Raiders

'Go make a play' -- Inside the Raiders game-winning two-minute drill

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USATI

'Go make a play' -- Inside the Raiders game-winning two-minute drill

OAKLAND – The Raiders had a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and blew it. The offense took possession with roughly six minutes remaining and went three-and-out.

The Raiders defense gave their teammates another chance. A Kansas City three-and-out insured that, though they were down six points and had just 2:25 to work with. The starting XI huddled on their 15-yard line, and quarterback Derek Carr surveyed his surroundings.

Familiar faces were set at every angle around him, guys he knew had come through in the clutch. This, he could tell, was a composed bunch. There was no fear or anxiety, no mental fatigue from four straight losses.

“Those moments can be emotional, but they aren’t for us,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “There’s an expectation, a belief that we’ll get the job done. We won’t be denied.”

Success breeds confidence. The Raiders finished seven fourth-quarter, game winning drives last year. They were ready to do it again.

“We’ve done this a couple of times together,” Carr said. “So when we took the field that last time, I looked at (center Rodney Hudson) and said, ‘Alright, let’s go.’ I looked at my wideouts and I didn’t have to say anything. They said, ‘We got you, just throw it up.’

“That makes the quarterback’s heart beat a little bit slower when you know you have guys that have your back.”

Derek Carr worked the ball downfield and completed a 31-30 victory with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. That’s the CliffsNotes. The unabridged version was downright dramatic, with some improv at the end.

Carr has completed some improbable comebacks, but Thursday earned the gold.

“Not even close,” Carr said. “Absolutely. I can’t even say it better. Yes. It sure was.”

Nothing came easy, even at the start. Carr started the drive with a 15-yard pass to Amari Cooper, whose 39-yard reception a bit later bailed his team out of a 2nd-and-20 jam.

Jared Cook took over from there. His 13-yard catch converted a 4th-and-11. He later hauled in a 29-yard bomb that was originally called a touchdown but overturned on review. The catch was good, but Cook was officially down at the 1-yard line with 18 seconds left.

“I thought I got it in,” Cook said. “Even after the replay I saw I thought I got it in. At least that’s what it looked like on the jumbotron. He didn’t touch me. It was a great ball by Derek. It was a play that boosted us and helped us get the win.”

A 10-second runoff – Cook was technically tackled in bounds – left eight ticks remaining. Down that close with so little time, Carr had simple instructions.

“At that moment, you just have to find a one-on-one with the coverages that they’re playing and give somebody a chance,” Carr said. “There’s nothing technical about it. At that point, I’m telling the guys in the huddle, ‘Look I’ve got to give somebody a chance now. Go make a play.’ They did a couple of times.”

They did it a couple times without a formal play call. Carr just called out routes on the fly, like he was quarterbacking a street football game. 

"He was dicing it up right there," left tackle Donald Penn said. "The call didn't get in a couple times, so he had to just tell the receivers what to do. It was pretty nice. At times I didn't even know what he was calling. I figured I would just protect and let D.C. do his thing."

The first went from Carr to Crabtree for a 1-yard touchown negated by offensive pass interference. Back it up.

The next pass fell incomplete, but Cook drew a defensive holding call as time expired. That set up an untimed down for the whole shebang.

Or so we thought.

Carr threw incomplete to Cordarrelle Patterson, who was also held.

The second untimed down went according to plan. Carr to Crabtree from two yards out. No flags. One game-deciding touchdown.

Crabtree was the primary target, though Carr still has reads to make.

“There’s a progression to it,” Carr said. “‘Crab’ is first and I was calling for that play. If there’s one thing about ‘Crab,’ it doesn’t matter what happens throughout the rest of the game, he always shows up.”

The entire offense typically does in the clutch, especially last year. Carr has led a baker’s dozen now, and is a lot more comfortable in those spots. This last one, however, made him think of his first.

Maybe because latest came on a Thursday night, against the Kansas City, exactly like his maiden comeback. The Raiders were 0-10 back in 2014, and Carr willed his first professional victory with a short strike to James Jones, his only reliable receiver. He recalled it fondly, but shuttered at the stress and anxiety that used to accompany late-game drives.

“I remember the first two-minute drive we ever had or fourth quarter comeback was Thursday Night against the Chiefs, and there’s not a lot of familiar faces from that huddle,” Carr said. “Now moving forward the last couple of years, we’ve grown our culture and the guys that are here, our core guys. We can get the job done.”

Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season

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USATSI

Five new Raiders with something to prove in 2018 season

The Raiders are taking some time off during the dead period of the NFL offseason. Even early bird Jon Gruden is slapping the snooze button these days, spending some quality time with family before training camp cranks up later this month.

Coaches and players are still finding time for work, sometimes while they’re on vacation. The Raiders want to hit the ground running this preseason, with many motivated to show well in silver and black. That’s especially true for a large class of new Raiders, many of whom hope to silence detractors.

