Beat writer Jerry McDonald’s take from today’s proceedings


By Jerry McDonald
Staff writer

Owner Mark Davis isn’t the only person who has a problem with the way the Raiders have played over the past three weeks.

“Hey, I’m right there with him,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Monday at his weekly press conference. “I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. You wake up in the morning and your gut hurts.

“At the same time, when a man gets knocked down he gets up and fights. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. I understand his frustration; I can appreciate that. Let me tell you there’s nobody that’s going to work any harder to get it corrected than I will.”

Davis had an impromptu meeting with the press following Sunday’s 38-17 loss to New Orleans, saying he was a patient man but unhappy with “regression.”

When asked if general manager Reggie McKenzie and Allen received a pass this year because of salary cap issues and injuries, Davis said, “I wouldn’t call it a pass. They’ve got contracts, they’re going to be here.”

Next up for the Raiders is a visit to Cincinnati on Sunday and with it the twin storylines of Carson Palmer’s return to Paul Brown Stadium and former Raiders coach Hue Jackson being on the opposite sideline with the Bengals as an assistant coach.

Beating the Bengals, 5-5, after an unprecedented three-game stretch during which the Raiders have given up 135 points, would brighten the outlook considerably.

“When you lose, it hurts, rips your gut out,” Allen said. “A win turns everything around. A win makes everybody feels a lot better. And that’s what we need to do. We need to come together as a football team and all make a decision that we’re going to do what it takes to win football games.”

Allen’s message to the team was to stick together and Palmer believes his talk hit the mark.

“His message was really good, spoken from a guy who’s been on good teams, been on bad teams and been the middle also,” Palmer said. “I think this team will respond very well to his message. We have to stick together. I don’t think that’s an issue. We know what areas we need to improve on. This is a group that is not going to shy away from that.”

The Raiders issues have remained fairly constant since the season began. Offensively, they’ve had difficulty running the ball, although Marcel Reece had 103 yards on 19 carries against New Orleans. They’ve had difficulty converting third downs and in the red zone.

Defensively, the Raiders have had periods of being unable to stop both the run and pass, and against New Orleans both problems were in evidence at the same time.

“I think consistency has been our biggest Achilles’ heel,” Palmer said. “We’ve put together great plays or a great quarter or a great half on every side of the ball. But consistently doing it — the teams that win consistently in this league play consistently well four quarters of the game.”

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain, agreed.

“It isn’t the most talented teams that win in this league, it’s the teams that do everything right over and over and over again,” Seymour said. “We’ve been inconsistent at times, offense, defense and special teams. Any time that happens, the record speaks for itself.”

— Allen hopes to see players such as Seymour (hamstring), Darren McFadden (ankle), Mike Goodson (ankle) and Tyvon Branch (neck) back on the practice field, but made it a point to say injuries were no excuse and had no information as to whether any or all could return this week.

— One of the people Allen has sought for counsel is Dan Reeves, the head coach in Atlanta when he had his first NFL job.

— Asked if he has enough good players to turn things around, Allen said, “I firmly believe that. I think of you look at it the other way around that’s an excuse, a crutch to say you can’t get it done.”


Allen understands criticism; Raiders talented enough to turn things around


Raiders coach Dennis Allen addressed the media for about 10 minutes Monday in his weekly news conference in Alameda. He fielded 18 questions during that time, with the lion’s share of the time spent explaining why the Raiders are 3-7, how he can turn things around and his thoughts on owner Mark Davis’ recent criticism of the team’s play.
No real news surfaced today as a result, other than Allen saying he is hopeful of getting back some of his injured players such as running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, defensive tackle Richard Seymour and strong safety Tyvon Branch.
Therefore, it’s best that you just read what Allen said and draw your own conclusions. So, here’s the entire trancript:

Q: Thoughts on Mark Davis’ comments that this team has regressed?
A: “Hey, I’m right there with him. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. You know, you wake up this morning and your gut hurts. But, at the same time, when a man gets knocked down and man gets up and fights. And that’s exactly what we intend to do. I understand his frustration; I can appreciate that. And let me tell you, there’s nobody that’s going to work any harder to get it corrected than I will.”

Q: Only one game but how much would it help to go on road and play best game and get a win at Cincinnati?
A: “Well, it would be huge .We need to get a win and that’ what happens in the National Football League. When you lose, it hurts. Rips your gut out. But a win turns everything around. A win makes everybody feel a lot better. And that’s what we need to do. We need to come together as a football team and we need to all make a decision that we’re going to do whatever it takes to win football games. And that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Q: Is the talent level on this team 3-7, and if not, why isn’t it?
A: “No, I think we’ve got a better team than that. And I think it all comes down to, and I’ve said it before, and I believe this with all my heart, it comes down to our ability to execute, and our ability to be disciplined and do our job the right way on every single play, and that’s what I think it comes down to and it comes down to a mindset. Our guys deciding that That’s enough. We’re not dealing with that anymore.”

