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Coordinators Tarver, Olson speak about respective players

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JASON TARVER

Q: Are there any tricks or secrets to getting off the field on third down?
Tarver: “Well, we’ve got to win our one-on-one matchups. You saw a lot of times where we had great pressure and then something slips out or whatever. Any tricks? No, that’s when you’ve got to focus. You’ve got to do your job, you’ve got to win your one-on-ones. We mixed coverages effectively in that game, but I will say one thing, we need to create longer third downs. We had a lot of short, especially in that game. Then when we do get the shorts, we’ve got to do our job. We’ve been, this season, pretty darn good in the red zone when our backs are backed up. There are a couple things we can fix, and have fixed, from the last game, but we need to make that translate into short yardage and get more knock back and then play with our eyes through our coverage. Cover guys need to have their eyes on their coverage. Front guys need to knock the offense back. One thing we need to do is create longer third downs, the next thing we need to do is do that formula right there, which we do in other phases. So, that’s what we need to focus on and have been, today at practice especially.”

Q: What will it be like facing the former Raider Carson Palmer?
Tarver: “I really like Carson, he’s a great person. But really, the guys on this defense, there are only two that were even here when Carson was in the building. Miles [Burris] and ‘B-Ross’ [Brandian Ross] a little bit, and ‘Chim’ [Chimdi Chekwa]. That’s it. He wasn’t here with this group of players, so it’s like any other game. He’s a good quarterback with a strong arm so we need to make sure we play top-down coverage and we need to make sure we find ways to affect him in the pocket.”

Q: What did you see from Carson Palmer in his last game after coming off of the shoulder injury?
Tarver: “He played well. He threw it to the open guy for the most part and didn’t throw the ball to the defense, kept it away from them and ran a functional game, moved the ball and didn’t make any major mistakes.”

Q: How much of the Chargers game, defensively, was mistakes on defense and how much was facing a quarterback at the top of the game?
Tarver: “He made some plays. What I liked is most of that game, we’re challenging, we’re running, we’re hitting. If we’re challenging and running and hitting and swarming and playing with passion, a lot of that will start to clean itself up. There was more of that going on, so that was improvement. Where we weren’t quite as good is in areas where we have been good. There were a couple of red zone things, the second drive, the third drive, of their touchdowns, that those are plays that we have practiced and done a lot. We need to play those plays better, hold them to field goals. In a game like that, if you can hold that offense to a field goal a couple more times, that would have done it. That’s what an NFL game is, when you’re playing at that high level they back and forth. He made some plays, but our challenge was better. This week, and going forward, we need to challenge the ball. We need to play, we need to stop the run on first down and we need to play top-down pass coverage. By saying that, what happened in the last game, we won a lot of those vertical balls. We lost a couple. We need to make sure we keep winning more of those because you can rally to anything else. A little bit of both, he made some plays, but our improvement was in, we’re there, now we need to learn how to finish.”

Q: It seems that LaMarr Woodley was a stand up edge rusher quite a bit. Is there more of emphasis on him doing that?
Tarver: “No, he’s being used the same way. We allow our edge players, we want their best get off and we want their best use of hands, and we want their best ability to dig out runs and set edges. So, with Khalil [Mack] and Woodley, they’ll play up at times because they feel comfortable in those stances, so we’ll use those stances and the players will use their stances as an advantage for them. So, he’s been standing up when he can because that’s where he feels comfortable.”

Q: Does he have the discretion to do that or does the defense dictate this?
Tarver: “In certain defenses he’ll be down and in certain defenses he’ll be up, but most of the time, in other words, it depends on the formation and what the call is. He can be a lot of times, when it’s just a tackle, he can be up, because that’s where he feels his best get off is and we do too.”

Q: How do you get more production out of LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck?
Tarver: “Well one, they’ve got to win their one-on-ones. You can see it across the board, we’ve got to win our one-on-ones. Both of them have put in good effort and they’re professional in their work. They’re trying to keep themselves healthy, and that’s good, but the biggest thing is, you get one-on-one blocks, that’s your job, you’ve got to win. We can create them and then it’s working together, but I know you heard it from Coach Tony [Sparano] too, the biggest thing for us is there are one-on-ones out there. We’re winning some, we’re going to win more, at all positions. That’s what has to happen. You strive to create those and you’ve got to win them.”

