By Steve Corkran
Sunday, September 25th, 2011 at 6:50 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson was eager to see just how far along he was in the process of building a bully and whether his players were up for the challenge.
There had to be some concern on Jackson’s part in light of the Raiders second-half meltdown against the Buffalo Bills a week earlier in a 38-35 loss.
All the questions were answered and the worries allayed by the end of the day Sunday, as the Raiders rallied from a 10-point deficit for a 34-24 victory over the New York Jets.
“Are you kidding me?” Jackson said, when asked what the victory meant. “This is one of the greatest victories I’ve ever been a part of, and I played in the AFC championship game. But it was nothing like today because this is our fans, this is Raider Nation, this is us at our finest, the best we could be today, which is win a game. Our fans were there for us. Hopefully, they’ll continue to be there for us.”
The Raiders opened the game with a long drive that culminated with the first of running back Darren McFadden’s two touchdowns. Midway through the second quarter, they trailed 17-7 and seemed on the verge of getting blown out.
The Raiders tied the game by halftime, thanks to a 54-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski on the final play of the second quarter.
The tide turned when the Raiders stopped the Jets on a fourth-and-two play late the third quarter and the score still tied at 17.
Six plays later, the Raiders led 31-17 on the strength of a 23-yard run by rookie wide receiver Denarious Moore and a 1-yard run by Michael Bush.
“Last week, we didn’t dig when we were in Buffalo and we dug today,” Jackson said. “Talk about priming a pump. We were going to pump this thing out. We got to it, and our guys were believing. We’re not where we want to be yet, but I promise you this team is getting there. They’re learning how to fight in my image, my vision, my thought.”
As a result, the Raiders improved to 2-1 and kept pace with the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.
Quarterback Jason Campbell said this was a game he and his teammates eyed as a barometer.
“I just felt like, this early in the season, this was a statement game, because of the way that we lost last week,” Campbell said. “To see a rebound this week against a tough opponent and make a statement and win a game like this, it is a statement game for our team, to let us know how far we’ve matured and how far we’ve come in trying to turn this thing around.”
MORE MOORE YIELDS MORE RESULTS
Jackson promised more playing time for Moore on the heels of his five-catch, 146-yard performance against the Bills on Sept. 18.
Sure enough, Jackson called Moore’s number on the second and third plays of the game. The first play netted 13 yards, the second 25 as a result of a pass interference penalty.
Moore remained a focal point of the offense the rest of the game. He finished with four receptions for 34 yards and turned the back end of a double reverse into a tiebreaking touchdown run late in the third quarter.
“Same thing I saw in training camp,” Campbell said. “Now we’re just seeing it on Sundays. He’s a guy that’s always been making plays and his opportunity, but he’s the same guy. It’s no surprise to us. To the outside world, it is, but we got a chance to see it first-hand in training camp, making plays and being as quick as he is.”
Moore also replaced Nick Miller on punt returns for the first time. He averaged only 5 yards on his three returns. More important, he fielded the ball cleanly and didn’t do anything to hurt his team.
“Give it to 17, Denarius Moore,” Jackson said. “Let your players make plays. That’s what I’m trying to create here. I’m going to create an environment where our great players can do something special. … (Moore) is becoming a really, really fine football player.”
MCFADDEN SHINES ONCE AGAIN
McFadden came into his own last season, when he rushed for a career-high 1,157 yards. The things he does with the ball is of no surprise to anyone.
Against the Jets, McFadden ran past, through, around and over defenders to the tune of 171 yards and the two touchdowns.
He might have piled up even more yardage were it not for a tight groin that sidelined him late in the game.
McFadden said his groin tightened up but that he expects to be fine. He has 393 yards rushing through three games and is well on his way to shattering the total he reached last season.
“It just shows what our team can do,” McFadden said. “If we come out here and play week in and week out, we can play with anybody in the league.”
NOT QUITE MILLER TIME
Seven days ago, Nick Miller was the Raiders kick returner, punt returner and backup wide receiver. On Sunday, he was a spectator.
Jackson used Moore on punt returns and fellow rookie Taiwan Jones on kick returns. That doesn’t bode well for Miller, given his value to the Raiders lies with his return ability.
It’s likely that Jackson kept Miller on the 53-man roster for today’s game just in case Moore or Jones got injured and to make sure that he liked what he saw from Moore and Jones in a game.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Miller released at some point next week, with cornerback Sterling Moore signed from the practice squad.
PROGRESS ON PENALTIES FRONT
The Raiders aren’t quite where Jackson wants them to be in terms of penalties. However, they made progress in that department for the second straight game.
In the opener, the Raiders committed 15 penalties for 131 yards. They cut that figure to eight for 85 against the Bills. On Sunday, the Raiders were penalized seven times for 55 yards.
WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?
The Raiders failed to convert into a first down any of their eight third-down plays against the Jets.
Jackson certainly will be concerned by that alarming stat, but he won’t be alarmed, given the Raiders still managed 383 yards offense and cobbled together six scoring drives.
For the record, the Jets converted six of their 14 third-down plays into first downs. Guess which stat Jets coach Rex Ryan would have preferred today?
