On the surface, the Raiders appear long-shots Sunday against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. However, the Raiders have a secret weapon in defensive line coach Mike Waufle.
Well, that’s the hope, anyway. It was Waufle who designed a game plan against the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady that worked to perfection in the New York Giants victory over the 18-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2007 season.
The plan consisted of devising a strategy where the Giants could generate enough pressure on Brady with four defensive linemen and a limited number of well-disguised blitzes. In the end, the Giants beat the Patriots.
Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said he is confident that the Raiders can pull off a similar performance against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“You have to get him off his rhythm,” Bresnahan said of Rodgers.
That’s easier said than done, of course. The key, Bresnahan said, is playing tight coverage on the favored short routes of the Packers and giving the defensive linemen more time to get to Rodgers.
Also, the chances of succeeding against Rodgers soar if the defensive linemen can get their hands on a handful of passes and force Rodgers to his left, where he is less dangerous.
“You’re not going to eliminate the plays in this game but you have to minimize them and keep it within a good realm of keeping in our offense in the game, and then we got to limit their series,” Bresnahan said. “The best way to keep guys like that out of the end zone is to keep them on the sideline.
“Again, that’s stuff that we have to be concerned with, getting off the field and not having 7-, 8-, 9-play drives. We got to get off the field in 3-, 4- 5(-play drives) and force them into punts and field-goal attempts.”
Raiders coach Hue Jackson said the Packers are the best team in the league right now. However, they also have weaknesses that can be exploited and aren’t unbeatable.
“Any team can be (beaten),” Jackson said. “It’s been proven. Nobody goes … to go 16-0 in the regular season is unbelievable, and if they can accomplish that goal, obviously they’d be considered one of the best that there’s been.
“But they’re playing the Raiders this week. We’re going to show up, and we’re going to be ready to play. They have a goal. We have a goal, too. We need to get back to winning. Something’s going to give, one way or the other. So it’s going to be fun to see.”
RODGERS VS. BRADY
Jackson and quarterback Carson Palmer rave about Rodgers, joining a chorus of people saying Rodgers is playing at a level never seen before.
Well, maybe, but not quite.
For comparison’s sake, we took the best season of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (2007) and stacked it up against Rodgers’ past 16 games, three playoff games and the Super Bowl from last season and the first 12 regular-season games this year.
Brady completed 398 of his 578 passes (68.9 percent) for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns, with only eight interceptions. Rodgers over his past 16 games has completed 378 of his 540 passes for 4,938 yards and 46 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions.
From here, it’s akin to splitting hairs. Let’s just say that Rodgers and Brady have legitimate claims to the best 16-game stretches in NFL history.
“It’s been second to none,” Palmer said of Rodgers this season. “He’s playing at a level that other guys haven’t ever played the position at before. You can look at his film, and us playing the NFC North this year, you see a lot of Packer games, and he’s doing something that nobody’s done before.”
CHRIS JOHNSON RETURNS
Cornerback Chris Johnson rejoined his teammates Thursday, three days after his sister Jennifer was shot and killed and his mother Della was shot by the same man.
Johnson was allowed his privacy during the media-access period, with the interaction limited to passing along our condolences.
Jackson said he and the rest of the Raiders organization is showering love and support upon Johnson as he grieves and copes with the unspeakable tragedy.
Part of Johnson’s coping is being around his teammates, whom Jackson called his “brothers.”
“Some people like to mourn in a different way,” Jackson said. “Some guys like to be around their teammates and practice playing football because it takes your mind away from that. It was great to see him here.”
Johnson practiced Thursday, and he is expected to play Sunday against the team that drafted him.
“I know he’s having a tough day, but the thing about him, he’s tough,” Jackson said. “He’s got his brothers here to lean on. The whole team, we’re going to wrap our arms around him, and take care of him, and love on him and get him to where he needs to be while he helps us attain our goal which is winning a football game.”
MCCLAIN LOSES PRIVILEGE
Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain had his gun permit renewed the morning he was involved in an incident that resulted in his arrest the next day.
As a result, his pistol permit is going to be revoked, according to the Decatur (Ala.) Daily. McClain was charged with four misdemeanors, including the illegal discharge of a firearm.
McClain allegedly held a gun to the head of a childhood friend, threatened to kill him and then fired the gun next to the person’s ear.
McClain’s lawyer said his client is innocent of the charges. McClain said “not at all,” when asked Monday if he had anything to say. Jackson said he is confident that McClain isn’t guilty of all the charges, though he stopped short of saying he is completely innocent.
MCCLAIN SAYS HE’S ‘DONE’
McClain declined another interview request from this reporter Thursday, saying “no,” when asked if he had anything to say.
Actually, he did have a little more to say.
“I’m done for the year,” McClain said, in reference to speaking with the media. “I’m done for the rest of my career. It was fun while it lasted.”
McClain and other NFL players are required to speak with the media. If he sticks to his guns, then he is at risk of being fined by the NFL every week.
For the record, McClain refused to speak with the media after the Dolphins game Sunday, a violation of league rules, as well as Monday and Thursday.
BRANCH A PRO BOWLER?
Add Bresnahan to the growing list of people who feel as if fourth-year strong safety Tyvon Branch is in the midst of a breakout season.
“Tyvon is a Pro Bowl player, without a doubt,” Bresnahan said. “This is a guy who every game he comes with his A game.”
Maybe so, but it’s tough for a player who hasn’t been selected to a Pro Bowl before to break through for the first time. Bresnahan admitted that interceptions play a big part in defensive backs getting tabbed for the Pro Bowl.
Branch has only one interception in 12 games. Yet, his overall play screams Pro Bowl, Bresnahan and Jackson say.
“His peers know,” Bresnahan said. “The guys that watch him play or play against him every Sunday know what Tyvon Branch does. It clearly shows on film. Anybody that knows football, sees the impact that he has on a game.”
Fans get one-third of the vote, as do players and coaches.
Branch said he is more concerned about helping the Raiders making the playoffs than his first Pro Bowl.
“Man, I just want to get to the playoffs,” Branch said. “That’s what I tell people. I’m doing my part to try to get us to the playoffs. And whatever comes of that, it just happens.”
If running backs Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones and wide receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore are going to play Sunday, they likely would need to practice Friday, Jackson said.
Jackson prefers that he get a look at players in practice before committing to playing them in a game, sight unseen, untested and unsure of the game plan.
Therefore, those players are down to one more chance to get back on the field, or else their thoughts are free to shift toward the Detroit Lions and a potential return Dec. 18.
Moore said he agrees with Jackson in that there’s only so much a player can get out of meetings and studying. At some point, taking part in practice is invaluable and almost mandatory for most players.
CAMPBELL BEHIND SCHEDULE?
When quarterback Jason Campbell suffered a broken right collarbone, his return was placed at six-to-eight weeks. Campbell is in his eighth week since he underwent surgery to repair the damage.
“I have a plan for Jason, and we’ll just continue to exercise that,” Jackson said. “I knew it could be a little bit longer than what everybody thought, and it has taken some time, but that’s OK. We’re in pretty good shape as far as that’s concerned, so we’ll just continue to move forward and stick with the plan that way.”
Jackson wouldn’t elaborate on that plan.
“Every time I guess on where I think a guy is, it ends up not being correct,” Jackson said. “When they get back out here, they get back out there. So, that’s all we can do and all I’m going to worry about.”
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