Oakland Raiders

Crabtree, Talib have suspensions reduced to 1 game

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Crabtree, Talib have suspensions reduced to 1 game

ALAMEDA, Calif. - Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib have had their suspensions reduced to one game on appeal.

The NFL announced Tuesday that appeals officers Derrick Brooks and James Thrash cut down the two-game suspensions after hearings. Brooks heard Crabtree's case, while Thrash heard Talib's appeal.

The fight during Oakland's 21-14 win was a continuation of a dispute that started last season when Talib ripped Crabtree's chain off during the season finale. Crabtree missed the first game between the teams this year but went after Talib early Sunday.

On the second play of Oakland's second drive, Crabtree aggressively blocked Talib on a running play and drove him to the ground on the Broncos sideline, setting off the brawl. Talib ripped Crabtree's chain off again.

Talib, Crabtree suspended two games each for fighting

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Talib, Crabtree suspended two games each for fighting

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib were suspended two games each without pay on Monday for fighting during the recent game between the two teams.

NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan announced the suspensions a day after the two players brawled during Oakland's 21-14 victory. Both players can appeal the suspensions.

The fight was a continuation of a dispute that started last season when Talib ripped Crabtree's chain off during the season finale. Crabtree missed the first game between the teams this year but didn't wait long to seek revenge.

Crabtree punched Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. while blocking him on the first play of Oakland's second drive. He then aggressively blocked Talib on a running play and drove him to the ground on the Broncos' sideline on the following play, starting the brawl.

"Your actions triggered a melee and endangered various sideline and league personnel, including one of our game officials who was injured trying to maintain control of the situation," Runyan said in his letter to Crabtree. "Finally, during the ensuing altercation, you grabbed and twisted that same opponent's facemask and threw a punch at him. Such actions have no place in this game, engender ill will between teams, and lead to further confrontations."

Talib once again ripped Crabtree's chain off his neck. He also took Crabtree's helmet off and threw it, as well as exchanging punches with Crabtree.

"You deliberately ripped your opponent's chain from his neck just as you did last year when you played against him," Runyan wrote in his letter to Talib. "Then, when the two of you went to the ground after a subsequent play, you aggressively removed his helmet and threw it in his direction, endangering him and various sideline personnel in the near vicinity. Finally, once you were momentarily separated from your opponent, you again engaged him and threw a punch."

Both players are eligible to return on Dec. 11. Crabtree will miss games against the New York Giants and Kansas City, while Talib will have to sit out against Miami and the New York Jets.

The suspension is costly to the Raiders (5-6), who are one game out of a playoff spot and now will be without a starting receiver for two weeks. Crabtree is tied for the team lead with 42 catches and has 502 yards receiving and a team-high six touchdowns.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio disagreed with the ruling, pointing to a fight earlier this season between Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green that led to no suspensions.

"Hard to understand the reasoning for this," Del Rio wrote on his Twitter account, "based on most recent ruling w/ altercation."

The Raiders also could be without their other starting receiver in Amari Cooper, who suffered a concussion and a sprained ankle later in Sunday's game after a hard hit by safety Darian Stewart that drew a penalty.

Talib is perhaps Denver's top cover cornerback. His replacement, rookie Brendan Langley, surrendered a touchdown pass and a critical third-down completion that kept Denver from getting a shot at tying the game.

"I hope the league sees basically how it started and sees I didn't come out there to fight and wrestle with him," Talib said earlier in the day.

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Where have Patriots LBs improved? Look at covering pass-catching backs

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Where have Patriots LBs improved? Look at covering pass-catching backs

Third quarter, Patriots versus the Raiders. Elandon Roberts lined up in the middle of the defense, the only off-the-ball linebacker on this second-down play from midfield. Roberts looked intently into the Oakland backfield, trying to decipher where quarterback Derek Carr would go on the play. 

At the snap of the ball, Carr released his running back, Jalen Richard, to the right of the formation. With the Pats playing man-to-man, Roberts had to hurry to cover the quicker, faster Richard. The second-year pro also had to skirt around a slight pick by wide receiver Amari Cooper. Successfully navigating that landmine, Roberts went stride for stride with Richard. 

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Carr still identified that as the matchup to exploit but the throw clanged off the back of Roberts’ helmet. Not the result Carr was looking for, and despite the ugliness at the tail end of the play, yet another sign of the Pats improving in an area that early in the season had been an issue.

“It's certainly a good observation,” said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. “That's part of the process as you go through the year and understanding your opponents and what they like to do from the standpoint of plays. So certainly on that particular play where it might be a situation where they're trying to pick him or get him in a bad coverage matchup and he did a good job of getting through it.”

Covering running backs coming out of the backfield is not something that the Pats have been particularly adept at over the years. Roberts, especially, seemed lost in those spots in his rookie season. But with Dont’a Hightower lost for the season, the Pats have had to spread out some of those responsibilities and Roberts, 23, the University of Houston product, is growing in that department.

“[He's] someone that works really hard to know where his help is in both situations whether it's leveraging a run play or leveraging a pass play,” complimented Patricia. “He's really trying to learn and understand that at a much higher level which he's really trying to do a good job of.”

It wasn’t just that play and it wasn’t just Roberts. In the opening quarter, Kyle Van Noy swarmed Richard in the right flat, limiting the shifty back to just four yards. Later, Trevor Reilly quickly snuffed out a swing pass to Richard. Bill Belichick - like Patricia - has taken notice.

“I think that’s a very competitive group of players on our team,” Belichick said. “So again, just trying to work on our fundamentals, and individual techniques, and try to work each week on our opponent, and their tendencies, the way they do things to match it up against. Those guys work hard at both of those areas.”

That work will need to continue. The Pats will get two doses in three weeks of Miami running back Damien Williams, who in limited snaps has made an impact as a receiver. There’s also Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh, the skilled trio of Bilal Powell, Matt Forte and Elijah McGuire for the Jets and LeSean McCoy in Buffalo. In other words, no resting our recent success.

“We're obviously going to look at the other aspect of it too and say, 'Well this is where we think we need to improve and this is where we think we need to make sure that we have this tightened up because this showed up,'" Patricia said. "Whether or not – it could be a bad situation for us whether it's just a – maybe it's a particular look that offense gives us or a particular defensive call.

That no doubt earns a nod from the head coach, who never believes what’s good is good enough.

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