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Raiders leaning on Brad Seely for Special teams and a lot more versus Patriots

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NFL: Preseason-Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an acronym in football. FIST. It means Football Is Special Teams. Last Sunday night the Patriots used FIST in Denver to jump out to an early lead and the Broncos never recovered as the Patriots cruised to a 41-16 win.

In total, 17 points the Patriots scored came off special teams plays. First it was a muffed punt by the Broncos in which the Patriots recovered and scored a touchdown in two plays. After the Broncos got on the board with a field goal, Patriots return man Dion Lewis took the ensuing kick 103 yards for the touchdown. Then in the second quarter, Patriots’ Rex Burkhead blocked a punt, the Patriots recovered and added a field goal to take a 20-6 lead.

“Yeah, they looked pretty good in Denver,” Jack Del Rio said with a laugh.

“Well, they’re talented throughout. . . They’ve got great returners in [Dion] Lewis and [Danny] Amendola. So, they put emphasis on their special teams. We do too. But they’ve been really good at it. They had a dominant game last week and certainly that’s one of the challenges this week.”

Special teams is an area in which the Raiders have done fairly well this season. There have been some hiccups, such as the high snap from Jon Condo on an extra point against the Chargers that helped cost them the game and the fumble on the punt return by Jalen Richard against the Bills. But punter Marquette King, kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson have all been among the league’s best at their positions this season.

“It’ll be interesting to see if they want to approach it and give us opportunities with C.P [Cordarrelle Patterson],” Del Rio said Wednesday. “They’ve got the best unit in the league right now covering kicks and they have the fewest number of touchbacks. So they are being aggressive, trying to pin you down, make you come out and try and tackle you inside the 20. So, that’ll be a little game within the game. We’ll see how that plays out. Obviously, we like C.P., we like what we think we’re capable of doing their and it’ll be interesting to see how they approach it.”

The numbers this season for Patterson and Dion Lewis are remarkably similar. They are tied for the league lead in yards per kick return (30.8) among those with at least ten returns. Patterson has more returns over 20 yards (11) and over 40 yards (3), but Lewis has that touchdown from last week while Patterson has yet to break through for a score.

Much credit for the Raiders special teams success goes to special team’s coach Brad Seely — especially with the development of Tavecchio and King.

“He’s a coach that understands the need to develop the players we have,” Del Rio said of Seely. “He’s done a great job of that. I think if you look at what Marquette [King] has been able to do here under his tutelage, to bring a guy like Giorgio [Tavecchio] along the way he did, some of our cover guys. He’s done a good job with that whole process of being a great coach in this league.

As it happens, the Patriots are well aware of what Seely brings to the table. He was the special team’s coach in New England for ten years from 1999-2008. And as you probably know, the Patriots had a lot of success in that time, including a few big kicks from Adam Vinatieri.

“Brad did a great job for us,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick over conference call Wednesday. “We won three Super Bowl championships. Brad has a lot of experience in the league. He knows personnel and the league very well. He’s an excellent special teams coach. He did a great job for us and he’s had a great career.”

Every a team faces a former coach or player, there would figure to be some benefit to having seen how things function with the opposition. But usually that is downplayed or generalized, such as when the Raiders were going to face the Bills, where Downing was once a quarterbacks coach.

Not this time, however. Ten years is a long time and therefore a lot of insight Seely brings to the Raiders on the Patriots. And Del Rio isn’t just going to use Seely’s expertise on special teams, Del Rio emphasized that Seely’s value with game management.

“We were able to get him,” Del Rio continued. “Obviously, the experience that he had with Bill [Belichick] and a lot of the big games that he’s been in and some of the game management, some of the game decisions, I’ll lean on him for some of that. Brad is a very trusted assistant and definitely a guy I’m glad we have on staff.”

With the Patriots’ mystifying the rest of the NFL much of the past 17 years, the Raiders need all the help they can get. And as the Patriots showed last week, that should start on special teams.