Never has a day of the week been so culpable in the demise of a sports franchise.
In the aftermath of a 23-3 loss to the Denver Broncos, many key figures pointed to a sloppy Friday practice as a sign the the Raiders weren’t ready to carry the fight to a division rival in an important game on their home field.
Coach Tom Cable said it. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said it. Defensive end Richard Seymour said it. Defensive end Greg Ellis said it.
Cable never mentioned the poor Friday practice until the final score was rendered against the Broncos, keeping his comments to a minimum as he does on most Fridays.
After the game, it was a different story. Not enough focus. Too may do-overs. A lack of urgency. All the things which went into allowing the Broncos to steamroll a previously decent run defense for 215 yards and for the Raiders offense to put up an embarrassing 137.
So how did things go this time around on Friday?
“Much different. It’s the way it’s supposed to be today,” Cable said. “I think the focus, the attention to detail was sharp on both sides of the ball, the kicking game.”
— Then again, the Raiders will have to guard against a Saturday letdown. The club boarded buses to leave for Houston following practice.
“It’s just important to prepare the way we have this week and then put it together on Sunday,” Cable said. “The amount of work we do between now, the end of Friday practice, and Sunday is still ultra-important. I think we’re learning that. I think we’ve done a good job of that this week.”
— It will be huge for the Raiders defense to be on their game and not let a potentially explosive Houston offense get rolling.
In the last two weeks, a 34-31 win in Tennessee and a 31-24 loss to Jacksonville, the Texans gained 420 and 397 yards.
The Houston running game is ranked 30th with a 70.7 average, but defensive coordinator John Marshall noted that Steve Slaton showed signs of getting back on track last week with 76 yards on 12 carries.
Coach Gary Kubiak imported his the running and zone blocking system from Denver, and the Raiders also are a zone blocking team, so that must have been what Cable was referring to when he said, “We’re similar that way. So you want to get started fast. I think it probably bodes well for whichever team can get going soonest.”
When it comes to production, the teams are nothing at all alike.
Houston’s yardage totals in each of the last two weeks exceed anything put up by the Raiders over the last 61 games, dating back to a 416-yard effort against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 23, 2005.
— Defensive coordinator John Marshall said the run defense issues against Denver had more to do with getting off blocks than making tackles.
“They ran a couple of plays in there that we didn’t react to early on and they started doing pretty well with them . . . but we didn’t miss a lot of tackles,” Marshall said. “We weren’t physical enough going after people, driving them back and being physical enough. It’s that simple.”
— During one answer in a very brief media session, Marshall was talking bout Houston’s offensive weapons and inadvertantly hit my notebook with his hand, then gave me a playful tap on the jaw.
Feels OK, although I reserve to right to drive to Napa for X-rays to be absolutely sure.
— Wide reciever Chaz Schilens will officially be listed as doubtful, but he won’t play after doing little more than jogging around at practice, Cable said. Listed as out are guard Robert Gallery (broken fibula) and wide receiver Nick Miller (broken shin).
Hiram Eugene made it through the entire practice and is listed as questionable, but Cable expects him to assume his spot in the starting lineup at free safety with Michael Huff reverted to his role as the deep nickel safety.
Fullback Luke Lawton (hamstring), defensive end Greg Ellis (shoulder), cornerback Jonathan Holland (elbow) and Huff (rib, quad) all practiced without limitations and are probable. Safety Mike Mitchell “tweaked” an ankle and didn’t finish practice, Cable said, but is also probable.