OFFENSIVE LINE GETTING HIGH PRAISE
Campbell attempted 27 passes against the Jets, but he was sacked only once. Overall, he has been sacked twice in three games.
That’s a pretty impressive stat, when you consider the left tackle, Jared Veldheer, is a second-year player, left guard Stefen Wisniewski is a rookie and Khalif Barnes is starting at right tackle for the first time in his seven-year NFL career.
Add to that, Jackson wasn’t sure who his five starters were going to be until late in training camp.
“You guys jumped me every day about who was going to be on the offensive line,” Jackson said in a told-you-so moment after the game. “Remember that in training camp? Oh yeah, oh yeah. Who’s the line? Who’s the line? Well, hold on. You guys were laughing at me half the time. I told you these guys were working. I give a lot of respect and kudos to our line coaches, Bob Wylie, Steve Wisniewski. Are you kidding me? Those guys do a tremendous job with that group.”
Campbell is thankful for the way his offensive linemen have kept him upright and given him ample time to make his reads as he awaits an open receiver.
“The guys came out, set the tempo,” Campbell said. “You see the block that Sammy (Satele, center) made on the reverse that sprung Denarius to score? The guys are taking that approach and having the right attitude of being a physical bunch. They take pride in working together and protecting the quarterback and protecting the run game, and it’s going to pay off for us.”
Satele delivered a punishing block on Moore’s scoring run. Wisniewski opened a huge hole for Bush on his 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
X MARKS THE SPOT, SENDS THE SIGNAL
When Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour was announced in the pre-game introductions, he issued a signal to those in attendance and those viewing on TV.
“When I throw up the ‘X,’ that means it’s time to put the kids to bed,” Seymour said. “It’s X-rated out there. That means if you’re 13 and under, don’t watch this.”
Not sure what Seymour means by this one. Just go with it and take him at his words. He has more Super Bowl rings and Pro Bowl berths than us, so we work with him on this one.
For the PG crowd, Seymour said he’s thrilled to be with the Raiders.
“I’ve said ever since I came here that my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization has always welcomed me with open arms, and I want to be where I’m welcomed and where I’m wanted,” Seymour said. “I know I can play football. That’s not a question. But it’s good to have it on both sides, where you’re wanted, and the team wants you and the organizations wants you, you’re well respected and you’re playing well. So it’s a great combination.”
Seymour had a hand in one of the Raiders’ four sacks of Mark Sanchez.
MOSS GETS FAT ON JETS O-LINE
Raiders backup defensive end Jarvis Moss posted two of his team’s four sacks. He also batted down a pass, had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and recorded four tackles.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“This ain’t the same old Raiders of the last five or six years. We made big stops when we needed to.” — defensive tackle Tommy Kelly on what today’s victory should tell the rest of the league
CHEKWA TO THE RESCUE
Rookie Chimdi Chekwa looked lost most of the time during training camp and Oakland’s four exhibition games. On Sunday, he looked like he belongs on the field in place of Chris Johnson at cornerback.
Who saw this one coming? If so, get in that short line over there.
Chekwa was pressed into duty when Chris Johnson went down with a hamstring injury early in the first quarter. The Jets noticed the change and went right after Chekwa.
Time and again, Chekwa responded to the challenge, and he looked nothing like the player who struggled so much in camp.
Veteran wide receiver Plaxico Burress caught two long passes on Chekwa, including one for a touchdown. However, Chekwa had tight coverage on both plays.
“We have some talented young guys, and once we all get healthy we have a chance to have a real talented secondary, from top to bottom,” cornerback Stanford Routt said. “(Chekwa and Joe Porter) can play. They may have had their hiccups or bumps in the road in the preseason, but keep fighting and we don’t worry about them.”
Chekwa said he was prepared to play and no longer feels overwhelmed.
“I got the nerves out in preseason,” Chekwa said. “I’m not nervous anymore. I’m just trying to gout there and attack and play football.”
Chekwa admits that covering the 6-foot-5 Burress isn’t something he is accustomed to doing. Just the same, he used the same approach that helped him succeed at Ohio State.
“Usually the guys I go against are about half his size,” Chekwa said. “But I watched him on film, knew he was a big receiver, and prepared for it. I figured if I went in, I’d go in on the right side, so I’d be matched up against him. So I
prepared for it and just went out there and tried to play.”
The play of Chekwa and Porter in a pinch validates Jackson’s next-man-up philosophy.
“Next man up,” Jackson said. “They competed. That’s what we talk about. … The next group of guys went in there and kept fighting. Our whole thing is, play like a Raider. If you’ll compete, we gave up some plays and there’s things we’ll get better at, but let me tell you something. Those guys went out there and they kept playing. You could see it in their eyes. We’re going to become something here.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM REX RYAN
“First off, you’ve got to give the Raiders a ton of credit. They played a great game today, both sides of the ball. I thought they played really well. Obviously (Darren) McFadden had a huge game. They made plays, we didn’t.”
On McFadden: “Against a kid like that, you’d better set the edges. He outran us and made some great plays.”
On the Raiders game plan: “Hue Jackson had his team better prepared than I did, obviously. So, I tip my hat to him.”
On what this loss means: “This thing stings, there’s no question. You have 439 yards on offense and you lose the game. It’s unbelievable.”
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