Raiders

An update on Peyton Manning's injured thumb

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An update on Peyton Manning's injured thumb

From Comcast SportsNetDENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning's right thumbnail was covered with white tape and put under a media microscope upon his return to the football field Wednesday.The tape didn't wrap all the way around his thumb, leaving him able to grip the football like normal, and teammates said his throws and hand-offs at practice were unaffected by his injury in his first action since smacking his throwing hand on a defender's helmet Sunday night.For the first time, Denver coach John Fox listed his quarterback on the team's injury report -- "Peyton Manning, right thumb, full" -- but said he noticed no lingering effects.Manning, who threw two second-half touchdowns in Denver's 34-14 win over New Orleans after getting hurt just before halftime, said after practice that his thumb was "sore, but it's more of an irritant than anything else."Manning gets all this scrutiny.After all, he missed all of last season in Indianapolis with a nerve injury in his neck and now plays in a city that 24 years ago argued about the quality of Halloween candy handed out to trick-or-treaters by a young John Elway.Now, the discolored right thumbnail on the four-time MVP who's playing like he's hungry for a fifth is certainly a big deal in media circles, both traditional and social.Manning acknowledged he was "probably a little bit lucky" that he banged the nail and not the knuckle of his right thumb on New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson's helmet just before absorbing his only hit of the night.Another half-inch, and all bets would have been off for the rolling Broncos (4-3), who lead the AFC West, are finally hitting their stride behind Manning's spectacular play and steady leadership and look every bit like a team ready to take off.Another half-inch and this is rookie Brock Osweiler's offense. Or Caleb Hanie's."They say it's a game of inches," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "Maybe it's a game of centimeters."The league's leading passer at age 36, Manning is playing better than anyone -- the Broncos and their quarterback included -- could have hoped for over the season's first two months."Well, certainly, it was a lot of unknown before this season," Manning said. "I think there still is. This is a new team and nobody knew how this team would form chemistry-wise. I didn't know what my situation would be. I mentioned early on that I'm feeling my way out. We're finding out our identity. I think we are still doing that. I think we have it in some places."Even though they're not all the way there yet, Elway, the Broncos' vice president of football operations, said during his weekly podcast on the team's website that Denver is coming off its "most complete game of the year.""We thought it was going to be a track meet and we'd really have to keep up with them," Elway said. "The compliment goes to (defensive coordinator) Jack Del Rio, his staff and the defensive players. They really answered the bell."Drew Brees was limited to 137 yards through the air until the Saints' final drive, when he threw for 76 yards with several Broncos backups in the game.Weakside linebacker Wesley Woodyard, an undrafted fifth-year pro from Kentucky, won AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors Wednesday for a monster game that included 13 tackles (9 solo), a sack, an interception, two pass breakups and a forced fumble -- exceeding or matching his career high in every category.Despite losing linebacker Joe Mays (broken leg), the Broncos could get cornerback Tracy Porter back this week. He's missed the last two games after experiencing light-headedness and a racing heart -- the same symptoms he had before suffering a seizure during training camp.He returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday and said he hopes to play Sunday at Cincinnati: "It's a matter of me getting my conditioning back, getting my legs back up under me," Porter said. "As far as seizure-wise, I don't have any problem."The last time the Broncos visited the Bengals (3-4), Brandon Stokley's 87-yard "Immaculate Deflection" touchdown catch on a batted pass with 11 seconds left gave Denver a farfetched 12-7 win in the 2009 opener."Brandon runs through my mind all the time," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis lamented during a conference call with Denver reporters. "But I wish we had more guys here that were on that team. I think we have about seven guys that were actually in that game."Believe it or not, Stokley also has had bad dreams about that play in which he cradled cornerback Leon Hall's deflection at midfield and raced untouched into the end zone -- but not before he headily took an extra couple of precious seconds off the clock by running along the goal line before stepping across for the score."I just kind of saw that nobody was behind me chasing me. I saw a guy kind of give up on it. I knew there wasn't a lot of time left, so I thought, why not try to run some time off?" Stokley said. "And then the next day, I kind of started having nightmares about it. What if I'd have gotten caught? What if I had fumbled? What if somebody would have hit me?"I think next time I'll probably just get in the end zone."Notes: Manning said that "being from New Orleans, knowing firsthand what hurricanes can do," his thoughts were with the victims of superstorm Sandy. ... Woodyard is one of just nine players to record double-digit tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble in a game since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982. ... Sunday's game at Cincinnati snaps a streak of 12 straight games in which the Broncos drew the networks' top broadcast team, first because of Tim Tebow and then because of Manning.

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

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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-receivers on each flank and 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.”

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

OAKLAND -- The defending champion Warriors started cracking in the hours before tipoff Tuesday night and broke apart when they usually come together.

The fourth quarter was a disaster area and it cost the Warriors, as the Houston Rockets wiped out a 13-point deficit and tagged them with a 122-121 loss before a stunned sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

So ends, as it should, the spurious notion of a rubber-stamp championship for the Warriors. A strain here and a tweak there and they found themselves on the painful end of the score.

The Warriors learned prior to the game that forward Andre Iguodala, their valuable Sixth Man, would be out nursing a strained back. They were hit with another injury, this one to Draymond Green, who was highly effective, late in the third quarter.

“He was our best player tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was the guy who was bringing the energy and the life.”

Green’s numbers -- 9 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists -- barely hint at his value in this game. Green and Iguodala are the primary defensive communicators, and Green held it down fairly well -- until he, too, was gone.

“Our communication wasn’t very good and we didn’t stick to the game plan; we gave them too many wide-open threes,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 first-quarter points but only 5 over the final three.

“We did a good job in the half-court of keeping them in front,” said Kevin Durant, who also scolded himself for committing eight turnovers. “But in transition we got cross-matched so many times and we just didn’t communicate well enough.”

Games aren’t always lost in the fourth, despite the frequent narrative, but this one most assuredly was. With Green in the locker room accompanied by ice, the Warriors were outscored 34-20 in the fourth quarter.

After shooting 45.8 percent through three quarters, the Rockets took it to 56 percent in the fourth, closing the game on a 13-5 run over the final 4:01.

The Warriors don’t yet know when Green and Iguodala will return, whether it’s as soon as Friday at New Orleans or a matter of weeks. Until they do, Kerr will have to resort to patching things together.

Problem is, aside from the scoring of Nick Young (23 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6-of-7 from deep) and Jordan Bell (8 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes), the bench did not distinguish itself.

That was particularly true on defense, which happen to be where Iguodala and Green make their greatest impact. The reserves accounted for 13 of the 25 fouls called on the Warriors.

“We’ve got to be better,” Durant said. “We’ve got to be better, and we’re looking forward to practice Wednesday.”