Q: How much of that mindset and execution comes from coaching?
A: “Hey, listen, I think we all have a part in that. If I didn’t feel like coaching was important, I wouldn’t be doing it. I think that’s part of my responsibility, and I take that part very seriously, because I think the mindset is as important as anything else you do.”

Q: Are guys executing things properly in practice and it’s not carrying over to the game, or are there problems during the week?
A: “I think some of them show up during the week and you do everything you can to get those corrected. It’s disappointing when they show up in the game. Things happen a lot faster in the game. You have to be able to execute a lot faster in game-like situations.”

Q: Is there anybody you can call to draw upon and say, “Hey, look, I’ve tried most everything I can think of at this time?” Is there someone you can lean upon? And going back, have you ever had a season where it’s 3-7 like this?
A: “We were 5-11 with the Atlanta Falcons back in 2003. Dan Reeves was the head coach. So I’ve been through this before. It’s not my first rodeo going through this. Obviously it is as a head football coach, but there are people such as Dan Reeves that I can call for advice on how to handle different situations.”

Q: Have you called anybody?
A: “Yes.”

Q: Reeves?
A: “Yes. I talked to him earlier in the year.”

Q: How did Reeves turn it around at 5-11 and can you do the same?
Allen: “Yeah, we can. And we will. Listen, there’s not a magic formula. It really comes down to our mindset and our ability to focus in and do our jobs, not just during the game. It’s everything. It’s how we go about with our meeting process, how we go about with our practice process. Those are the little things that you have to do on a daily basis which get you the results that you’re looking for on game day.”

Q: Lot of talk training camp, things being done differently, guys signing in for meetings and detail and discipline things that were brought in help turn things around. Any slippage in that area at all?
Allen: “No, I don’t believe so. I don’t believe so. And that’s one thing that we’ve got to constantly look to monitor to make sure we’re doing the right things all the time. When you get in these situations, you’ve got two choices. You can splinter and fragment, or you can come together and fight like a 15-round heavyweight fight, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.”

Q: Your emotions personally right now?
Allen: “Like I said earlier, upset, frustrated, disappointed. Feel like we can do better. When you pour your heart out into something, you put all your heart and soul into something and you don’t get the results you’re looking for, it ain’t easy. It ain’t easy. It’s gut-wrenching, and I can assure you nobody feels any worse about the way things have gone than I do. But at the same time, nobody is looking for pity. This is professional football. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves, we’ve got to go to work and we’ve got to get it changed.”

Q: How do you keep your players focused and from mailing it in? How much of that is on you, on the players?
A: “Well, hey, listen, individually it’s on everybody individually. The term is corfing, which is to deflect yourself away from things when things begin to go badly. That’s the thing that you have to fight as much as anything else. We got to internalize it and determine, what can we do as individuals to make it better? And we all got to pull the rope in the same direction.”

Q: How do you balance making changes and staying the course?
A: “Well, I don’t think you change your overall philosophy, your overall values. But, yeah, there’s things within that that you can change. Personnel maybe, could be a situation where you might make some changes. Just the way you call the game, there might be some changes. But, your core values and what you believe in, of being tough, being smart, being disciplined; those things aren’t going to change.”

Q: Are you contemplating any personnel changes?
A: “Well, we’re going to look at everything. I don’t think you go through and say, ‘We’re 3-7 and everything is OK.’ We got to see what we can do to get better.”

Q: Are you going to look at the younger players more from here on out?
A: “That’s obviously a potential and we’ve done that some. Tony Bergstrom got a lot of playing time, or some playing time, the other day, mostly as a tight end. But he’s a guy we’re looking at. Christo Bilukidi got some playing time inside. Miles Burris has played a lot for us this year. Rod Streater and Juron Criner both have played for us this year. We’re going to look at young guys.”

Q: How are things looking on the injury fron moving forward?
A: “Hopefully we’ll get some of those guys back. Listen, everybody deals with injuries. It’s something that you can’t run from. It happens. You can’t use that as an excuse. If we can get our guys back and healthy that will be good for us.”

