By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, November 29th, 2010 at 1:01 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes and quotes and observations from the Raiders’ open locker room session Monday, a day after a 33-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins at the Coliseum:
— Rookie wide receiver and return specialist Jacoby Ford, who pretty much supplied anything good that happened against the Dolphins, was happy to get in the end zone for the first time as a receiver.
“I was really excited about the pass, to have my first reception touchdown,’’ Ford said. “Just to go out there and make a great play, just try to keep the game open, keep it alive. I was just really proud I put myself in that position.”
Ford said his 101-yard kickoff return, the third longest in Raiders history, came in part because it was set up by film study.
“Watching film on them all week on the kickoff return we actually saw some other teams that did a similar return to them, like that,’’ Ford said. “We knew if we went out there, executed the way we can – our front line, they did a great job and big Sam (Williams), he threw me a great block at the end to make sure that one didn’t try to catch me or anything, and it just kind of opened up and I read the block from there.”
As for Ford’s skill to take the ball away from a defender _ he did it to Miami cornerback Chris Clemons much as he did to the Chiefs’ Brandon Flowers _ he said it came about in part because of practice.
“It kind of just happens more in practice,’’ Ford said. “That’s just the thing with a receiver. A receiver has to have good ball skills. That’s just a drill, high-point drill that we work on in practice, and it just translates over into the game.”
The only kickoff returns longer than Ford’s touchdown against Miami in Raiders history were 104 yards by Ira Matthews against the San Diego Chargers in 1979 and 102 yards by Harold Hart against Miami in 1975.
— Coming off back to back one-sided losses, Oakland has little choice but to return its new-found focus to the new-found comfort zone of the AFC West.
In third place at 5-6 but still the lone unbeaten team in division games at 3-0, the Raiders visit one of the NFL’s hottest teams in the San Diego Chargers, who were once upon a time 2-5 and are now 6-5, a game up on the Raiders and a game back of the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4).
Which safety Tyvon Branch considers perfect timing.
“Definitely,’’ Branch said. “Especially with those guys. We always get a little extra motivation with those guys. I think it’s a good game for us. We need it. They need it. It’s going to be a fight.’’
Branch was at a loss to explain how the Raiders could go from one of the league’s most talked-about teams to where they now reside.
“It seems like everything is going wrong right now,’’ Branch said. “We haven’t been clicking, and when we were winning those games back-to-back we were clicking on all cylinders. And we just haven’t been lately.’’
Not that Branch is giving up hope.
“We’re still optimistic. We still have a lot of things ahead of us that we could still end up going where we want to go,’’ Branch said. “The season is not over for us. We have a lot of fight left in us, and we’re going to continue to fight, and hopefully things end up falling our way.’’
— Miami spent most of the game in advantageous field position for a lot of reasons, one of them being that the Raiders punting game continued to struggle.
Shane Lechler had a 26.8 net punting average, a far cry from the team’s average of 41.0.
“We’re not netting 41 because of what we’re doing right now. The last three games have been a pretty big letdown for our punt team,’’ Lechler said. “That’s on me. I’ll take the blame for it. I’ve been around this thing long enough. Maybe I need a little more hang time, a little more something.’’
– One of the more striking postgame sites was Rock Cartwright, bent over in his chair, despondent over having missed a chance to block a Brandon Fields punt. It happened on Miami’s first possession of the fourth quarter, with both Cartwright and Fields stunned that the kick somehow got off.
Fields even turned around, expecting to see the ball headed the other way.
Cartwright was fighting back tears as he spoke with reporters.
“I put this game on me because a blocked punt changes the whole momentum of the game and gives us momentum,’’ Cartwright said. “I wasn’t accountable to my teammates to today. I just feel I let the team down. Let the special teams coach down. They put a lot of trust in me. So put this one on me.’’
Said linebacker and special teamer Sam Williams: “He dove past it. He could have just tackled the punter he got there so quick.’’
Sounds as if cornerback Chris Johnson could be out at least another week with a groin strain, meaning it will be another week of Walter McFadden, Jeremy Ware or both.
“(I’m) doing rehab and everything I’m supposed to be doing so I don’t want to end up doing something that goes against the trainers so, until they tell me that really, everything is back to normal, I probably won’t be able to (play),’’ Johnson said.
With Johnson out, Nnamdi Asomugha was forced to play on a bad ankle and gave up four catches for 65 yards plus a holding penalty. McFadden gave up six receptions for 113 yards _ five of them third down conversions _ and also had a holding penalty.
Unlike defenders on the front seven, cornerbacks must be much closer to optimum health to be effective.
“It causes so much torquing and running,’’ Johnson said. “I mean, to me, every play you almost have to run a 100-yard dash. So it’s hard if you have any kind of hamstring, quads, anything like that, as a receiver or a DB to go out there and play. Ankle. It’s just hard to do.”
Johnson’s advice to McFadden was the same as Asomugha.
“I told him, ‘Keep working.’ As a DB, you’re going to get caught on. It’s just about, DB’s have to have a short-term memory,’’ Johnson said. “You get caught on, you can’t think about that play; you’ve got to worry about the next play.
“Because if you always sit in the past, you’re going to have a bad game. But this is just one game. He got in, got his feet wet. Now he knows what it is and it’s up to him this week to actually go in and prove all the critics wrong because right now they’re saying he can’t play. But he can play and that’s why he’s here.’’
— Wide receiver Louis Murphy has tried to remain as diplomatic as possible, but conceded the Raiders’ quarterback situation with Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell has made things difficult in terms of continuity.
“Going back and forth, this isn’t high school,’’ Murphy said on CSN Bay Area Sunday. “It’s the pros and you gotta have timing with your quartrerback and spend time with that quarterback. But whatever coaches call that’s what we gotta go with and make it work.
Cable said after the game he didn’t think there would be much of an issue this week because it appeared Gradkowski would be out after re-injuring his right shoulder.
The Raiders coach meets with the media for his weekly press briefing at 2 p.m. . . .