By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 3:54 pm in Oakland Raiders.
It was raining game balls in Alameda Monday, the result of a 31-10 win over the Denver Broncos to snap a four-game losing streak.
Fourteen of them were bestowed upon the Raiders by coach Tom Cable.
Defensive game balls went to cornerback Chris Johnson, safety Gibril Wilson, safety Rashad Baker, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and linebacker Thomas Howard.
Editorial aside: Nnamdi Asomugha was the only member of the secondary to missed out. What a slacker. Kelly may be the first player to ever receive a game ball without showing up a single time in the postgame stat book.
Those honored on offense were quarterback JaMarcus Russell, guard Cooper Carlisle, wide receiver Ashley Lelie, running back Justin Fargas, running back Darren McFadden and tight end Zach Miller.
Special teams game balls went to punt return specialist Johnnie Lee Higgins and core special teamer Marquis Cooper, who has stepped into all four special teams and been a solid player since the day he arrived.
One more _ assistant coach Willie Brown got a game ball for speaking to the team before the game about the history of the Denver rivalry.
More news, notes and analysis:
– Two Cable slogans appear to be clashing somewhat. When he took over as coach, down came Lane Kiffin’s “I’m in” banner in favor of “1-0.” Cable’s message was to never look ahead or behind, focus only on the task at hand.
Except after beating the Broncos, Cable was talking in terms of 2-0.
“A lot of positives,” Cable said. “In terms of turning the corner and all that, I think you have to answer that after next Sunday. To me, you win a game, it makes you feel good. You win two games now you can start to believe.
“That’s the approach we’re taking this week. This is a huge game for us, just like Denver was. We’re going to prepare that way and get after it.”
Perhaps they’ll just go 1-0 for a second straight week.
– Cable confirmed what was obvious to those who watched the game on television _ that McFadden lobbied hard for the play which resulted in the Raiders first offensive touchdown in 15 quarters. McFadden took a pitch from Russell after a play fake and easily turned the corner for a 1-yard scoring run.
“We didn’t have the flip play out of that formation and he said, `If you give it to me out of the formation where I can get it, I can get it into the end zone.’ So we called the formation where he could get the ball,” Cable said.
– Russell had his most efficient game as a Raider while dealing with family issues and the death of his godmother in Mobile, Ala. Russell left the team Friday night and returned Saturday night, handling personal issues while at the same time being prepared to play.
“He and I had our typical Wednesday meeting,” Cable said. “We talked about it every day to make sure the plans and everything were in order. He took care of it. He met us (in Denver) and got through his review and all the things that we do in preparation for the game. And, obviously, he played very well.”
– Defensive end Derrick Burgess had just two tackles and showed up only occasionally as a pass rusher _ he was in Jay Cutler’s face on one bootleg run his way _ but his presence was a plus, Cable said.
“I think he’d be the first to tell you he’s a little bit rusty. But at the same time he gave our team some needed energy,” Cable said. There’s no question about that. As he gets back into it, like I think you saw with Darren McFadden, you expect him to be better this week and he will be.”
– Pass rushers will receive no special counsel after Howard was called for two personal fouls for roughing the passer, with Gerard Warren getting another. The two on Howard were borderline at best.
“We have to play the game the way we’re supposed to play it which is all out,” Cable said. “It’s unfortunate but it is what it is so let’s just keep ripping it. Calls will go our way soon.”
– As noted last night, the Raiders’ willingness to put the penalities aside and just play without getting all caught up in the blame game with regard to officials was a positive sign.
“I believe this, that we’re beginning to rely on each other and not worry about the negatives,” Cable said. “If I make a mistake, then you’re going to pick me up. If you do something wrong, I got your back.
“And I think that’s starting to happen. I think that it’s that whole thing about team mentality that we’ve been working for and I just felt that, really for a little while now, and I think it really kind of came
together a little bit yesterday.”
One example came after Higgins was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for doing a backflip following his 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, forcing Sebastian Janikowski to kickoff at a 15-yard disadvantage.
With one mighty swing of his left leg, Janikowski still reached the goal line with his kickoff and the Broncos opened at the 26.
Janikowski, who covets touchbacks, told Higgins not to let it happen again.
“He was a little salty to me but in the end we got back and I was like, ‘It’s my bad. Just blame that up on me.’ He was like ‘no, it’s cool. We just can’t have penalties. It’s cool,’ ” Higgins said.
Higgins never saw the kickoff, which traveled 85 yards.
Editorial aside: Maybe Lane Kiffin had something with regard to that 76-yard field goal attempt after all.
“I was busy getting air,” Higgins said. “They say he probably could have kicked it to the second level.”
Cable thinks relieving Higgins of his kickoff return duties with the arrival of Justin Miller has enhanced his punt return skills.
“A kickoff returner is like saying, `you’re going to get in a head-on collision, and you’re a Volkswagon and here comes a Mack truck,’ ” Cable said. “That may distract you a little bit, you’ve go to be wired a little different for that one.”
– The play came back on a defensive holding call anyway, but Johnson was spoken to about his high-stepping interception return in which the ball was nearly knocked out by a Denver defender.
“That ball security isn’t good enough,” Cable said. “There was an opportunity right there to change the entire game had that ball gone the other way, went out of the back of the end zone or something like that. He’s aware of it. Next time it happens he’ll do the right thing.”
– Jon Alston, who carried his helmet in his hand after losing it on a block while running interference for Higgins, also started at strong side linebacker. Alston has been regarded as a tweener _ not really a safety or a true linebacker.
And it doesn’t matter to Cable.
“He doesn’t really look the part and those sort of things but he’s a football player,” Cable said. “He’s good for our team. He’s been tremendous on special teams and all that. He’s a good football player.”
– According to a note in the Rocky Mountain Tribune, Raiders CEO Amy Trask told a man in a Raiders jersey who was being led away in handcuffs by security that it was important to “be respectful” in someone else’s stadium.
Broncos fans had little respect for their own team. They weren’t booing Denver as Raider fans have taken to booing there team in some recent games, but then again, Raider fans weren’t running on to the field three separate times and interrupting the game.
Safety Michael Huff left the game with a stinger and did not return, but Cable said he didn’t believe it to be a serious issue with regard to this week against the Chiefs. Center Jake Grove (calf) and linebacker Ricky Brown (groin), neither of whom were active against Denver, are “day-to-day.”
Cable said he thought Brown was getting closer to practicing. Grove said last week he expected to be ready by the time the Raiders played the Chiefs.