Q: As far as their comfort for the defense, that is fine, it’s just a matter of beating the guys they’re up against?
Tarver: “Yep. Shortest answer ever (laughing).”

Q: Did their success on the rush on the last drive have anything to do with the defense being on the field for 37 minutes?
Tarver: “The first one they ran back-to-back same runs. The first one they got some yards, we missed a tackle at five yards. The next one, we missed a tackle in the backfield, we bobbled them in the backfield. We’ve got to get more guys to the ball like we did earlier in the game. The third one, down in the red zone, was the same play we had just stuffed, and they were able to push us, so that’s a point of emphasis. We haven’t’ been pushed in the red zone all year. That’s one of the things that I was talking about, we play strong in there. So, that’s been an emphasis, both with the players and coaches, because that hasn’t happened to us, we need to correct those. But, we’ve made major improvements in that run game. If you look at the very first play of the game, Miles [Burris] took the guard, threw him on the ground and made the tackle. We’re using our hands and we’re shedding. It’s an attitude, defense is, that focus. When you get your one-on-one block or when you’re supposed to be in the right spot, you’ve got to do it hard and physical and make the play. There’s a lot of improvement there and you don’t ever want to learn in the football league, you want to finish the dang thing off, because that’s our job and that’s what we need to do, and we’re full on preparing for that this week, finishing that thing off. That’s been the focus, let’s say that. That’s been the focus, don’t let go of the rope. You should pull that rope, keep pulling on it, no matter what, it’s your job. Sixty minutes isn’t that long, whatever the time of possession is, and that’s our job. If we want to make it easier, create longer third downs, win your one-on-ones. Then you’re not on the field as much. When a ball is tipped up in the air, we’ve got to get it. It’s our turn. It’s our time to get some tips.”

Q: It seems like you guys are spread out a lot and teams have been in shotgun, whether running or passing. How are you guys doing in that?
Tarver: “It’s improved. Like I said last week, from Miami halftime on has improved. This is another team that is going to spread you to run and throw, but this team also will get big to run, so they do a good job with their personnel groups and knowing who they are. We’re improving in knowing who our identity is. WE’ve had flashes of our identity in the last three weeks. Again, the first four weeks are buried, so you started to see some of our identity in that football game. Now it’s a matter of, I’m going to use the phrase again because I like it, don’t let go of that rope. You just keep pulling that thing and you just keep hitting and fitting the right gaps, and that’s how you play good defenses. Fit the right gaps, get off of blocks and keep hitting people. When we learn how to do that all the way through consistently, and we’re on our way to do that.”

Q: Do you think cutting back on the playbook on offense and defense helped a little bit?
Tarver: “Yeah, with where we were with our personnel, like we said, we buried the other week and having said that, where we were with our personnel was, we were able to use things to still affect the offense. The thing is that our players, the linebacker position we talked about last week, we’re getting more and more comfortable with. Miles Burris stepped up. It was nice to have Sio Moore back. Our defensive backs did a good job of using our look. We revised, I told you guys a little bit, we’ve revised a little bit of our communication system. That was good, because they’re an on the ball offense. That will help us going forward against non-on-the-ball offenses. This offense this week doesn’t function quite as fast, it can, but not quite as fast as the last offense. Our new communication system, it’s not really new, it’s just refining it has helped us. So those things were definite improvements.”

Q: Stacy McGee was a guy you guys were pretty high on last year. What has held him back so far this year?
Tarver: “Again, Tony can tell you about the injuries, but Stacy’s had that hand. And you hear it from me all the time, ‘Use your hands.’ It’s hard to use one hand in this game, and he’s fought, because Stacy’s tough and we love his toughness, but Stacy’s got to continue to improve technique-wise as most second-year players do. His technique is all over the place at times, so as you’re looking through Stacy’s plays, you can find some good and then you can find some where you’re like, ‘Come on, Stace, you’ve knocked that guy back before. Why is that not perfect?’ You’re seeing a little bit of that inconsistency. He improved a little bit this week. We need to see a little bit more, but he’s gaining his health, so we want to see both hands being used.”

Q: So the hand is still a factor? It’s still bothering him?
Tarver: “It doesn’t look like it this week in practice, so I don’t think that’s a reason now. It’s time to – it’d be good to see him get off some blocks and make some plays.”