Here are five newcomers with plenty to prove in 2018:

5. CB Rashaan Melvin

Lists like this are normally reserved for guys coming off injuries or down years. Melvin doesn’t fit that mold. The 28-year old had his best year in 2017, often shutting down top receivers as Indy’s top cornerback. He allowed a paltry 60.3 passer rating when targeted, with three picks, 10 passes defensed and just two touchdowns allowed.

Those stats didn’t produce a robust free-agent market. Melvin ended up signing a one-year, $5.5 million deal with Oakland, and is now working to show he’s not a one-year wonder and can stay healthy for 16 games. An ovation-worthy encore would surely earn a long-term, bigger-money deal.

Melvin made his motivation clear on Twitter a few weeks back.

4. WR Jordy Nelson

Nelson had a down year in 2017. It started well, with six touchdowns in the first four games he played. Then all-world Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down, and things hit the skids. He averaged just 9.1 yards per reception, and didn’t score after that early flurry.

That led some to say Nelson lost a step at age 32 he would not recover. The Packers asked him to take a massive pay cut, and ended up releasing him in March. The Raiders swooped in quickly with a two-year deal and plenty of guaranteed money.

Nelson has been praised for his attention to detail and position-group leadership, and will fit into the starting lineup with Amari Cooper and Martavis Bryant. He had four straight 1,000-yard seasons prior to last year. His worth won’t be defined by a monster statistical year. Reliability, leadership and red-zone performance will show if Nelson’s still got it.

3. RB Doug Martin

The veteran rusher has had an uneven career. Excellent production has come in spurts, with dominance in 2012 and 2015. The last 1,400-plus yard season was followed by two seasons of 2.9 yards per carry, which led Tampa Bay to cut his this winter.

He met Gruden for lunch at a Florida golf course, and the exchange convinced Gruden the 29-year old was ready to work and prove he had plenty left in the tank. His work was praised during the offseason program, though practice in pads and preseason play will offer stronger evidence of 2018 effectiveness. Showing well in camp could lead to an increased role behind starter Marshawn Lynch. Gruden likes using multiple backs in his offense, and could make steady contributions in the run game.

2. MLB Derrick Johnson

The longtime Kansas City Chief was let go by the team that drafted him in 2005, but it was not the end of his NFL journey. Some thought he’d call it a career at age 35, especially after suffering an Achilles’ tendon tear in Dec. 2016, but he found a new home in Oakland and a strong bond with Gruden. The Raiders need stability in the middle, and Johnson will provide on-field leadership. There’s no doubt about that.

Johnson must prove capable of being a three-down linebacker effective against the run and pass. Marquel Lee is available should the Raiders require a platoon, but Johnson doesn’t want that. The Raiders need his expertise inside at all times.

1. Head coach Jon Gruden

Gruden isn’t a newcomer, but it’s been nearly two decades since he roamed the silver and black sidelines. He hasn’t coached since 2008, but returned to the Raiders in January after nine years in the broadcast booth.

Gruden has said several times he has something to prove to his critics. That might be a self-motivational tool. There aren’t many in the East Bay, where the fan base as rallied behind him and players have loved the intensity and passion he brings to practice and meetings.

Some assume his old school tendencies and his “bringing it back to 1998” comment this offseason implies he is resistant to change or offensive innovation. That’s not the case, not by a long shot. We’ll see lots modern offense Gruden studied as an ESPN broadcaster and in his downtime at his Tampa offices, with new wrinkles unveiled as game plans dictate.

Gruden has made a solid impression in his return to coaching but, as it always is in his line of work, effectiveness will be determined by wins and losses. He won’t be graded off one-year alone, especially without solid roster depth, but Gruden wants to start fast and re-establish Raiders winning ways.

Raiders CB Gareon Conley files countersuit against woman who accused him of rape

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Raiders CB Gareon Conley files countersuit against woman who accused him of rape

Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley has filed a lawsuit against the woman who accused him of rape in April 2017.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges stemming from an incident in Cleveland less than a month before the 2017 NFL Draft.

Conley deemed the allegations false at the time, and maintained his innocence throughout the process.

His accuser filed a civil suit against Conley on April 6, 2017, seeking $25,000 in damages.

Conley has chosen to file a counter lawsuit, seeking compensation for damage to his reputation, draft stock and endorsement opportunities.

According to court documents obtained by TMZ, he lost an endorsement deal with Nike because of the accusation. He reiterated his innocence in court filings, saying he turned down his accusers advances.

The Ohio State product was considered a top 15 talent heading into the draft, but was ultimately selected No. 24 overall by the Raiders despite the rape accusation.

He missed most of his rookie season with a shin injury that required surgery. He was cleared for full football activity this spring.