dilfer to Shannon Sharpe. And on the Raiders' ensuing play, Rich Gannon throws an incompletion to James Jett and 330-pound (on a light day) nose tackle Tony Siragusa tosses Rich Gannon to the ground before coming off the figurative top rope with a literal body splash that would make Vince McMahon smile. Both literally and figuratively.No flag is thrown.Instead, Gannon writhes on the ground and is knocked out of the game for the rest of the half. In comes Bobby Hoying ,who promptly throws an interception that leads to a Ravens field goal. Gannon makes a game effort to return in the second half but is obviously in pain still and struggling and replaced again by Hoying. Ballgame.The Ravens, with a defense reminiscent of the 1985 Bears, go on to beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV and the Raiders, who go ultra-conservative with Hoying under center, are left to ruminate another missed call. Until the mother of all hose jobs goes down in the New England snow a year and five days later.The Tuck Rule
It's Jan. 19, 2002, the final game at Foxboro Stadium and it's a winter wonderland for this AFC divisional playoff game, being played in a blizzard.The Raiders are clinging to a 13-10 lead with 1:50 to play and New England is at the Raiders' 42-yard line on first-and-10 when Tom Brady drops back to pass. Charles Woodson comes in on a corner blitz, hammers Brady, the ball pops loose, Greg Biekert recovers and the Raiders are headed to their second straight AFC title game.Then, it happens. Because the play occurred with less than two minutes remaining, it was automatically reviewed by the Review Assistant and the Tuck Rule is invoked, despite there being no clearcut evidence to overturn the original ruling on the field of fumble. The Patriots retain possession, drive to the Oakland 28-yard line and Adam Vinatieri boots a 45-yard field goal through the snowflakes to tie the game with 27 seconds left in regulation.The Raiders sit on the ball on their ensuing possession and never see the ball again. The Patriots win the toss, drive to the Raiders' five-yard line and Vinatieri's 23-yard field goal not only ends the game, but jumpstarts New England's dynasty of the new millennium. Helped, of course, by the Tuck Rule and SpyGate. But that's a different topic for a different day.From the Raiders' perspective, the Tuck Rule Game was Gruden's last as Raiders coach as Oakland would not see him until a year later in Super Bowl XXXVII, when Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers walloped the Raiders, 48-21, and Oakland has not been back to the playoffs since.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’


How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice


Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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.”