Q: You inherited a bad situation, do you have enough good players to win right now?
A: “I firmly believe that. When you look at it the other way around, that’s an excuse, that’s a crutch to say you can’t get it done. I don’t believe in that. I believe that we have professional football players and I believe we can win games in the National Football League. That’s what we get paid to do, that’s our job. I’m not going to use anything as a crutch to say that’s the reason why.”

Q: Is McFadden coming back this week?
A: “I’m hopeful. All those guys that didn’t practice last week, they’re all rehabbing extremely hard. We’ll see where they’re at.”


Grading the Raiders from the Saints game


Beat writer Jerry McDonald graded the Raiders off their performance against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Here is a look at how the Raiders graded out:

Pass offense

Carson Palmer (22-for-40, 312 yards) had his third straight game of 300 yards or more, but 113 of those were tacked on with the Raiders already trailing 35-10. Two interceptions were costly — one that Malcolm Jenkins returned 55 yards for a touchdown, the other that bounced off Brandon Myers in the end zone for a Saints interception. Palmer and Denarius Moore were barely in the same area code.
Grade: D

Run offense

Marcel Reece gave the Raiders steady yards on the ground, finishing with 103 yards on 19 carries as the Raiders rushed for 120 yards overall and a respectable 4.6 yards per carry. The Raiders got no surge on a first-and-goal play at the 1, with Reece getting stuffed for a loss, starting a sequence that ended in an interception.
Grade: B

Pass defense

Lance Moore got cornerback Michael Huff on a double move for a 38-yard touchdown inside of a minute left in the first half and later beat Ron Bartell for a 16-yard score. Drew Brees was a coolly effieicent 20-for-27 for 219 yards and no interceptions. Brees was not sacked. Miles Burris failed to cover tight end Jimmy Graham on a goal line play. Touchdown. Grade: D

Run defense

The Saints, not known as a big rushing team, gained 153 yards on 28 carries, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. Mark Ingram had 12 rushes for 67 yards and a 27-yard touchdown run on the first offensive snap of the second half. Defense gave up runs of 27, 25, 19 and 14 yards. Rolando McClain had 10 tackles in the base defense.
Grade: D

Special teams

Coye Francies had a chance at a big kickoff return and fell at the 20-yard line. A 75-yard kickoff return by Travaris Cadet to open the second half swung momentum permanently to the side of the Saints. Sebastian Janikowski converted his only field goal attempt from 40 yards. Shane Lechler can’t catch a break kicking inside the 20 as everything rolls into the end zone. Grade: D


Whatever the coaching staff is saying at halftime isn’t working. The Raiders have been outscored 123-34 in the third quarter. However, the loss to New Orleans had more to do with players getting beat by better players than it did with offensive or defensive play-calling. If the Raiders could have gotten out of their own way and taken a lead, they might have run the ball all day.
Grade: D


Reece gets his shine on


Marcel Reece is listed on the Raiders roster as a fullback because, well, he has to be listed as something. Calling him a jack-of-all-trades might be a more apt description.
On Sunday for the second straight game, Reece shifted into running back mode out of necessity and responded with 193 yards rushing and receiving in the Raiders 38-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Coliseum.
Then again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Reece played wide receiver in college and even spent some time at tight end early in his Raiders career before settling in at fullback.
“He has come in and not missed a beat, filled the shoes and done everything we’ve asked him to do, at a very high level,” fellow fullback Owen Schmitt said. “It almost seems at times that he takes the whole game on his back, making plays when we need him desperately.”
Reece, 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, did just that against the Saints, rushing for 17 yards on the first play from scrimmage and combining for 47.8 percent of Oakland’s 404 yards offense overall.
Fans always are clamoring for more Reece, knowing full well that he always tends to deliver when called upon.
They got their wish the past two games as a result of high-ankle sprains to Nos. 1 and 2 running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson.
For his part, Reece shrugged off the impressive yardage total and wondered what more he could have done to make a difference.
“There has to be something more because we didn’t win,” Reece said, not impressed by his workload or stats. “We’ll go back to the film, look at it, and see what else I could have done to try and help this team get some wins.”
Reece’s teammates are quite content with what he accomplished Sunday. They just wish that they could have done more.
“We went about this game plan, whether Darren was back there or he was there, and we were going to stick with the run and try and grind it out,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “But he’s a football player and he just makes football plays, over and over again, every week. You feel like you can’t get the guy the ball enough. … Marcel’s special.”
Right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes said Reece’s performance is even more impressive, given he was forced to shoulder the load with McFadden and Goodson on the sideline.
“Oh, man, Reece was a soldier, man,” Barnes said, shaking his head. “He went out there and did exactly what he’s been doing, basically, all season long. … He’s picking up a lot of slack and he’s been doing a hell of a job.”