Q: Two good days in a row for DJ Hayden?
Tarver: “DJ has been working, yeah. It’s good to see him out there. He’s been working, he’s been moving around and getting back on. That football shape is different. You can run all you want, but until you’re running in pads around with big guys running around you and laying on you and moving around, it’s a different type of conditioning. So he’s had two good days.”

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GREG OLSON

Q: The question from fans is what took so long for the offense to open up?
Olson: “I don’t think I’ve waited. I just think that was the way the game played out. I think there’s more of a comfort level right now with the guys in the huddle and the guys that have been in the huddle. I think the bye week gave us a chance to go back and evaluate where we were at and what we did well and don’t do well. I think simplifying things may have helped. I think our young quarterback, more than anything, as I’ve said from the get-go, he seems to have gotten more and more comfortable every week in what he’s doing and what his responsibilities are. All of those things play into it. We’ve got to become consistent. Did some good things last week, but it’s a new week this week so we’ve got to see if we can get better every week and raise our standards every week.”

Q: Andre Holmes has put back-to-back productive games together. How can he stay consistent as a receiver?
Olson: “Other than experience, I think every year they get older, they catch more balls, they have more time throughout their career that they become more comfortable at catching the football. He’s more comfortable at the position that he’s playing. He’s played X for us now for two straight years and it’s his second year in the system. He has made a lot of explosive plays since he’s been here for us and hopefully he’ll continue to do that. He works very hard and playing the position and there’s no lack of effort in terms of the amount of balls he catches on the jugs machine or that he catches from the quarterback. It’s just hard work on his part and hopefully that will eliminate some of those drops.”

Q: The explosive play that Brice Butler had for a touchdown, was that drawn up? Where he outruns the whole defense?
Olson: (laughing) “Yeah, we’ve got a bunch of those. I’ve just been holding them in my pocket. No, it was good to see. I was happy for Brice. He’s another guy that we had a chance to get him on the field for more opportunities. He did show great quickness getting out of the break and then the speed to run away from people on that particular play. That was good to see.”

Q: How much juice does it give the offense when Darren McFadden is breaking free like he did?
Olson: “Everybody looked fresher to me. Darren looked fast, the wide receivers looked fast. Having a healthy Darren McFadden will be key to us being able to move forward and hopefully be able to continue to move the football on a consistent basis. When Darren is healthy, he can run and he is fast. We have to do what we can to keep him healthy and keep him going. We need to find more explosive players to create more of those explosive plays.”

Q: He’s been pretty healthy this year and he’s been running hard, but without the payoff. Do you notice any difference in him when he is getting the payoff and when he’s not?
Olson: “I haven’t’ really so far this season. This is kind of the first time that I’ve had a chance to really see him healthy and playing. I think they’ll come, I really do. I believe that the more opportunities you get, hopefully one of them is going to result in explosive runs for him. He’s another guy that’s been here a long time. After last year and the previous years, he’s had health issues. Last year he had Rashad Jennings in front of him and now we’ve brought in Maurice Jones-Drew, who has had some injuries, so Darren got pushed back into that starter’s role. You would like to see him stay there.”

Q: Menelik Watson started the game last week and played well. What has been your impression of him?
Olson: “I think he’s one of our good, young players. One of our core players. I think right now there is a good core group of players, Menelik Watson being one of them, Mychal Rivera, Derek Carr. There are some guys there that we can build with. We always look at the end of the week or after the game, where are our young players? How do we feel about our young core players? He’s a guy right now that we’ve felt pretty good about.”

Q: Rivera has had a few drops, he’s had a fumble in the one game, did you think you’d have more out of him by now? He seems like a guy that’s pretty hard on himself when he doesn’t do well.
Olson: “I completely agree with that and I think Mike would agree with that, too. He expects more, we expect more of him. He’s got to do a better job of doing the things that are expected of him. Same thing for us, to have any type of success, he’s got to be that player that we thought he was developing into and that we believe he will develop into. He’s got to be more consistent in both of those areas, in securing the football and catching the football.”

