By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, December 19th, 2009 at 1:29 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes and observations heading into the Raiders game Sunday in Denver against the Broncos:
– The Broncos have not only proved to be an accurate litmus test for how the Raiders will fare in some seasons, but served as an opponent beleaguered coaches can use to save their jobs.
When the Raiders put a 31-10 beating on the Broncos at Invesco Field last Nov. 23, it helped along a slump which ended with the firing of Mike Shanahan and helped the case of Tom Cable in terms of removing “interim” from his job title.
The last two games of the season against Houston and Tampa Bay sealed the deal, but Al Davis probably would have made up his mind before then if the Raiders had been spanked the the Broncos.
By contrast, Lane Kiffin’s tenure was over the moment the Raiders embarrassed themselves 41-14 in their Monday night opener against Denver, although Davis waited three more games to build his case and warm up the overhead projector.
Davis, already ticked off by Kiffin’s defiance, may have ousted him after one year had it not been for two games against Denver. In Week 2, the Raiders lost 23-20 in a game they would have won had Sebastian Janikowski not plunked an upright. The Raiders beat the Broncos in the rematch 34-20 in the Coliseum, the best game of the Kiffin regime.
Art Shell, 0-2 against Denver, was gone after one year. Norv Turner, 1-3, lasted two seasons, including a Broncos sweep by a score of 55-20 in 2005. Bill Callahan’s AFC champions beat the Broncos twice in 2002, but his fate was probably sealed the next year in the “Dumbest Team in America” loss to Denver.
– Nnamdi Asomugha gets his hopes up every Sunday that he’ll be challenged repeatedly. Considering that Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall normally lines up on the same side as Asomugha, he could get his wish.
Marshall caught an NFL record 21 passes in a loss to Indianapolis last week, gaining 200 yards. Last season, Marshall had an 18-catch game against San Diego, giving him two of the top four singe-game reception totals in NFL history.
“He’s the `X’ usually and comes out to the right side, so I’ll probably see a lot of him,” Asomugha said Friday. “I mean, he got 21, he dropped three, so this is a game where you go in and you know the ball is coming, so you have a chance at making plays.”
Considering the number of hitch routes, bubble screens and the like the Broncos throw to Marshall, the key is limited the yardage because receptions are inevitable.
“He’s going to get his,” Asomugha said. “I mean, if you throw at him 30 times, he’s going to get something out of that. That’s what you saw last week . . . I’ve said for the last two or three years he’s one of teh toughest guys to bring down after the catch, along with (Anquan) Boldin and Steve Smith. That’s why they give him the screens and shorter routes and stuff likethat. You have to gang tackle him.”
– Asomugha, one of the most observant and analytical players you’ll ever talk to, had some interesting observations on Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, the former Patriots coordinator who took over for Shanahan.
In the Shanahan years, the Broncos were predictable in terms of how they were going to attack, but in their good years so flawless in terms of execution they were difficult to stop.
The Broncos would have only a few runs in their playbook, with a bread-and-butter stretch play, designed for backs to make one cut in a zone blocking scheme and head up field.
Those plays were mixed in with a passing game heavy with bootlegs and rollouts, with a lot of involvement from the tight ends. It was a system Kiffin copied and the Raiders used extensively in 2007, with Cable altering things in terms of depth of receivers and the like after taking over as interim coach.
Under McDaniels, the Denver offense, according to offense, has been like chameleon.
“A lot of coordinators have their basic plays, regardless of who they’re playing against,” Asomugha said. “But this is a guy, you watch the film from last week and it looks nothing like the film from the week before, or the week before that. Every week is different.
“He came out against New England, we’d never seen them in a wildcat. But he knew Miami had got New England a year or so bak, and he knew it would work. There were some things he’s done against us that he’s never done the rest of the year that worked. Shanahan would do what he does, sometimes have different people doing it. That’s how he’d get you. But with Josh, it’s completely new every week.
“Those are the guys you love to face, because it’s the fun of the game. You have to be really focused.”
– A rarity Sunday _ the Raiders and 49ers will be on television locally at the same time. The 49ers game was moved to the later time slot because of weather conditions in Philadelphia. The attempts to never have teams in the same market compete against each other when it makes up the schedule.