By Steve Corkran
Sunday, October 16th, 2011 at 6:40 pm in Oakland Raiders.
There will come a time when the Raiders have to worry about their quarterback situation in light of the broken collarbone sufferred by starter Jason Campbell.
For now, they deserse to revel in their victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday as they improved to 4-2 on the season, the first time they have surged two games above .500 since the 2002 season.
“I keep telling everybody this team is becoming something,” Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. “We don’t blink when things happens. Obviously, we lost our quarterback early. Very unfortunate. But that’s part of the game, part of the business. We all understand that. But today was about a lot of good things.”
The Raiders honored the late Al Davis with tributes throughout the day, including the lighting of a torch in the southeast corner of the stadium by former Raiders coach John Madden.
There also was a 101-yard kick return for a touchdown by Jacoby Ford, which tied his career-best and upped his total in 22 games to four TDs on returns.
Linebacker Aaron Curry also made his Raiders debut, four days after he was traded to the Raiders from the Seattle Seahawks.
PENALTIES NOT AN ISSUE
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of all that took place today, the Raiders committed only five penalties for 35 yards. That’s a far cry from ideal, but it beats the heck out of the pace they set through five games.
During that time, the Raiders were flagged 50 times for 445 yards.
Fullback Manase Tonga and tight end David Ausberry made their first touch of the ball in a regular-season game memorable ones.
Tonga busted through the middle of the line for 12 yards and a first down on a third-and-one play. Ausberry turned a third-down play into a first down with a short reception.
CURRY THRILLED WITH NEW TEAM
Curry said things unfolded Sunday the way he expected, just the way they appeared on videotape and the precise way he was instructed by defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.
As a result, he is pleased with his new teammates, new coaches and new lease on life. Quite a turnaround for a player who went from being the No. 4 pick in the NFL draft in 2009 to an observer from the bench as recently as a week ago.
“Yeah, definitely,” Curry said, in response to feeling comfortable in the Raiders defense. “I feel like this is a defense that allows me to utilize what I do best, which is run. They blitzed me one time but my best attribute is when the ball is snapped, who has the ball and go and get it and play smart.”
Curry said he spent so much time with linebackers coach Greg Biekert and Bresnahan that he was able to function in the Raiders defense without limitation, even though he practiced only one day after he arrived from Seattle.
“I spent a lot of time with Coach B, and we went over what we call the regular list, what we were going to play this week,” Curry said. “We’re focusing on the regular list and then in our spare time we’re studying the entire playbook. I’m picking it up pretty easy.”
Jackson said Curry’s play Sunday validated his decision to stick Curry in the starting lineup ahead of Quentin Groves.
“He was out there flying around, trying to make plays,” Jackson said. “As I told you when I traded for him, I traded for him for a reason, to stick him in there.”
FORD BUSTS OUT
The Raiders struggled on kick returns their first five games, regardless who Jackson stuck back there — Nick Miller, Taiwan Jones, Jacoby Ford or Rock Cartwright.
Ford and others said it was only a matter of time before the dam burst. That time came in the second quarter, when Ford fielded a kick 1 yard deep in the end zone, blew around the masses about his own 20, into the clear and down the sideline for his fourth career touchdown on kick returns.
He tied his career-best, to boot, in terms of length of return. He said he sensed it coming Sunday.
“Special teams had a good week of preparation this week,” Ford said. “I also got to say that Rock Cartwright actually called that. He actually said it in practice, as soon as we got done running that exact return, he said, ‘You’re due to break one this week.’ ”
TWELVE YEARS IN THE MAKING
It’s a play the Raiders have worked on since Jon Gruden was the head coach, and punter Shane Lechler was a wide-eyed rookie on a veteran-laden team.
Time and again, the Raiders never tried a fake punt in a regular-season game. That is, until Sunday, when Jackson gave Lechler the green light on a 53-year field-goal attempt in the third quarter.
Lechler received Jon Condo’s snap, emerged from his one-knee stance, lofted a pass to tight end Kevin Boss and threw up his hands in celebration.
“We’ve run that play in practice for 12 years,” Lechler said. “This is the first time we got to do it.”
It’s no wonder Lechler wasted little time celebrating. Boss handled his part by taking the ball 35 yards for a touchdown that gave the Raiders an insurmountable 24-7 lead.
Lechler said he campaigns for that play “every practice.” To no avail.
That marked Lechler’s first pass attempt in 12 years, even though he can make a case for throwing the best ball of anyone on the Raiders roster, quarterbacks included — he played the position in high school.
“I didn’t realize he could throw the ball like he could until just a few weeks ago,” Boss said. “He’s got a great arm. He can throw it like a lot of quarterbacks can throw it. My recollection is that he was a pretty good quarterback in high school. He’s still got the arm. He’s a great athlete.”
Last week, Jackson signed off on a fake punt, with Rock Cartwright taking the snap from Condo and rambling 35 yards for a key first down.
It’s part of what Jackson calls “living on the edge,” and it’s part of what endears Jackson to his players.
“I love it,” Lechler said. “This is a very, very aggressive staff. Hue is an aggressive play caller. Some of the chances we take on special teams, a few weeks in a row, it’s fun to play for him. You feel like you always have a chance.”
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