One thing you may or may not have noticed about the Raiders defense of late is how they have been celebrating together following a good play on the field. In most cases, that's a good thing. Other times, not so much.
Some like to say ‘act like you've been there' or some such thing. Many of these new veteran Raiders players have been there many times. Longer tenured Raiders had not had much to celebrate for a while coming into this season. The result, as Raiders defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, viewed it was a lack of camaraderie among teammates.
"This team with the collection of guys that we started this year [with], really didn't celebrate together," said Tarver. "So one of the things we did as coaches is we cut out before and after the play and watch them. There might be a good play, but everybody turns around and walks back to the huddle. That's not defense. That's not the Raiders. So what we did is we showed that."
Tarver saw that lack of celebration as the key to the issues this Raiders defense had early in the season. It's hard to argue with the results of that thinking. The Raiders defense has been much improved over its performances in the first part of the season.
"I want to see some emotion," Tarver continued. "I want to see some genuine emotion. I want Miles [Burris] to be happy for Sio when he makes a play. I want [Justin] Tuck to be happy for everybody to make a play. We're going to enjoy playing football together, and you can see the improvement. This group of young men, I think they are learning how to play this game the right way, which is full of passion - together."
While we have seen the results of the celebration on the energy of the defense, we have also seen a few times when the emotion got the better of some of the younger players.
The most glaring example of this came the last time the Raiders faced the Chiefs when Sio Moore had a big sack on third down in the waning seconds of the game. While Raiders fans and everyone else should have been applauding the Raiders getting their first win in a calendar year, the media was in some ways forced to cover Sio Moore's celebration instead.
The reason was because his dance took so long, the Chiefs had time to get back to the line and were ready to snap the ball again on fourth down, causing the Raiders to have to take a timeout to avoid a penalty.
Had that celebration gone as planned, it wouldn't have had Sio running so far downfield and celebrating on his own, it would have been more of a team celebration. Khalil Mack and Benson Mayowa attempted to join Sio in celebration and ended up having to wait for him to come back and by then, it was too late.
The Raiders still won the game, so it was a situation where everyone learned the easy way.
"We don't need to have a 20-second celebration when we've got to use a timeout, but we learn from that," said Tarver. "Celebrating together and working together with that like kind of passion, that's defensive football and we've grown a lot. We've improved in that area. The dance with Sio - that's what he does, but guys working together and enjoying when each other makes a play and helping each other make the play is a big deal. You can see that. A whole bunch of people - as we've gotten better, more and more people have hit quarterbacks, more and more people are making plays on the ball. That's what happens. It becomes contagious and that's where we want to go. We need to stay in that. We need to keep going."
A similar situation arose with the win over the 49ers last week where Sio Moore and Colin Kaepernick were jawing at one another during the game, in the hallway to the locker room at half time, and then on social media afterward. Tony Sparano addressed that situation this week.
"Sio and I have visited about those situations," said Sparano. "But I love Sio's energy and I love his passion. It's necessary. He's a passionate, emotional player and I like that part of it. I want my team to play that way. I want my team to play with passion and energy and enthusiasm. It's just there's a fine line between that and not playing smart football all the time. The play a couple of weeks ago against Kansas City could have been a critical situation in the game had it not been for a timeout being called there in that scenario. We've got to learn from these things and again, like I said, you try to find out whether or not these guys are at this point, when you're teaching lessons - are you a good student?
"I said this the other day: DJ Hayden a couple weeks back he had that hit and it ended up being a really good play, a really good hit, and then a taunt. The very next game DJ came back and he made that same play and made it clean and did it the right way. That's learning a good lesson, so that's what we need to be doing."
Last week the Raiders had a lot of defensive plays to celebrate. They had five sacks and two interceptions. And at no point were they flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct or any such thing. They were celebrating as a team and the results were apparent.
They just have to make sure they give themselves plenty to celebrate.