Crabtree comes up big, validates Del Rio's call to go for two


Crabtree comes up big, validates Del Rio's call to go for two

NEW ORLEANS, La. -– Michael Crabtree lined up on the left flank and ran a fade toward the corner of the end zone. It must have felt like déjà vu.

As a 49er, the Raiders receiver ran three fade routes in the Superdome at the end of Super Bowl XLVII and couldn’t bring one down. That would’ve clinched a championship. The Ravens won.

The stakes were slightly lower on Sunday afternoon, but Crabtree knew a catch equaled a Raiders win. The ball was coming his way based upon the match up. He knew that for sure. Crabtree ran an excellent route, blocked out his man and secured a near-perfect pass.

It was worth two points, the deciding factor in a 35-34 victory over the Saints.

"Last time, it ended bad,” Crabtree said, via Bay Area News Group. “This time, the last play ended good."

[BAIR: Instant Replay: Raiders stun Saints with late TD in 2016 opener]

It sure did. It was a clutch performance on a risky decision head coach Jack Del Rio made with confidence.

“We came here to win,” Del Rio said. “I thought, ‘Let’s win it right now. Every part of our strategy was focused on getting the win.”

He said as much before the game-winning drive began. He walked over to quarterback Derek Carr and said, “After we score, we’re going for 2.”

And that was that. The Raiders drew up a play designed for Crabtree, and Carr locked on his primary option after receiving a favorable matchup.

It worked. Crabtree got some form of redemption, the Raiders got a tough road win and Del Rio hit the jackpot. It was a gutsy call, one that was made by one person. There was no discussion. Del Rio called his shot.

“I didn’t ask for any feedback,” Del Rio said. “I let them know early in the drive what we were going to do.”

Del Rio put his faith in Crabtree, and the veteran delivered.

"Why not trust (Crabtree)? The guy’s got great hands,” Del Rio said. “He did a nice job. Derek gave him a great ball and Michael went up and got it.”

Going for the win was a sound strategy in a shootout where offenses were scoring almost at will. An extra point would’ve tied it and could’ve sent the game to overtime where Saints quarterback Drew Brees would’ve been a coin flip away from being able to win it himself.

Crabtree took control of the game with the play of the day.

“Derek gave me a great ball there, and he did that the entire game,” Crabtree said. “That shows he trusts me. And it wasn’t a gutsy call at all, not at all. He (Coach Del Rio) has a lot of trust in us, and we have a lot of trust in him. I mean when you put in so much work in camp and in the preseason, I feel like all we have to do as players is execute.”

Odds of executing it right apparently weren’t in the Raiders’ favor. ESPN Stats and Information put out a tweet saying that the Raiders had a 51-percent chance to win if they would’ve kicked the extra point and a 44-percent chance of winning if they went for 2.

Del Rio, relatively new to Twitter responded to those numbers succinctly, saying “Good thing ESPN isn’t coaching the Raiders.”


Raiders snap count: Karl Joseph sees playing time surge vs. Chargers


Raiders snap count: Karl Joseph sees playing time surge vs. Chargers

OAKLAND -- Karl Joseph has been buried on the Raiders' depth chart all season. The 2016 first-round draft pick was the No. 4 option behind Marcus Gilchrist, Reggie Nelson and Erik Harris at safety.

Safety play was terrible with that pecking order, though, so Raiders coaches mixed things up during Sunday’s 20-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, putting Joseph front and center, especially in the base defense.

Joseph played 45 of 56 defensive snaps, generally partnered with Gilchrist in the back. Nelson was a bit player, tallying just 12 defensive snaps. Harris only had 11.

Joseph made five tackles in the loss, including a few big hits while charging forward from the back end. He allowed one 18-yard catch on as many targets, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus.

The Raiders' pass coverage was better than usual in this game, including on the outside. Daryl Worley was a fixture there, and Rashaan Melvin re-entered the fray after two games as a healthy scratch. Generally speaking, Melvin split time with Gareon Conley, and he allowed two catches for seven yards on three targets, per PFF.

Conley is a solid cover man, but tackling issues have been exposed on big plays this season. It happened again against the Chargers, with him and Nelson missing Melvin Gordon on his 66-yard touchdown catch-and-run.

Rookie cornerback Nick Nelson played a season-high 24 snaps in this game, and Leon Hall’s workload dropped to a season-low 12.

Shilique Calhoun also was more involved, totaling 24 snaps rushing off the edge. He had four tackles, including one for a loss, and he had a sack taken away on a roughing-the-passer penalty by Johnathan Hankins.

The Raiders featured Nick Morrow and Jason Cabinda more in the linebacker corps, though Tahir Whitehead remained the defense’s only true full-time player.

