By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 at 2:20 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders team that won three straight games before a 34-14 shellacking at the hands of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and it’s the same one that will show up Sunday for a game against the undefeated Green Bay Packers, coach Hue Jackson said.
In other words, don’t question the mental state or psyche of this team.
“Again, we lost one game,” Jackson said. “What mental team’s going to show up is the same mental team that won three games prior to that. I just think that’s an unfair question because everybody’s now questioning what mental team, what’s this, what’s that.”
It’s a matter of the Raiders becoming more consistent and getting on a roll along the lines of the one the Packers did late last season and still are riding.
But, if there aren’t any questions about the Raiders mental state during a winning streak, then there shouldn’t be one after one loss.
“We had a three-game winning streak, and nobody was asking me about the mental of the team then,” Jackson said. “So, why are we going to ask about the mental of the team now?
“Here’s the deal. We need to get back to playing football, go win a football game. Bottom line, no ifs, ands or buts. So, please, when we lose one, I understand all the critics and the things that are going to get asked, but ask me those same things when we win three, and then we got a good thing going.”
Moreover, Jackson said the goal is for the Raiders to become more consistent, so that no one is unsure which team is going to show up each game.
“When we become very consistent football team, then we’ll be something good,” Jackson said. “And that’s what I tell the guys. Win three, which is what you were referring to, and then lose one, win two, and you lose one, that’s what we want to get out of.
“We need to go on a run here. Just like (the Packers) did a year ago. That team was kind of where we were right now, they went on a run, and they’ve stayed on the run.”
FRUSTRATION OVER INJURIES MOUNTS
Jackson said he has given up trying to guess when any of his hurt key players are going to return. For now, he is focused on the players healthy enough to play.
He added that there are so many players hurt that he can’t afford to sit anyone healthy enough to play, even if they aren’t at 100 percent.
“It’s not going to be, I’m going to make a decision because it’s cold, it’s where it is, boy, maybe we shouldn’t play him,” Jackson said. “No, right now we need every guy that we can get back out here on this football team that can contribute and help us win. So, if there’s a player that can be back out here, trust me, we’ll put him back out here.”
Free safety Michael Huff says the Raiders are talented enough to win most games, if not every, even if they aren’t at full strength.
“There’s a lot of games that we still should have won and could have won,” Huff said. “So, we don’t really let the injuries kind of affect us that way. We still feel like every Sunday we should go out there and win, regardless of who’s playing.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer and Jackson say they notice teams attacking the Raiders offense differently without starting receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, as well as running back Darren McFadden, not on the field.
It was obvious which players defenses would key against when the aforementioned guys were healthy. Now, the Raiders aren’t sure until the game starts.
“You go into a game plan with a certain guy you’re really focused on, and every team that we play against focuses on a handful of guys offensively for us,” Palmer said. “Normally, it’s Jacoby or Denarius or Darren, and when you don’t have that guy the defense focuses on usually, they turn to somebody else.”
Without several wide receivers and McFadden, it makes it pretty obvious that running back Michael Biush is going to be a focal point of the offense each game, Jackson said.
“At some point in time, teams are going to learn and people know what we are,” Jackson said. “We’re a team that likes to run the ball. So, you’re going to stick eight, nine guys whatever you have to do, up there to stop the run. And people look at the inactives and say, OK, there’s Michael Bush and who else?”
Cornerback Chris Johnson was excused from practice so that he could fly to Dallas, where he could be with his loved ones in light of a family member dying, Jackson said.
Jackson said Johnson is dealing with a “tragedy” and that he intends to give Johnson all the time he needs. Even so, Jackson said he expects Johnson back in time for the Packers game.
“This is a game of football,” Jackson said. “The thing he’s dealing with is a game of life. We’ll get him back here pretty soon. A very, very tough situation that he’s dealing with. But the organization supports him, I support him, he’ll get back here and be ready to go.”
The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that Johnson’s sister Jennifer was shot and killed and that his mother Della also got shot by a 46-year-old man who was the father of Jennifer Johnson’s daughter. Della Johnson is expected to survive.
TO BLITZ OR NOT TO BLITZ
Some quarterbacks dread the prospect of a defense blitzing. Then, there are quarterbacks who can’t wait to see the blitz so that they can use it to their advantage.
That small crop of quarterbacks includes the likes of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers.
This season, Rodgers has feasted on teams that dared blitz him, to the tun of a 149.3 passer rating, with 15 touchdown and only one interception.
Raiders safety Mike Mitchell says he and his defensive mates are going to have ample opportunity to make plays against the Packers, if for no other reason than Rodgers figures to throw the ball a great deal.
“He’s a very poised quarterback,” Mitchell said. “That’s the one thing I’ve seen on film. He doesn’t rattle very easy. He gets the ball out of his hand very quickly. And he really just trusts his one-on-one matchups. When he sees the one-on-one, he thinks that his guy is better than yours.
“So, as a defender, it gets you a little excited because you know that you’re going to get opportunities to play the ball and make game-changing plays. It’s also a lot of pressure because the ball is coming. You got to be on your p’s and q’s.”
Cornerback Stanford Routt says Rodgers has so many reliable options in the passing game that he doesn’t feel compelled to force the ball to a given receiver.
“It’s definitely going to be a good challenge,” Routt said. “He can make every throw on the field, and they’ve got good receivers that have good ball skills, so this is going to be a fun game on Sunday.”
Jackson says that McFadden has not suffered a setback from the mid-foot sprain he received Oct. 23. Perhaps, but McFadden isn’t making the kind of progress the Raiders expected.
“If anything there’s more positives,” Jackson said, when asked if McFadden suffered a setback. “They’re getting closer, and I wish I could tell you what day and what the percentage is, but I know they’re getting closer.”
Palmer said he heard that this was the week that McFadden would be back. Not sure where he heard that from, but it obviously hasn’t worked out that way.
Palmer and McFadden still haven’t been on the field together since Palmer arrived via trade with the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 18. Palmer debuted against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 23, but McFadden already was sidelined with his injury.
“I’m looking forward to that opportunity,” Palmer said. “I heard a couple of weeks ago, that this was going to be the week, but Mike’s done a great job filling in for him. When (McFadden’s) back, he’ll be ready and this team knows that Darren’s doin everything he can to get back on the field.”
WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?
The Packers last lost a game Dec. 19, 2010, when they were without Rodgers and playing a strong New England Patriots team. Their streak stands at 18 games, tied for the second-longest run in NFL history.
PALMER PAST FATIGUE
Missing all of training camp and the first six regular-season games finally caught up with Palmer last week. However, he said he pushed through the fatigue last week and is raring to go the rest of the way.
“The last couple of weeks, I started to feel it, I guess,” Palmer said.
Palmer said he likens what he experienced to a player who hits the wall at some point in training camp.
“You go through training camp and you feel great and then you kind of hit a little bit of a wall and you just got to go through that wall,” Palmer said. “Once you get through that, your body kind of gets used to wear and tear and the movement, and the pounding, and all of that. Fortunately, I’ve got that out of the way, got through that last week, and feel great this week.”
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