By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, December 20th, 2009 at 6:53 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes and observations following the Raiders’ 20-19 win over the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field:
– What an incredible roller coaster ride of a game.
The fluctuation in quality of play under Tom Cable is remarkable. The Raiders can look error-prone and amateurish one week and positively heroic seven days later. Cable used the word “spectacular” in describing his team’s defense, and it wasn’t hyperbole.
From holding the Broncos to a pair of field goals on their first two drives, to keeping them out of the end zone after Kyle Orton’s 63-yard pass to Brandon Stokely, to Michael Huff’s magnificent breakup of an Orton pass to Brandon Marshall on the second-to-last play, the Raiders played _ dare I say it _ championship level defense.
Very few missed tackles. Tight coverage. Just one really big mistake on the Stokely play. Tommy Kelly played so hard he lost his pants. Knowshon Moreno looks unstoppable on the first two drives _ I had him pegged at that point for at least 125 yards _ and ends up with 49 yards. He had 39 yards rushing after three possessions.
– The bottom line is JaMarcus Russell is largely responsible for his plight this season, but still, when Michael Bush dropped a sure first-down pass on one of his first series, you wonder if the guy can catch a break.
Yes, he missed an open Louis Murphy on a key third-down throw. But he got off the deck after giving way to J.P. Losman after being knocked out for a play and delivered a 10-yard strike for a first down, and led a game-winning drive against a division rival.
Russell didn’t gloat following a win in the same way he doesn’t seem to gnash his teeth over a loss.
“I always say everybody is going to have their opinion. As long as my teammates have faith, and I have faith in those guys,” Russell said. `There’s always going to be tough times. It’s how you come up from behind and fight those tough times off.”
Russell’s teammates seemed genuinely happy for him.
“I don’t think words can explain,” tackle Mario Henderson said. “He’s the No. 1 overall draft pick. He’s been hearing it from Day 1. For him to come in and do what he did today was amazing. One thing we did was step up behind him. We didn’t abandon him . . . the thing he showed us today is he was ready for the chance, he came back out strong and helped us when we needed it.”
Said tight end Tony Stewart: “The man has been freaking dragged through the mud and people have been taking shots at him and the man has just been standing tall. He has a lot of growing up to do but when it came time he stepped up and did the job.”
– Cable’s response about the quarterback for next week against Cleveland: “We’ll have to sort through the bodies on the way home and decide. Charlie was playing really well before he got knocked out. If he’s ready to go he’ll play. If not, we’ll go with JaMarcus but it’s too early to tell.”
It’s worth noting Cable didn’t go overboard and limit what Russell did to his final drive.
“He missed a couple throws that could have changed it earlier, but what he did was he stayed in tehre and got it and I think that’s the part we should all be excited about,” Cable said. “They put some rush to it there at the end and brought a cople guys and were under some pressure, especially when we crossed midfield. But once we got down there I thought he handled it pretty well. He got some protection and was able to make a play.”
– Frye was well enough following his concussion to talk to reporters after the game.
“My buddy from Cleveland, Andra Davis, came up the middle and got me pretty good and my head hit the ground,” Frye said. “This league is obviously putting a lot of emphasis on head injuries and with good reason. Obviously it worked out. JaMarcus came in and played great and Chaz caught the touchdown. You couldn’t have written a better script.”
– Bush, the only back to gain 100 yards in a game this season for the Raiders, also became the second, gaining 133 yards on 18 carries and leading a season-best 241-yard rushing performance. Darren McFadden had 74 yards on 12 carries _ the second-highest total of his career. Bush had 23-yard touchdown run (getting a huge block from Langston Walker) and a 40-yard run.
Both runners were stone-walled near the end zone, however, and McFadden lost a fumble, a mistake that looked as if it would cost the Raiders the game.
Justin Fargas left the game early after “tweaking” a knee.
“Let’s face it, everybody would be happy to to have what we have here (at the running back position),” Cable said. “If you were anywhere else and you only had Mike or Darren . . . fortunately wehave two more running backs you can run to. Those guys block i pretty well, run it hard and it was a good day.”
It was deja vu for Bush, who recalled last year’s 177-yard effort in the season finale at Tampa Bay.
“A game like this reminds me of last year,” Bush said. “In Tampa, the guys went down last year and I stepped in, same thing as today. Fargas went down a little bit and we needed someone else to pick up the slack. that is why you need a stable of backs like we have.”
– Denver coach Josh McDaniels conceded that settling with field goals on their first two red zone opportunities _ leading 6-0 instead of 14-0 _ played a huge role. He didn’t help matters by calling a Kyle Orton quarterack sneak which came up way short and a gadget pass to eligible tackle Ryan Clady on the next series which was correctly diagnosed by Asomugha.
“All year, we’ve kind of let teams hang around, and we’ve been fortunate enough to win most of those games,” Orton said. “You do it long enough and you don’t put teams away, and it comes back to bite you like it did today.”
– Frye and tight end Brandon Myers didn’t finish the game with concussions. Fargas, Cable said, possibly could have continued if the Raiders needed an “emergency” runner. Chris Johnson sprained an ankle.
“He was able to play some and then he had to come out,” Cable said.
– The Raiders used tackle Erik Pears as an extra blocker in some sets.
– The game was delayed at one point as officials directed law enforcement to try and find someone shining a laser light into the face of Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall. There were a few scuffles as tempers were both on short sides.
In other words, an old-style AFC West game worthy of tradition.
“Pretty fun,” Cable said. “I’ll bet you all counted us out, too.”