By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, October 18th, 2009 at 8:55 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes and quotes from the Raiders’ 13-9 win over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at the Coliseum:
– Talk about a reversal of fortune.
The Philadelphia Eagles came to town with the highest blitz-frequency ratio on pass plays in the NFL at 47.3 percent.
The Raiders blitzed less frequently than any team in the NFL at 13.1 percent.
And so it was the Raiders staged a veritable commando raid into the Eagles backfield, coming early and often with Thomas Howard, Kirk Morrison and Tyvon Branch, among others.
Nnamdi Asomugha, who missed much of the game after being poked in the eye by DeSean Jackson, wouldn’t have believed it had he not seen it with his good eye. Asomugha is a bit of a skeptic when it comes to promises of pressure tactics.
He said he lobbies defensive coordinator John Marshall every Monday, only to come away disappointed the following Sunday.
“This time, I guess it worked out just because we knew the type of weapons that they had, and he said he was going to do it,” Asomugha said. “Maybe he’ll see that it actually works, and we’ll stick on it. He said that he might get yelled at for it, but he’ll keep it going.”
The Raiders’ change-up flummoxed the Eagles’ offense.
“They were doing some stunts. They caught us by surprise,” Eagles tackle Winston Justice said. “They did a lot of things that we weren’t really expecting.”
It certainly wasn’t what right gurd Max Jean-Gilles had in mind.
“They just generated a lot of pressure,” Jean-Gilles said “They ran a lot of games and everything. We just weren’t prepared.”
From Eagles coach Andy Reid, there was this: “I thought they blocked better, I thought they tackled better. I thought they blitzed better. They did it all. They coached better. No. 1, they coached better.”
– The Raiders backed their pressure with Cover 2, another wrinkle. But this wasn’t an all-out blitzfest. The Raiders did come hard and early often enough to put the Eagles on their heels, and for a good period afterward let a dominant defensive line carry the fight to the Philadelphia offensive line.
“This week the defensive coordinator came up with a scheme in which we haven’t seen,” McNabb said. “They’re known for playing man coverage. They dropped back in a lot of zone, more zone than we’ve seen in the early games.
“That allowed them to sit back in a zone and just wait for a guy to catch the ball and make the tackle. They came up with more of a blitz package today. They were able to get pressure.”
Oakland’s six sacks of McNabb were the most they’ve had since getting six against Tennessee in 2005, and five of the six came from defensive ends. Richard Seymour and Trevor Scott had two each and Jay Richardson one. Linebacker Thomas Howard beat teammate Kirk Morrison to the lone sack by someone other than a lineman.
– Cable has been saying a single play could change the fortunes of the Raiders offense. It may have arrived in the form of an 86-yard touchdown catch by Zach Miller, with Louis Murphy throwing two key blocks. Read about it in my Web exclusive column.
– All the defensive pressure helped hold Eagles to a 2-for-16 performance on third-down conversions. Philadelphia also managed just 67 yards rushing, although at a respectable 4.3 yards per carry built primarily off one 25-yard run by Brian Westbrook.
Not bad for a Raiders team giving up 182 yards per game on the ground over their last four. Of course, it’s not like the Eagles are an impressive running team. They had 79, 93 and 76 yards in the games preceding the Raiders loss.
– The most impressive aspect of JaMarcus Russell’s game were flat passes, screens and circle routes which have often eluded him in terms of consistency. Fullback Gary Russell caught five passes for 55 yards and had three receptions for 50 yards in the fourth quarter when the Raiders needed first downs to work the clock.
There was more than a little I-told-you-so in his voice when Tom Cable was asked about that aspect JaMarcus Russell’s game.
“If you look at the last two weeks, he’s actually thrown the ball much, much better than prior to that,” Cable said. “So it was coming, it was actually coming. I know you don’t want to believe that but it’s true.”
Russell was 17 of 28 for 224 yards, the one touchdown to Zach Miller on an 86-yard touchdown play, and two interceptions. Both came on poor throws, one a high and outside pass to Louis Murphy which bounced into the hands of Asante Samuel, and the other a force to Miller down the middle.
Oakland’s defense was so stout neither mattered. Russell also showed off a nifty spin move on a 12-yard run.
– Wide receivers were a rumor other than as blockers. Todd Watkins caught one pass for four yards, Johnnie Lee Higgins one for two yards. Starters Darrius Heyward-Bey and Murphy failed to catch a pass. Heyward-Bey’s only opportunity hit hish ands but wasn’t a great throw. Murphy was targeted three times.
– Running back Justin Fargas had his biggest game since last season with 23 carries for 87 yards, and in so doing is probably no longer the third wheel behind Darren McFadden (when he returns) and Michael Bush.
“I think he and I have had a connection since I got here about running the ball and how you do it,” Cable said. “I thought he was really big for our football team today. I don’t know what his numbers were. But I thought it was very consistent.
“ I thought he was great in short yardage situations. That’s what you need. You need a guy who will go in there with his shoulders square and stick it up in there. That’s what he does.”
Said Fargas: “It felt good to just getting back to doing what we do, being who we are. It’s not always pretty, but we can run the ball and we can control the clock and obviously that will open up things in the play action game like we did today.”
In all, the Raiders rushed for 116 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry _ not great, but they controlled the ball well enough to have a 33:02 to 26:58 advantage in time of possession.
– For the most part, the Raiders downplayed comments by the Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce about last week’s 44-7 loss being “like a scrimmage” to New York. Murphy, however, said he took Pierce’s comments to heart and basically conceded he was right _ the Raiders had played an uninspired game with no passion and he used them as motivation.
The comments were posted in the Raiders locker room and near the special teams statistics board in a nearby hallway.
Seymour shrugged them off as inconsequential.
“I could care less about Pierce,” Seymour said. “They got what they deserved today anyway.”
What the Giants “deserved” was a 48-27 loss to unbeaten New Orleans, their first loss of the season after five wins.
– No telling when the Napa DA’s office will have a determination on whether Cable will be charged in the alleged attack on assistant coach Randy Hanson. Napa District attorney Gary Lieberstein said last week to check back Monday.
All that was missing in Cable’s only reference to the issue was a flag and apple pie.
“You know, you live in America for a reason; the process will take care of itself with that other stuff,” Cable said. “Enough said.”
– Punter Shane Lechler _ yawn _ had seven punts for a 51.1 yards average, a 42.2 net and received one of what will eventually be several game balls. Sebastian Janikowski converted both his field goal attempts from 29 and 46 yards and still hasn’t missed this season.
The Raiders coverage teams smothered the Eagles, but their own return game is still playing poorly. Higgins fumbled two punts, losing neither. Jonathan Holland averaged only 17 yards on two kick returns, one which he took a yard deep in the end zone and made it only to the 14.
– Cable may not be hear from the Napa DA today, but he’s sure to hear from the NFL after Stanford Routt’s interception and touchdown run was nullified on a debatable pass interference penalty.
“That’s a ridiculous call,” Cable said. “He went in the back door on the guy and caught it with two hands and scored a touchdown. He couldn’t have hooked him.”
The Raiders bench, presumably Cable, got a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for its protest on the sideline.
– Here’s the thing that was most impressive about the Raiders Sunday _ they won anyway.
The play happened on the first play following Miller’s 86-yard touchdown reception from Russell, so the Coliseum was as loud as it’s been since Week 1 against San Diego. It could have been a deflating moment. The Raiders could have lost the game and had a whole week to complain about the officiating and their lot in life.
Not this time.
That’s called progress.