By Steve Corkran
Monday, December 26th, 2011 at 1:51 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Running back Taiwan Jones and free safety Michael Huff said Monday that they intend to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, given the magnitude of the game as the Raiders challenge for a playoff spot.
Wide reciever Jacoby Ford said he is hopeful of playing Sunday. However, he won’t play unless his sore foot heals enough to where he feels as if he can make a difference.
No word on running back Darren McFadden, who has missed the eight games with a right midfoot sprain. He was not in the locker room during the media-access period. Coach Hue Jackson won’t speak with the media until 2 p.m. today.
“This is a one-game season,” Huff said. “I’m going to go out there and play and give my all. I don’t really worry about if I play this week that I may injure it for the playoffs because, if we don’t win the playoffs might not happen.”
If the Raiders lose, they are eliminated from playoff contention. They still have a shot at winning the AFC West, provided they beat or tie the San Diego Chargers on Sunday and the Denver Broncos lose to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders also are in the hunt for a wild-card berth if they don’t win the division.
For either to happen, the Raiders need to win Sunday. Hence, Huff said he will play regardless where he stands health-wise. He has missed the past two games and four this season.
“Got to,” Huff said. “We have to win this win. This is a big game. We know we’re going to get their best shot and we’ll give them ours. I’ll be out there Sunday. I’m not going to miss this one.”
Ford said he will lobby the coaches to play Sunday, even if he isn’t at 100 percent. In the end, it will be up to Jackson and team trainers.
“Even if I’m not 100 percent, I’m always willing to help my team any way that I can,” Ford said. “But I definitely wouldn’t want to get out there and hurt the team. That’s one thing I definitely wouldn’t want to do. If I can go, I can go. If I can’t, it’s like a tough break. I just hope I can.”
Jones said that his sore hamstring keeps tightening up on him as he works hard to get back in the mix. He feels an added burden to make it back Sunday in light of the pounding Michael Bush has taken as the workhorse.
Defensive tackle John Henderson needed a cane-like crutch to get around the locker room Monday. That doesn’t bode well for his return from a sore knee. He has missed the past two games.
BLOCKED FIELD-GOAL ATTEMPTS PLANNED
Those blocked field-goal attempts by defensive tackle Richard Seymour were more than luck or chance. Several players said they were by design.
Linebacker Aaron Curry said special teams coordinator John Fassel and long-snapper Jon Condo spotted a weakness in the Chiefs’ protection during tape study the week before the game.
They theorized that if the Raiders got a strong push on one side of the Chiefs line, the opportunity would be there to get a hand up on Ryan Succop’s kicks.
Sure enough, that’s what happened on the final play of the first half and the final play of regulation. In the end, that proved to be the difference between a win and a loss and the Raiders remaining in playoff contention.
“Condo said, take your two biggest guys and push them through and tell them to get a hand up,” Curry said. “And that’s we did. Same thing on both blocks. We took a plan and believed in it. Quentin (Groves) actually said, ‘We’re about to block this one,’ before the last one.”
The plan called for Curry, Groves and other players to push Seymour and fellow defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, thus making it harder for two blockers to hold up.
“Yeah, that was the plan,” Groves said. “We knew that they’re ‘go’ guys were kind of weak in that area. We just said, we’ll put our two d-tackles there, and then a third d-tackle and push those guys and get as much penetration as possible. I told Rich, ‘Just throw your hand up, we’re going to block this one,’ and he did it.”
BREAKDOWN ON MYERS’ TOUCHDOWN
Condo explained what happened on the fake field-goal attempt by the Raiders that resulted in touchdown pass from holder Shane Lechler to tight end Brandon Myers, saying the play was negated by a delay-of-game penalty because of how long it took for the Chiefs to get lined up.
Condo said the Raiders had to wait to see how the Chiefs lined up before they called for the fake. The Chiefs took longer than expected to line up, which caused the play clock to run out before the ball was snapped.
“We had to get the look from the defense,” Condo said. “So, we had to wait until they kind of set up and we had to communicate. You don’t want to have half the line (confused). I know in the week of practice, there’s some communication problems when we practiced it. We don’t want half the line knowing that it’s on and half the line thinking it’s off.”
As it turned out, the Raiders attempted a 58-yard field goal after the 5-yard penalty. Sebastian Janikowski’s kick came up about 1 yard shy.
Condo said there are few things that compare to the feeling of pulling off a trick play such as the flip to Myers. It’s something the Raiders have become at adept at doing this season under coach Hue Jackson.
“It’s a special feeling whenever you practice a certain play, you draw it up in the meeting room, you picture it happening and you go over it in practice,” Condo said. ” ‘This is how it’s supposed to work. This is how it’s supposed to work.’ Then, to get the picture in the game, it’s a pretty special feeling. You get a little tingle in your stomach, like, ‘Oh, man, this is great.’ ”
Janikowski and Lechler are the only players on the Raiders roster who were around the last time the Raiders made the playoffs, in 2002.
Many of the players on the 53-man roster are experiencing the feeling of playing in a meaningful game this late in the season for the first time in their NFL careers.
“It feels good to be this close,” said Huff, who arrived in 2006. “It’s been awhile since it’s been like this around here. It’s a good feeling. We know we have to go out there and handle our business this week and everything will take care of itself.”
Cornerback Stanford Routt is in his seventh year with the Raiders. He is accustomed to thinking about next year at this time of the season.
Now, he said, it’s incumbent upon the Raiders to cash in on their opportunity. That means beating the Chargers, first and foremost.
“It’s definitely good that we’re still in it,” Routt said, “but it will be even worse if we go in and fall flat on our face on Sunday. I know, obviously, we need help from Kansas City to beat Denver, and the other scenarios for the wild card, but if we go out there and we don’t handle business on Sunday, then it doesn’t matter who wins the other games if we don’t take care of ours.”
PRO BOWL SELECTIONS
The Pro Bowl selections will be announced Tuesday. The Raiders have several players with a realistic shot at making the team — Janikowski, Lechler, Condo, strong safety Tyvon Branch head the list.
Condo said it will be nothing short of stunning if Janikowski doesn’t get selected in a year in which he has tied the NFL record for longest field goal (63 yards), converted six field goals in one game and played at a high level from start to finish.
Janikowski has yet to make the Pro Bowl in any of his first 11 NFL seasons.
“I’m praying for him,” Condo said of Janikowski. “He deserves it. He works hard kicking the ball. Like I said, he’s been in the league 12 years, it’s got to make him burn to make a trip to Hawaii, with Shane going six times. So, they’re the two best kickers in the league. You can’t argue with that. They’re, by far, the best teammates, the best friends, outside the locker room. He definitely deserves it.”
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