Better late than never...maybe. Sometimes blessings can be a curse. Example 1: I am a blessed person. The part of my family tree that starts with my mom's parents and branches out is fantastic. I love 'em all. We are, however, spread out over the entire length of the Western side of the state of Washington.
Getting everyone together is not the easiest thing in the world. So, once a year, the week before Christmas, we meet in the part of the state that is neither North or South, on a day the majority of us can make it. More often than not that day is a Sunday. Had I not owed these people everything, I would have told them to suck it. I have to watch the Raiders game. Ahh, but that blessing is a curse.
Example 2: Here's another blessing. Where we met this year, there was a TV with cable and I am certainly not the only football fan in my family. In between the socializing and schooling my nephews at football, we were able to catch part of the football action.
The only afternoon game that was on was the Seahawks-Falcons. Which is good in the sense that the inferior football on the TV did not inhibit me from, you know, talking to people. What sucked was, I was getting the scores from the Raiders game via the ticker. That was a rough way to go. Here's an overview.
7-0: Alright! Another blowout! No worries, I thought. I didn't check again for a while. Then someone told me of Tim Tebow running for a 40 yard touchdown...on 3rd and, Al help me, 24. "What?!?! Ugh!"
14-14: "That can't be right, but it can't very well be wrong. How does Denver have 14 points already. This is not good. It is my greatest fear. Cable didn't have them ready. Denver is going to gain momentum. Crap!" From that point on, when I'd check the score it would be different, but tied.
17-17...20-20: My apprehension was building. I began to prepare myself for the inevitable and onrushing feeling that the season was over. This is the role reversal I was worried about. They couldn't let Denver believe they had a chance. They are going to blow this. All I am going to hear about is Tebow the savior. I'll be tortured with highlights of his debut from now until eternity.
30-23: "Finally, a lead, but it's only a touchdown. I've seen this movie before and it is not the kind that has a happy ending." I didn't see the score again until....
39-23: "Wow! A 16-point victory. I'll take it." Still, I couldn't help but feel the team did not come out ready to play and that bothered me. It is nice to be able to feel bad about a 16-point victory, and I did. Then I watched the game.
I feel way better now. If the Raiders played the Broncos 100 times, they would win 102 of 'em. They gave the Broncos all the ingredients for a upset and even started baking it for them and the Broncos couldn't take it out of the oven. Just look at the early turnovers and points they gave the Broncos. They didn't leave the door cracked--they left it wide open with a sign over the top the read, "On vacation, back in 2011."
It wasn't all just bad play by the Raiders. I mean Vickerson? That was a hell of a leaping pick by a defensive lineman. He plucked that out of the sky like he was Daniel LaRusso catching a fly with chopsticks. That led to the 3rd and 24 scramble, which was fairly pathetic defense. The D showed later they were ready for Tebow to run, but they certainly weren't on that 3rd and 24 play.
Then there was McFadden's pitch. Had he made the pitch, Ford may have scored, but what was he thinking? I hereby institute a new rule: When the ball gets into to McFadden's hands, the plan from there on out is for it to stay there. I don't know which was worse, the decision to pitch there or his Wildcat pass against the Chiefs into entire defense coverage.
They then let the Broncos and Tebow off the hook again. Stanford Routt was playing beautiful defense. He was in man coverage, found the ball, stopped, jumped up to get it at its highest point and then--this is where things crumbled--forgot to touch it. Michael Huff, who understandably was not expecting the ball to get through, had the ball deflect off of his leg and Brandon Lloyd made a fairly spectacular catch.
Then a couple of possessions later, Jason Campbell gets hit and chucks up a "one team is going to catch this ball duck." The Raiders were trailing 17-14 at that point. The Broncos only had one drive that resembled decent NFL level football and that ended in a field goal and yet they had 17 points. The only thing stopping the Raiders' offense was themselves. Momentum was clearly on Denver's side.
The Raiders went in at halftime and Tom Cable found his moment of truth. Here is Tommy Kelly's recounting of the Cable Guy's halftime lecture:
"Man, don’t give nobody no hope. Let’s not come in here after the game and talk about how we missed this chance. Get off your ass and play. Take advantage of what you got. You know this team. They’re going to give you an opportunity to put them away. Put them away. Step on their throat." He just kept saying it over and over again. "Step on their throat."
The game remained close for a bit and Raider players were dropping like flies, yet they kept winning the individual battles and soon enough they took control. I don't know that Tom Cable's speech elevated their play, but he certainly helped ensure they didn't fall into apathy. This is what I wanted to see this week out of Cable and the Raiders.
In the end, the better team won. They didn't play their best or cleanest game, but they won because they were just that much better. It has been a while since I had been so confident that the Raiders would win a game and they didn't let me down. I'll take it. A couple of players worth mentioning:
Quentin Groves: When Quentin Groves knows you are not going to pass it, look out. He turns into a running back seeking missile. I hardly recognized him out there a few times. The Broncos had the ball on their own 6 and ran two running plays and got a safety. That is unbelievable. I don't remember ever seeing that before and Groves was the reason they lost yards on both plays.
Rolando McClain: McClain got walled off on Tebow's touchdown, but he came off of blocks on several occasion and on one of them he even got off quick enough to tackle Moreno behind the line. Maybe he is better when he doesn't practice.
Sebastian Janikowski: Seabass was drilling his field goals on a sloppy day. More impressive was his punt. Not that the punt was spectacular, but it was decent and I was just happy he caught the wet ball.
Jon Condo: Now is as good of time as any to mention our long snapper. One of the reasons Seabass caught the snap is because it went right to him. Condo's snaps always go right where they are supposed to. In fact, there hasn't been a Raider that could throw a ball with better accuracy since Rich Gannon was there. JaMarcus couldn't even hand it off with that kind of accuracy.
DHB: It is a sign of how disappointing DHB has been that I mention him, but his one catch was a nice catch. He jumped up and caught it cleanly with his hands. His development is slow and he may never be a legit starter in this league, but at least we are catching glimpses this year. Also, he and Murphy are really good blockers. With a team that runs and has lots of long runs, this carries a decent amount of value.
The O-line: Zero Sacks! Denver's pass rush is non-existent, but still! Mario Henderson came in and did an admirable job at his newly acquired RT position. Hopefully not good enough that the club will think he can start there next year, but good enough to be a valuable back-up. Samson Satele deserves mention. He has really picked up his game the last few weeks. He is never going to blow guys off of the ball, but he hasn't been getting pushed around and he looks good on screens and when pulling.