Here's a complete look at Raiders snaps counts on offense and defense Sunday:


Quarterback -- Derek Carr 63
Running back -- Doug Martin 30, Jalen Richard 27, Keith Smith 9, DeAndre Washington 6
Wide receiver -- Brandon LaFell 57, Jordy Nelson 43, Martavis Bryant 35, Seth Roberts 28, Dwayne Harris 2
Tight end -- Jared Cook 37, Lee Smith 23, Derek Carrier 18
Offensive line -- Gabe Jackson 63, Rodney Hudson 63, Brandon Parker 63, Kolton Miller 63


Total defensive snaps -- 56
Defensive line -- Maurice Hurst 39, Johnathan Hankins 38, Frostee Rucker 38, Arden Key 37, Shilique Calhoun 24, PJ Hall 24, Jacquies Smith 13, Clinton McDonald 5
Linebacker -- Tahir Whitehead 56, Nick Morrow 36, Marquel Lee 20, Jason Cabinda 20
Defensive back -- Marcus Gilchrist 50, Karl Joseph 45, Daryl Worley 44, Gareon Conley 37, Rashaan Melvin 31, Nick Nelson 24, Reggie Nelson 29, Leon Hall 12, Reggie Nelson 12, Erik Harris 11

Special teams

E.Harris 20, Lee 20, Kyle Wilber 19, Carrier, K.Smith 18, D.Harris 16, Morrow 16, Calhoun 16, N.Nelson 11, L.Smith 8, Washington 6, Gilchrist 6, Worley 6, Johnny Townsend 6, Trent Sieg 6, Daniel Carlson 5, Cabinda 5, R.Nelson 5, McDonald 4, Hankins 4, Whitehead 4, Conley 3, Key 3, Melvin 3, Joseph 3, Osemele 2, Jackson 2, Jon Fecliano 2, David Sharpe 2, Miller 2, Parker 2, Rucker 1

Raiders owner Mark Davis is just poking the rubble by taking the blame now

Raiders owner Mark Davis is just poking the rubble by taking the blame now

Jon Gruden likes to take “credit” when a play goes bad, or when a strategy fails. Now Mark Davis tells ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez the Raiders’ absurdly disastrous season and situation is his fault.

Which means what, exactly? Well, nothing, really. The situation is as it is, and neither Davis nor Gruden are going anywhere. This rebuilding-through-devastation is the course they have chosen, and they are committed to it because there is no turning back. You can’t un-blow up a building.

Besides, taking blame when there are no consequences is the easiest thing in the world, as long as you don’t mind a little Twitter blowback.

All that said, there isn’t much else Davis could do. True, he’s a little tardy with this, P.R-wise, and he could also have announced this to the world rather than to one guy at a restaurant, especially the explanation about the Khalil Mack trade. It all comes off more as tactical than sincere.

But those are issues for your crisis management class. The point is, the Raiders have run a textbook example of how to lose faith with a devoted audience, and Mark Davis saying it’s his fault is sort of beside the point. 

They spent too much time pretending they weren’t doing what they are clearly doing. It doesn’t change the fact that they’re doing it, it just looks bad.

By now, we all get it, and nobody is even trying to hide the truth any more. You can quibble about the details, like the chicken-and-egg argument over whether Mack wouldn’t talk to the Raiders or the Raiders wouldn’t talk to Mack. You can even, as Davis does, blame the loss to Washington last year when the team couldn’t decide whether or not to kneel during the National Anthem as the moment when the team disintegrated. You can even hold your breath until your dog turns blue about Gruden promising a championship at his initial presser and then causing a cave-in six months later.

But Davis’ metaphorical knee-taking is mostly therapeutic for him and nobody else. Nobody will see “I always look in the mirror, and the buck stops with me,” and say, “Oh, okay. I feel much better now.”

He does go on, in fairness, and takes more diffused blame.

“Where this team is right now is my fault. We haven't been able to build a 22-man roster (by the way, rosters are 53 men deep, but why quibble?). We haven't been able to give this team a chance to win because the reconstruction failed. We failed from 2014 on to have a roster right now.”

Now that sounds like Reggie McKenzie is being blamed even for the 2016 12-win season, and unless Davis actually is the football mastermind behind the scenes, his taking blame makes no sense at all. It’s a public relations exercise . . . which is all they have now anyway.

And the other issue, the one about where they play in 2019 and threat of a seemingly mythical lawsuit from some Oakland politicians who want to make cheap hay at the expense of the Raiders and their own re-elected mayor? Again, what else can he say but this?

“I personally want to play in Oakland,” he told Gutierrez. “I absolutely want to play in Oakland. We have a completed lease sitting with the city council, that all they have to do is agree to it and we're here next year. Emotionally, I would say, why would I give them $3 (million), $4 (million), $5 million in rent that they're going to turn around and use to sue me? But, at the same time, if they'll have us, I can't turn on the fans. I can't do it. And this is terrible negotiating I'm doing now. I'm going to get killed. But that's just the way I am. But if in fact it does get ugly and can't be bridged, we do have options.”

Again, weeks late, but other than that, okay. Fine. I guess he needed time to say what everyone else was saying weeks ago. If he’d told Gutierrez this weeks ago, maybe it would matter more, but we’ve now reached the point where all he is really doing is poking at the rubble.

Like everyone else.