By Steve Corkran
Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 at 5:40 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson waited one month and one day for his first NFL victory of any kind. That it came in Oakland’s regular-season opener certainly takes away the sting of losing all four exhibition games.
Yet, one could hardly tell that Jackson had just guided the Raiders to their first season-opening victory since 2002, their first win in a Monday night game in eight tries and the first prime-time victory in 12 games.
“I haven’t slept, the (postgame) meal was horrible, I’ve been watching Buffalo, so I don’t feel good right now because (the Bills) beat the team that they played really badly,” Jackson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “Right now I’ve got some issues and I have to address them. It will take me probably until Sunday to feel good again.”
*Chief among those issues are:
Reducing the penalties. The Raiders committed 15 infractions for 131 yards in their 23-20 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.
The penalties were of a wide variety, with eight coming on offense, six on defense and one on special teams. The Raiders surged into the lead in defense of the titles they captured last season for leading the league in penalties and yards penalized.
They are four penalties ahead of the co-runners-up and 29 yards ahead of the runner-up 49ers. By comparison, the New York Jets played penalty-free football against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
“When we get really good, we’re not going to talk about penalties in this room,” Jackson said. “That’s not going to be the issue. … I’ve got to get the curse stopped. Just like we broke the Monday night curse, I’ve got to get this one turned the other way, and that’s going to take time.”
It might take all season, Jackson admitted, but the seemingly never-ending problem will get solved.
“I’m not here to tell you it’s going to stop next week or the week after, but I want you to know and I want our fans to know that we’re working at it,” Jackson said. “I’m not just going to just sweep it under the carpet and say, ‘OK, it is what it is,’ because we won the game. I don’t think that’s right. There’s 15 – too many penalties for this football team. And it starts with me, down through our coaches to our players. We have to get this corrected and we will.”
*Finding some success in the passing game. Quarterback Jason Campbell completed 13 passes against the Broncos. Problem is, those 13 passes netted only 105 yards and only one traveled more than 9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
It wasn’t for lack of effort, Jackson said.
“Well, we tried,” Jackson said. “Whether there was a miscue here or a miscue there, it didn’t happen. That’s the truth to the matter. It’s something we’ve got to get better at, there’s no question. We need to get better in that area and we’ll continue to work hard at it.”
*Finding potential replacements for wide receiver Jacoby Ford (hamstring) and free safety Michael Huff (groin).
Both players suffered injuries against the Broncos, and they weren’t able to finish the game. Jackson isn’t sure about the severity of the injuries.
*Jackson can take solace in knowing that Matt Giordano is available if Huff can’t play against the Bills on Sunday.
The seasoned veteran intercepted a pass against the Broncos, forced a fumble and nearly recovered a fumble on another play.
All this despite being waived by the Raiders when the roster was cut down to 53 players, only to be re-signed a few days later.
“The day we cut him, I had a great conversation with him in my office,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t going to be surprised if he showed back up here and neither was he. He told me this was a a place he wanted to be if he could get back.
“I’ve competed against him on other teams. He’s a tremendous football player. When he got cut the numbers just didn’t add up for him. Obviously, after going back through the roster it did. I’m glad to have him back. He made some tremendous football plays, he’s a tremendous football player.”
*The Raiders used running back Darren McFadden in the Wildcat formation on the first play from scrimmage against the Broncos. Don’t be surprised if you see it again this season, Jackson said.
McFadden pitched the ball to Ford, who bobbled the ball before being tackled near the line of scrimmage. That was the end of the experiment Monday.
“We might see a little bit of everything,” Jackson said. “I keep telling you, we’re not going to be a vanilla offensive football team. We’re going to continue to grow and get better.”
*The players were off Tuesday, so there wasn’t any media access. Beat writer Jerry McDonald wasn’t able to make it to the Raiders locker room after the game Monday night because of deadline issues. Therefore, we’re leaning on Jackson today, with a few quotes culled from the Broncos public relations department.
The Raiders return to practice Wednesday morning. Yes, morning. The Raiders play the Bills on Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT, so Jackson is beginning practices at 10 a.m. PDT to correspond with the starting time of the game.
He employed a similar strategy in practice last week, switching to night practices as a means of getting his players accustomed to playing at night.
“I’m going to do everything I can to put this team in the best opportunity to win a game,” Jackson said. “Will we practice in the morning? You better believe we will. And we’ll start early and we’ll prepare ourselves to play at the time we’re going to play in Buffalo. And that’s what we’ll do. And our guys understand it, and they’re looking forward to it.”
*Jackson said he didn’t have an update on the status of tight end Kevin Boss and backup safety Mike Mitchell. Both players missed the Broncos game because of knee injuries.
*Sebastian Janikowski kicked a field goal from 70 yards in pre-game warm-ups Monday night. Based on how he felt, he told Jackson that he felt comfortable from 65 yards in the game.
Jackson said he wasn’t thinking about whether Janikowski would make the 63-yarder he attempted just before halftime.
“I have had people text me, ‘Coach, there was no emotion on your face,’ ” Jackson said. “What for? I knew the guy was going to make it. There’s no doubt. I was thinking what we were going to do at halftime.”
Janikowski said tying or breaking the NFL record — he tied Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam — was one of three goals he had when he entered the league in 2000. Playing for 10 seasons and winning a Super Bowl are the two other goals.
Two down, one to go, he said.
“To be honest, I didn’t hit it that good,” Janikowski said after the game. “It barely got over the bar.”
Campbell said the Raiders weren’t concerned about running the ball so much on the final drive of the half because they were confident that they could get within Janikowski’s range without risking an interception.
“We see that in practice all the time,” Campbell said after the game. “This guy kicks 65-, 70-yard field goals. We knew if we could set him up on the right hash, his preference, it gives him the opportunity to kick that field goal.”
*Credit offensive coordinator Al Saunders for prompting Jackson to throw the red challenge flag on the Broncos fumble that was awarded to the Raiders after a review.
Jackson wasn’t sure whether to throw the flag until a replay surfaced that showed definitive evidence of the ball coming out before the runner’s knee hit the ground.
“The replay wasn’t being shown,” Jackson said. “Then, at the last second, as they were breaking the huddle, and I was starting to sweat a little bit, trying to get this replay because, obviously, we can’t see anything down there, he goes, ‘Hue, the ball’s out, throw it.’ And we worked as a team.”
*Third-year receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey led the Raiders with four receptions for 44 yards Monday night. Several times, he turned third-down plays into first downs.
Jackson said Heyward-Bey is just scratching the surface of what he can do as a receiver.
“No, I don’t think so,” Jackson said, when asked if this was Heyward-Bey’s best game as a pro. “I know we talk about DHB a lot, but DHB made some clutch plays last night. I don’t think it was his best game. I know what you’re thinking, when he caught it and ran with the ball. No, that’s Darrius. Darrius is playing football the way he can play. … I expect more from him. There’s a lot more in there. … He’s truly coming on.”
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl