Raiders

Three things you need to know from Raiders' 24-17 victory over Giants

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AP

Three things you need to know from Raiders' 24-17 victory over Giants

OAKLAND – Here are three things you need to know from the Raiders’ 24-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum:

1. Raiders control path to division crown: Read that headline to the left. It might require a double take but it’s accurate, and a bit beyond belief.

The Raiders can win the AFC West by winning out.

The Raiders won, the Chargers won and the Chiefs lost, setting up a three-way tie atop the AFC West. Each team has six losses at this stage, and the Raiders have a chance to give each rival a seventh. The Raiders play in Kansas City next week and close the regular season in Los Angeles.

They simply have to win those two, and probably beat Dallas and Philadelphia in between. Falling to 9-7 makes things real messy. That remains a tough ask, especially for a team lacking offensive consistency.

The Raiders have quietly won three of their last four to recover from a four-game losing streak earlier this year. They’ve seemed dead and buried a few times now, but the Chiefs are in a tailspin and have given the Silver and Black second life.

“Our goal is to stack these wins up and see how the cards fall at the end of the season,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “We’re not looking toward the future. We’re not thinking about the past. We’re only focus on our current opponent. That’s it. It’s worked for us the past two weeks. Hopefully we can continue to keep it (going) like this.”

2. Channeling last year’s defense:The Raiders gave up a lot of yards and points last year. They had a penchant for performing in the clutch and generating turnovers when trouble’s afoot.

The Raiders had 30 takeaways last year, but have struggled stealing possession this time around. That trend got bucked Sunday.

The Raiders forced two turnovers inside their own 30-yard line that ultimately changed the game. Bruce Irvin strip-sacked Geno Smith in the second quarter, and NaVorro Bowman recovered at the Raiders’ 29. The Raiders stole a scoring opportunity and produced a field goal at the other end.

Khalil Mack made his best play this season late in the first half from the Oakland 4. Smith never felt his presence, and Mack straight-up stole the ball to take more easy points away from the Giants.

“We pride ourselves on getting turnovers,” Irvin said. “We didn’t have many early, but they’re starting to come. We have three in two weeks. They say turnovers come in bunches, and we have to keep pushing for them.”

3. Missing Cooper and Crabtree: Amari Cooper was ruled out of Sunday’s game with concussion-like symptoms and a sprained ankle suffered while beating the Denver Broncos. Michael Crabtree wasn’t allowed to play the Giants, serving a one-game suspension for fighting with Aqib Talib in that same game.

That left Johnny Holton, Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson to pick up the slack. Tight end Clive Walford and Jared Cook offered assistance. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Raiders got the job done. Receivers dropped four passes. Johnny Holton fumbled another and lost it.

That group had some positive moments, highlighted by Patterson’s 59-yard catch and run that established a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter. Holton scored that deciding touchdown, and had a nice, toe-tapping catch to set up another score.

“We did good, man,” Patterson said. “We’re in this league for a reason, we not just here to (mess) around. We come out each and every week and we got to perform. Unfortunately, our No. 1 and No. 2 receivers were down but, like I say, every receiver on this roster can go out and make plays.”

The Raiders will get Crabtree back next week. Cooper remains a question mark as he recovers from injury. The passing game suffers without him, even during a relatively lackluster season. Cooper has game-changing ability, and draws attention from others even without the ball. He also torched Kansas City for 210 yards and two touchdowns earlier in the year, so the Raiders hope he can return for the rematch.

Camp preview: Raiders RBs should share the load, but there could be one tough cut

Camp preview: Raiders RBs should share the load, but there could be one tough cut

Jon Gruden typically spreads the love among his running backs. There’s never a true split – his primary back has exceeded 180 carries in all 11 of his seasons as head coach – but his backups have received 90-plus carries six times. Multiple backs have averages 650-plus all-purpose yards eight times under Gruden.

That wasn’t the case last season, with Marshawn Lynch did most of the damage. The Raiders haven’t diversified their rushing attack much (save 2016) in recent seasons, a trend that will change under Gruden.

Lynch remains the bell cow, but Doug Martin could play a significant role in this offense.

Don’t forget about the fullbacks, a rarely used position revived under Gruden. That’s good news for Keith Smith, who should be heavily involved offensively, especially in the passing game.

The blocking scheme will vary, with multiple zone concepts and the good, ol’ fashioned power the offensive line’s built for. There should be carries to go around in this group, though Lynch will get the lion’s share.

Who’s Here

RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Doug Martin, RB DeAndre Washington, RB Jalen Richard, RB Chris Warren, FB Keith Smith, FB Ryan Yurachek

Best Of The Bunch: Lynch

Most professional rushers fall off the map at 30 years old. All the hits, working hard over so many yards can take a toll. Lynch didn’t show such wear in last season’s second half.

This generation’s toughest takedown ran strong late in the year, improving on a slow start to 2017. Lynch didn’t meld with the Raiders system right away, but showed resolve down the stretch following a one-game suspension for his role in a brawl with Kansas City. He should fare better with new offensive line coach Tom Cable, who ran the blocking scheme during his salad days in Seattle.

He might not produce the 1,339 yards he averaged from 2011-14, but Lynch will still be primary battering ram in Gruden’s offense. Even at 32 years old, Lynch should still produce.

Top Camp Battle: Washington vs. Richard

This pair turned pro in 2016, with both members making an impact as rookies and second-year pros. One problem: They ran the same. Coaches were asked time and again to differentiate the two, without many evident separations. Both guys are smaller in stature. Both guys can slash and sprint and catch passes out of the backfield. Both guys return punts and kicks. Both fit in Gruden’s offense, but both could be considered complimentary pieces.

Another problem: Gruden probably doesn’t need two guys for one role, especially with Lynch and Martin expected to assume large roles and fullback Keith Smith in an important offensive role. That might make for an intense camp battle this summer and one tough cut for an NFL-caliber back.

Longshot: Warren

The undrafted rookie from Texas is an intriguing prospect, a bulldozer at 6-foot-2, 246 pounds. His power and size means he could be a hybrid back capable of blocks and carries from the backfield. Roster spots are hard to come by in this position group, but a strong summer (and quality special teams play) could put him in the mix for a surprise roster spot. Some practice squad seasoning might help, and prep him for an injury-related promotion.

Overview

We haven’t talked enough about Martin yet. That changes now. The 29-year old Stockton native impressed this spring – we know, pads weren’t on yet – and showed great burst. This might be Martin’s last chance to revive his career after two down years. He seems hell bent on maximizing it.

Don’t sleep on him earning a larger-than-expected role in the offense.

Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies

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USATSI

Former Raiders interim head coach, 49ers assistant Tony Sparano dies

Former Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano died unexpectedly on Sunday morning. He was 56.

The Minnesota Vikings announced his passing, though an exact cause of death is unknown.

He was the Vikings offensive line coach, a position he held since 2016. Sparano had been an NFL coach for nearly two decades, with stints in Oakland and San Francisco. He was also Miami's head coach from 2008-11.

He was hired to run the Raiders offensive line in 2013, and was promoted to interim head coach after Dennis Allen was fired four games into the 2014 campaign.

Sparano showed well in that role, kept the team playing hard during a difficult 3-13 season and nearly had the interim tag removed. He was a finalist for 2015 head coaching job, though Jack Del Rio ultimately got the job.

He left the organization then, and spent the 2015 season as 49ers tight ends coach. He ended up in Minnesota after that.

Sparano helped the Raiders finished 2014 with a three wins over their final six games, which started an upward trend that carried through 2016. He also remained patient with then-rookie starter Derek Carr.

Left tackle Donald Penn joined the Raiders in 2014, and experienced a career renaissance that season under Sparano.

The Silver and Black mourned Sparano's loss.

"The Raiders family was deeply saddened to learn of Tony Sparano's passing this morning," the team said in a statement. "Tony had a deep passion for football and was embraced by the Raider Nation during his time with the Silver and Black. Tony will be sadly missed by the entire NFL community. Our hearts are with (his wife) Jeanette and the Sparano family during this extremely difficult time."

The 49ers also paid respects to the longtime NFL coach.

“The 49ers organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Tony Sparano,” the 49ers said in a statement. “We share our heartfelt condolences with the Sparano family and the Minnesota Vikings.”

Sparano is survived by his wife Jeanette, their three children and four grandchildren.