Raiders coach Dennis Allen turned 40 and notched his first victory as an NFL head coach over the weekend. Yeah, so, Allen seemed to say Monday. That’s nice, but there isn’t any time to celebrate much in the NFL, especially when Peyton Manning is your next opponent.
So it is that Allen conducted his weekly news conference, then headed off to begin breaking down videotape of Manning and the Denver Broncos, less than 24 hours after the Raiders beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-31 at the Oakland Coliseum.
Allen said he celebrated the victory with some friends Sunday night. During the week, he’s all business, searching for a way to keep his players on task and underscoring the importance of the upcoming game.
Allen drove home the point last week by handing out wooden bats to everyone on the roster.
Bats? Yes, bats. Let’s go to outside linebacker Philip Wheeler for an explanation.
“The whole team got the bats,” Wheeler said. “That was the theme, man. Coach D.A. was telling us, ‘Man, it’s going to be one of those fights you got to swing our bats for 60 minutes, and that’s what we did. We had to bring the wood, and they gave us the wooden bats. We brought the wood and we swung it for 60 minutes.”
Allen and quarterback Carson Palmer stressed how physical the game would be against the Steelers and the need to stand up to the Steelers and match them blow for blow.
In the end, it was the Raiders who delivered the knockout punch in the form of a 43-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski as time expired.
The Raiders improved to 1-2, tying the Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs for second place in the AFC West, one game behind the San Diego Chargers.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Raiders, if history is any judge, finding a way to beat Manning, defensive tackle Richard Seymour said.
“He’s definitely the best that I’ve faced,” Seymour said. “You name all the accolades, he has them. He’s probably the best quarterback to suit up. He’s as good as advertised. They don’t build the league around him and his commercials and that sort of thing for nothing. He’s the real deal. And he’s a team guy.
“From my years in facing him, seeing him over at the Pro Bowl as well, he’s also a great guy off the field as well. So he’s good for the NFL, obviously the Broncos are fortunate to have him. But see if we can’t make him pay this week.”
Wheeler was a teammate of Manning’s the past four seasons, when both played for the Indianapolis Colts. He said he playing against Manning in practice every day helped expedite his learning curve as an NFL player.
“He made me a great player, just by playing against him, hearing him talk, hear him talk to his offense,” Wheeler said. “Like pointing out things against the defense when I was on defense. I was like, ‘Wow, he’s looking at that aspect of our defense.’ He made me a great player just being around him.”
Wheeler is hopeful of using some of the knowledge he gleaned to help the Raiders solve the riddle that is deciphering all the gibberish that Manning spews at the line of scrimmage in an attempt to throw off the defense and get his team into a favorable position before the play.
Wheeler, no doubt, remembers more than he lets on, and Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver certainly will pump him for information all week.
“I used to know a couple of things, a couple of sounds,” Wheeler said. “The run to the right, I used to know it. One of them was like ‘stadium’ or something like that. I forgot ‘em, man. He didn’t play last year when I was there, and it’s been a little while, so I’m going to have to call one of my boys that played with me that remember them.”
Yeah, OK, Philip.
— Tight end Brandon Myers caught all four passes thrown his way against the Steelers. That kept intact a rather impressive streak for Myers.
He has caught all 15 passes thrown him the first three games. By comparison, no other player in the NFL has caught more than nine passes without a drop or incompletion.
Myers is second on the Raiders in receptions (15) to running back Darren McFadden (17) and first in receiving yards (206). Not bad for a guy that was an afterthought in the passing game his first three seasons. He already has set a career-high in yards. He will tie his career-best in receptions with his next catch.
— The Raiders committed 14 penalties for 102 yards their first three games this season. They committed 30 for 271 yards their first three games last season.
What’s worse, the Raiders had more penalties (15) and penalty yards (131) in their first game last season than they have so far this season.
The Raiders set league records for penalties (163) and yards penalized (1,358) last season. They are on pace for 75 for 544 yards this season.
The key, Allen said: “Just do your job, be disciplined, do it right, don’t do things that are going to cost your football team. And like I said before, at the end of the day, I have to do a good job of bringing it to their attention, the players have to do the job of getting it corrected, and they’ve done a nice job of that through three games.”
Seymour said Allen and the coaching staff are succeeding where so many of their predecessors failed.
“It’s a credit to the coaching staff and also the players on the field in terms of everybody being held accountable for their own actions,” Seymour said. “One penalty is one penalty too much. If everybody just said, ‘Well, I only got one, then you’ve got 11 on defense and 11 on offense and we still would be setting records.”
— Yes, McFadden rushed for 113 yards against the Steelers on Sunday. However, it’s way too early to declare the Raiders rushing woes ironed out.
McFadden’s first carry went for 64 yards against the Steelers. Take away that run, and he averaged only 2.9 yards on his 17 other carries. Also, he is averaging 3.8 for the season, but only 2.4 on the 43 carries other than the 64-yarder.
For what it’s worth, McFadden said his long run was a called play, not an audible by Palmer, as some suggested. McFadden said the blocking scheme remained the same Sunday as it was the first two games.
“It’s something that we’ve been doing,” McFadden said. “We always tell ourselves, you just have to keep hitting it, you’re going to get 1 yard here, 2 yards there, eventually you’re going to break the big ones. (Sunday) we were doing that.”
— Running back Taiwan Jones played quite a bit on special teams Sunday. However, he didn’t play a single snap on offense.
Jones bobbled a kick return and mishandled a toss from fullback Marcel Reece in the regular-season opener. Allen said at the time that Jones’ playing time would be affected by those miscues.
Man, Allen wasn’t kidding.
By comparison, backup Mike Goodson played three snaps, with McFadden on the field for the 54 other offensive plays.
— The Raiders had difficulty getting their hands on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday. Yet, when it counted most, rookie linebacker Miles Burris got his arms around Roethlisberger and forced him to make an errant pass on a third-down play.
That forced the Steelers to punt, and the Raiders marched down the field for a game-winning field goal.
“I just ran upfield, I was going to have to take the back man-to-man if he came out my way,” Burris said. “He went out the other side, slipped through, and I got (Roethlisberger) at his ankles. He’s a strong guy, still got the ball off, but it was great to get off the field at that point.”