Q: You guys had efficient plays, the four-yard games, chipping away on 2nd-and-10. Can you talk about how much of an impact that has if you are able to sustain it?
Olson: “It’s critical. It was our best game in terms of our third-down conversions, but it was also our best game in terms of our first-down efficiency, so they go hand in hand. To be honest with you, again, those are the things that we studied and in that offseason, we’re just trying to kind of build it around – you’ve always got to be aware of your quarterback and what does Derek Carr do best and what can we do to make sure that he’s developing, and in terms of his development, how it’s going to help the rest of the offense develop. So we looked at a lot of different things that Derek’s comfortable with, whether it be gun runs or gun passes or quick game, deep-vertical game – what are the concepts that he’s very comfortable with. I think that tied into it as well, a little bit. We were efficient with our nickel runs. We were efficient with our heavy runs. It was a good mix there for us.”

Q: Is there one throw from Derek that, for you, in that game that really stood out on film?
Olson: “I think that first third down, really, on the takeoff there to Holmes, Andre – the very first one there, it was a double move. It’s not an easy throw to make, but he’s pacing, he stepped up in the pocket and he put it right in stride for him. For me, that was probably the most impressive one of the day.”

Q: On some short passes, some easy catches that were dropped early, does he maybe need to take a little bit off of his fastball? It seems like whether it’s from me to you or 60 yards, he throws it hard.
Olson: “He shows pretty good touch, to be honest with you. He’s done that on a couple of those quick screens. We encourage him, ‘You’ve got to get the ball out quickly.’ It certainly doesn’t do us any good if the ball gets out quickly and it’s not accurate. He’s been pretty accurate with those throws, so I think they’re aware of that on some of those what we call our slipper screens – the ones at the line of scrimmage – they’ve always got to be aware of one, how close the receiver is and two, who is the receiver that we’re throwing it to. Is it a running back? Is it a tight end? Is it a wide receiver? You’ve got to kind of judge your velocity based upon not only how close they are, but who that person is that you’re throwing to.”

Q: With pass protection, has it been better than you anticipated coming into this season?
Olson: “It’s been where we’re at. I think that they’ve done a good job – everyone, I think. We spent a lot of time at it. We spend a lot of time in studying opponents’ pressure and blitz packages. I think there’s a lot of pride in that room as an offense. We spend every Friday as a group at the end of the week reviewing everything that we’ve seen and everything that we’ve learned during the week about pressure packages. So there’s a lot of pride involved in that, but really, it’s everybody together: running backs, offensive line, the quarterback getting the ball out, wide receivers knowing when to break off the route and sight adjust or look hot. I think everyone’s involved in that and it’s encouraging. I think that’s one of the encouraging things that we’ve seen and it’s really encouraging when you have a young quarterback that it’s been like that. So I would say that we expected it as a coaching staff. I think Tony as the O-line coach, he expected that going into the season. He also made it readily apparent to those guys, when you’ve got a rookie quarterback now, a lot of it falls on us up front. I think they as well kind of took that as a challenge and they’ve done a good job with that.”

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173

Breaking down the Cardinals

BREAKING DOWN THE CARDINALS

* The skinny: The Cardinals sit atop the rugged NFC West, which many consider the toughest division, from top to bottom. They keep chugging along despite injuries to numerous players, including starting quarterback Carson Palmer. However, Palmer returned last Sunday and showed that his right shoulder has healed well enough for him to play at a high level. Despite a top-tier defense, the Cardinals allowed six touchdown passes the previous two games. The last time the Cardinals played an 0-5 Raiders team, in 2006, the Raiders emerged with their first victory.

* Players to fear/Offense
WR Larry Fitzgerald. He is on pace for his worst season since his rookie campaign in 2004. Even so, he remains a go-to receiver and someone capable of changing the complexion of a game at any time.
RB Andre Ellington. He has amassed 493 yards rushing and receiving combined, even though he has played with a sore foot for most of the season.
WR Michael Floyd. He has averaged 19.1 yards on his 16 receptions, or 5-plus yards more than any other Cardinals receiver.

* Players to fear/Defense
CB Patrick Peterson. He is regarded by many as the game’s best all-around cornerback. He has the ability to shut down the opposing team’s top receiver.
CB Jerraud Powers. He has a team-high three interceptions and is making teams pay for shying away from throwing at Peterson.
FS Rashad Johnson. He has two interceptions and 33 tackles, which is one shy of the team high.

* Key numbers
833 – Yards passing allowed the past two games.
14 – Number of field goals made by Chandler Catanzaro without a miss this season. He has shored up a problem area.
0 – Number of interceptions for Cardinals on their 178 passes attempted this season.
75.8 – Average yards rushing allowed per game, the third-best figure in the league.

* Injury report: QB Carson Palmer (shoulder), WR Michael Floyd (groin), RB Andre Ellington (foot), TE John Carlson (knee), TE Troy Niklas (ankle), DT Frostee Rucker (calf), DE Calais Campbell (knee), LB Glenn Carson (ankle), LB Alex Okafor (quadriceps) and CB Patrick Peterson (ankle).

* Vegas says: Cardinals by 4

* What others are saying: Eleven of the 13 so-called ESPN experts that predict the outcome of games each week have the Cardinals beating the Raiders

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4,089

Sparano’s weekly news conference

Here is what Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano had to say in his weekly news conference Monday in Alameda:

Opening statement: “After watching the film and getting a chance to do that this morning, and all the phases last night and this morning, all the phases, it’s pretty much what I told the team yesterday afterwards; there are a lot of things that we did really well in this game. There are some things that we didn’t do well enough, obviously, and most importantly, the outcome. We needed to be in that kind of football game. Our team needed to feel themselves in that kind of football game and we need to find a way to win that kind of football game, and we will. But, I was really proud of their effort. I thought yesterday, watching them, they played really fast in a lot of areas. Really fast, fresher and fundamentally we played better in a lot of situations. There are some things there that we’ve got to cleanup throughout this week here, which we’ll do. We’re in the process of doing that right now, in the meeting rooms. We’re going to put this game behind us and get ready to play Arizona, but that was a conference game and it was a good divisional football game. It’s a game in your division that you would expect to be a tough fought battle, and it was, and unfortunately we came out on the wrong end of this one. If those guys give me that kind of effort going forward here, this thing is going to turn.”

Q: What are some things that you saw in this game that you either saw more of or showed up for the first time since the first part of the season?
Coach Sparano: “One of the things, there are several … I thought the way we ran the football in this game is something that in the beginning of the year, in training camp and some of the preseason games, I felt like that’s the way it was going to go. It comes down to giving yourself opportunities, and we had some opportunities in this type of football game to be able to do it. We had 20-plus carries in this game, Darren [McFadden] had 18 touches in this game, Maurice [Jones-Drew] was a factor in this game, carrying the football. I thought the guys up front did a good job of sorting through their stuff and blocking them. So, that was all done pretty well, actually. We were 71 percent efficient of all our runs called in the game, in this ball game, which is the best that we’ve had. Obviously, you guys know our average per carry and those type of things. It kept us in manageable situations which then led to the next thing that we did well, which was third-down conversions. We converted well on third down, some guys made some plays. You’re up there in the 60s in third-down conversions, that’s really good, and that helped us a little bit that way. Our explosive plays in this game were up. It could have been better, should have been better, but that’s something that we’ve got to continue to work on. It’s not something that happens over night, but it’s something that we feel like can get better. I thought on the defensive side of the ball, I thought we tackled better and we had more people to the football in this game than we had in the last several games. So, we tackled well, limited the yards that way. They averaged, whatever, 3.5 yards a carry, or something to that effect. Short of the last drive there they were probably well under that. I thought we did some good things in that phase. I thought we challenged the ball in this game. When I say that, I mean, if you really go through the game, you’ll see Tarell Brown challenging the football in this game and knocking a couple balls down. You’ll see TJ [Carrie] knock a few balls out of there. You’ll see Usama [Young] knock a few balls out of there. So, I thought we challenged the ball well. We have to be better at that. We let a couple of balls get over our head that we challenged, they were contested catches, but they ended up making the play, so we’ve got to be able to dig those balls out of there and be critical of ourselves in that situation. Then in a special teams game, we changed field position several times in that game. Going into the game, it wasn’t a secret that they were going to fake a kick. If you really take a look at it over the last five years, and you look at their numbers, that’s something that they’ve done, whether it was under [Chargers Head Coach] Mike [McCoy] or wasn’t under Mike, they’ve faked kicks. We handled that situation well, gave ourselves a short field and turned it into a score. It’s interesting, I was asked the question last night, which is always hard after a game, but about a timeout that was used prior to that. I told you that timeouts were gold, and they are. But, we called a timeout in that situation to get the right people on the field, to make sure we had the right people on the field, we had 12 people on the field at one point. Called the timeout, they lined up to kick a field goal, Tarell Brown makes a great rush off of the backside, draws a hold on that play, they move the ball back, have to punt it and elect to fake it. We stop the fake and score in two plays to Brice Butler. So, that series, that sequence there, going back and forth, even that timeout, although it was used and I don’t like using them that way, believe me, I like to get it right the first time. I don’t want to do that, but to get it right there and to see the way the sequence kind of went in that phase, was really encouraging for us. Take advantage of the short field, stop the trick play, drew the penalty with a great effort play and then turn the field on them and score a touchdown, so that was good.”

Q: When you say 71 percent efficient on a blocking play, what determines efficiency for you?
Coach Sparano: “Amount of yards made. So, an efficient run in our league is four-plus. When you’re getting four-plus, you may get a second-and-three and make three and get the first down, or if it’s a third-and-one and you gain the first down, that’s efficient. Well, we’ve missed some third-and-ones that hadn’t been efficient in the past, obviously. But, mostly, it’s four-yard gains or better and that’s what you judge those things on. You’re gaining four yards on a rushing attempt like that, you’re efficient, well, 71 percent of the time in this game that was the case, obviously with our average.”

Q: You were able to get a lot of rushing yards on second-and-10, first-and-15, and get yards back that you had previously lost to a penalty or something…
Coach Sparano: “Yeah, either a penalty or maybe an incompletion, or in some situations it was a drop. That’s something that we’ve got to do a better job of. That’s a little bit of Oakland beating Oakland, where we had some balls that were not contested that we didn’t finish, we didn’t catch. Those are scenarios where we came right back and we ran the ball there, which is a little, obviously uncharacteristic right now, because we didn’t have those opportunities in some of the other ball games to do that with the scores being where they were. But, in doing that, we were able to flip it into a third-and-five, a third-and-three at times, and those were manageables for us, and now you can do a few more things there and it forces their hand a little bit too.”

Q: What kind of improvements did you see up front that allowed you to run better?
Coach Sparano: “I don’t know if it was improvements up front as much as I thought that we just had more opportunities. We did some different things, nothing different than we’ve done before. Quite honestly, we just went back to the bye, said, ‘What do we do good? Who does them well? And let’s put those people in positions to do them.’ And, our menu was much shorter this week, on both sides of the ball, and the kids played faster and that was a positive. If I were to say one other thing that we did well, besides the way that Darren [McFadden] and Maurice [Jones-Drew] ran, because I thought they ran hard, but I would say that our double-teams were pretty good in this game. I would think that when they’re watching the film they know that too.”

Q: How do you think Menelik Watson played?
Coach Sparano: “Menelik played pretty well in this game. He graded out well. He had one early pressure where he kind of sat a little too deep in the ball game, but short of that he played pretty well. He played with a lot of enthusiasm, played smart football, and I thought he did a good job from the protection end, and really actually, did a good job in the run game. An athlete like Menelik, you expect to be able to be in good position in protection, being in position and actually blocking your guy are two different things, but in the run game, that’s something he’s had to work hard at and I’ve seen a difference in this game. So, as I said the other day, he’s had two or three good weeks now, and that was good, to get 64 plays, whatever he played in the game yesterday, worth of work like that. It was really encouraging.”

Q: Derek Carr said afterwards on the pass to Brice Butler, “I would do it a hundred times, I trust my guy.” Is that what you want to hear?
Coach Sparano: “That’s what I want to hear. Derek has done some interesting things. This is two weeks ago, in another life for me, but I’ve been there on the sideline where he’s come over and he’s actually said, ‘Give me this guy. Give me this guy.’ And it would be a different guy, but in his mind he had a vision for the play. He knew what he wanted to do and where the match-up could be. I think it’s really important when a quarterback starts to feel comfortable with his people. The ball he throws to James Jones on the right sideline, which looks like a routine play, kind of looks like a routine play, James catches it in stride on the back shoulder and runs out of bounds down there around the 20-yard line, maybe 22-yard line. That ball was in the air three steps before James got out of his break on the back shoulder. That’s good trust. It’s trusting the receiver that he’s going to be in the right spot and it’s trusting the quarterback that the quarterback is going to be able to put the ball there. Both of those scenarios, the kid knew exactly what he wanted to do with the football. [Offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] put him in good position there in both of those deals, but it’s about the players executing the play, and they did.”

Q: Philip Rivers was bottled in at times but was able to get out of the “phone booth” so to speak. What do you have to do to get to the quarterback a little bit better?
Coach Sparano: “He did get out of a phone booth. When you really watch the film and you see the creases that the guy got out of, and I said it before, I have all the respect in the world for Philip Rivers. He’s a tough, competitive guy and you’ve got to tackle him. He reminds me of [Steelers QB Ben] Roethlisberger and those kind of people, that if you don’t tackle them, they have a chance to hurt you. This guy hurt us in a couple different scenarios doing that. One thing we’ve got to do is our rush lane, we had good rushes, but our rush lane integrity if you will, where
we need to fit, our gaps, those type of things, we’ve got to continue to work on. some of them were stunts and twists and some of them were pressures. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t have two guys in a gap, or a guy, even the distance between the chairs here makes a huge different in your fit, and I think that’s something that we’ve got to continue to get better with. I think that that’s something that we have to continue to get better with. We’ll work hard on it. The guys are watching it now and we’ll work on it when we get back out there. We also have to win one-on-one match-ups. In the game, I always report to [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] and say, ‘Hey, we had this many pass rush opportunities in the game.’ For example, in the London Miami game, we had 252 pass rush reps. Individual pass rush reps, where you’re talking about five guys on one play. That’s five match-ups. In some of those scenarios, we are in the high 80s in winning those. We have to win on defense. We have to win that one-on-one match-up when it occurs. When you get that offensive lineman in a one-on-one situation, we have to be able to win a few more of those and convert a few more of those to get to the quarterback. There were some really good rushes yesterday, Khalil [Mack], [LaMarr] Woodley, [Justin] Tuck had a great rush at the end on a stunt that he came around and affected the quarterback. We had a ball broken up in the end zone. Those things are all good, but we have to get better because that’s going to be important. We can’t let them extend the plays; that’s
where they got some explosives.”

Q: How hard is it to have all of this go right and it not equal a win?
Coach Sparano: “This thing is a marathon. As I said to the players, there are no moral victories here. We are 0-5. We know exactly where we are. We know the last time that we played a good football game that was a one-score game. It was against New England and we didn’t respond very well the next week when we came out against Miami. Our guys are well aware of that right now. I made that perfectly clear to them. From our end, we have to correct it. We have to demand it. The players have got to understand, also coaches and all of us, have to understand and take responsibility. As coaches, if we didn’t get it right, we go in there and we say we didn’t get it right. From a player’s standpoint, you have to be able to look at it and get it right. We’re going to get it right. We’re going to work to get it right. That part of it does hurt when you come out of it. It hurts me more for them than anything else. My goal here is to win football games and see that locker room, smile at the end of this instead of knowing that we played hard and didn’t win a game. We played hard and that’s a good start.”

Q: Justin Tuck snaps were down, too, I think. Was he OK? Were there any other injuries coming out of that game?
Coach Sparano: “There were a couple of injuries that are still being evaluated right now that came out of the game – not many, but a couple. Justin, obviously, had one where he left the game for a period of time and then he came back in, and then he was out, and then he came back in, so his snaps were a little bit down. I applaud the guy’s effort for coming back into the game. I had challenged those guys the night before the game – the veteran players – to come in there and play like veteran players play, and the guy came in there and really had – he played 20 plays in the game, but he had one of his most productive games to date so far. That way there, that was good. As far as the injury goes right now, we’ll see where it is here as we go forward. They’re doing some work now.”

Q: Have you noticed a different reaction from the players coming in today compared to after the New England game?
Coach Sparano: “One of the things I told them last night in the locker room is that these games should hurt. It’s not OK. They should hurt. In our business – and I’m stealing a line that I’ve heard over and over and over again from a Hall of Fame coach – the wins, they go by like that, but the losses, they last a while. Our football team needs to understand that when you lose a game like that, that it should hurt a little bit. The kids came in today and that was the general demeanor. But, that being said, they have two hours to get over that – they know that – and then we move on and we get ready to play Arizona. I liked their mindset today. They were wide-eyed, they paid attention in the meetings and they weren’t afraid to be critical of themselves, or to know that they were going to be criticized in some situations, and praised in some situations. You’ve got to be able to do that – from our end, we’ve got to tell them when they do it right and when they do it wrong.”

Q: You talked last week about keeping guys uncomfortable to keep them motivated. How do you negotiate that balance, because you want to let them know, “Hey, you did well here,”? How do you go about that? Is it more of a need-to-know basis?
Coach Sparano: “It’s more of a need-to-know basis. Sometimes what they don’t know keeps them uncomfortable and that’s OK. I’m fine with that. Quite honestly – I said this before – maybe there’s some people in this building that are pretty comfortable right now. I don’t know about that. At the end of the day, we all had a hand in what goes on out there on Sunday if we’re Oakland Raiders. I’m proud of what the kids did yesterday. I’m proud of the way they played and for me to sit up here and not tell you that, I’d be lying. But happy with it? No, the result wasn’t the right result. Our fans deserve for us to go out there and win. They were tremendous out there yesterday. I mean, it was a blast. I had a ton of fun out there yesterday and they were great, and were a difference in the game at times. Our players feed off of that and they deserve the reward, too. But more importantly, the 53 guys in that locker room, they deserve it.”

Q: Sio Moore’s missed a few weeks with injury and he was able to come back and play this week. How did he do and did he give the defense a lift with just his presence?
Coach Sparano: “Sio played pretty well yesterday. He was around the ball a lot. He was a factor in a lot of things. Him and Miles, they both got downhill in the run game, did some good things that way. There’s some pieces of film there when you watch them – guys getting knocked back and them flying around – that was really good. So getting him back was a positive out there. Obviously, a little bit sore today at the end of this, from not playing and that type of stuff and doing what he did on it, but our football team needs Sio out there and he did a good job
answering the bell this week. It was good to have him back out there.”

Q: Is the plan still to start the clock on DJ Hayden on Wednesday?
Coach Sparano: “Yes, right now that’s the plan.”

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569

McDonald grades Raiders performance against Chargers

Here is how beat writer Jerry McDonald graded the Raiders off their performance in a 31-28 loss to the San Diego Chargers at the Coliseum on Sunday:

Passing offense — Derek Carr was 18 of 34 for 282 yards and four touchdowns and had at least five passes dropped in the first half. Carr attacked downfield, went through his progressions and looked nothing like a rookie. He got a little too bold on the Raiders final possession, throwing an interception to Jason Verrett when the Raiders were nearing field goal range for a tie and overtime. Grade: B

Rushing offense — Darren McFadden rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries, with Maurice Jones-Drew adding 30 yardson four attempts. Carr’s lone rush was a 2-yard scramble for a first down. McFadden hit holes quick and the line had its best run-blocking game of the season. The Raiders were particularly adept at getting rushing yardage in second-and-long and first-and-long (because of penalties). Grade B

Pass defense — Hard to believe, since Philip Rivers completed 22 of 34 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns, but there were sequences where the Raiders actually played pretty well. There were instances where Rivers felt pressure and missed his mark. Rookie corner TJ Carrie broke up a couple of passes and Tarell Brown had a key breakup of a pass intended for Antonio Gates. Overall, not nearly enough — Rivers had a 123.8 passer rating. Grade: D-plus

Rush defense — As Branden Oliver ran it down their throats on the game-winning drive, the Raiders simply looked tired after being on the field for more than 37 minutes. Oliver finished with 101 yards but had to work for it, needing 26 carries. San Diego overall averaged 3.5 yards per attempt with seven first downs. The tackling was much better than the previous game against Miami. Grade: C

Special teams — Some good things, but some key mistakes, most notably a 23-yard punt return surrendered to Keenan Allen that set up San Diego with the short-field 39-yard drive that won the game. The other was a wide-left 53-yard field goal attempt by Sebastian Janikowski as the half came to a close. It wasn’t a “gimme” by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a kick that is clearly within his considerable range. Carrie looked good on both punt and returns, with the highlight a 38-yard kickoff return. Grade: C-minus

Coaching — The Raiders were clearly more ready to play on offense than at any time in recent memory. Coach Tony Sparano’s directive to turn Carr loose paid off, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson mixed the run in nicely with his play-calling to keep the Raiders in positive down and distance resulting in an 8-for-13 third-down conversion rate. Not sure what else Jason Tarver could have done defensively. Rivers is simply that good, and the Raiders are not. A solid overall effort and plan against a superior team. Grade: B

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