I was late getting the kids to school today, and usually I’d have a fit over something like that.
But The Oakland Raiders beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a real football game yesterday.
My instant coffee tastes better, I realized taking the kids to school thirty minutes late for the first time in their academic career wasn’t the end of the world, and this list of errands and chores seems very doable.
We succeeded at every aspect of our game at different times, something we haven’t seen since the Raiders were 7-4 last season after the home victory over the Bears.
Yesterday’s game showed all the promise we had for this team before the season began.
The defense only sort of contained Big Ben, which is to say not at all.
But they didn’t commit a penalty until the second half, and the goal-line skirmish that got Tommy Kelly flagged could’ve gone either way. They didn’t keep the Steelers on the field, and more importantly, they didn’t negate the numerous Steelers penalties with infractions of their own.
They also safely separated the Steelers from the ball a couple of times without trying to induce a head injury, and came through on third down when they had to in the fourth quarter.
Sure, the Steelers were missing Troy Polomalu and James Harrison, and their running game was pretty absent, but this one counts more for what the Raiders did than what the Steelers couldn’t do.
Carson Palmer was a field general yesterday. Unlike last Sunday’s hollow performance where he passed for almost 400 gutless yards, Palmer was master and commander of the Raiders offense, especially in the second half. Watching Palmer has been a sphincter-clenching experience every time he drops back this season. But in the second half against the Steelers, every time he dropped back we wondered what he was going to do next.
And what he generally did was protect the football and make intelligent decisions that moved the ball down the field.
Of course it really helped that Darren McFadden finally showed up. I predicted last week that it was only a matter of time before he caught fire in the zone blocking scheme, and that’s exactly what happened. He played to his potential and Pittsburgh’s defense had to play as if he could break off a big run at any time, and that opened up chances for the passing game.
McFadden ran like his life depended on each yard in the second half. He kept his legs moving and stretched his entire frame out only to come up about a centimeter short of a touchdown of scoring his second touchdown of the day. It felt like he was finally invested in this offense.
Palmer played like he’d attended the same religious conversion rally as McFadden; this was his offense, and he was going to keep leading them to the end zone.
If they were the converts, it’s hard not to say that Coach Dennis Allen was the mesmerizing preacher on the stump. For the first two games, I spotted him whipping out a red pen every time a flag was thrown against the Raiders. Lo and behold, it was the SECOND HALF…the SECOND HALF before the Raiders were penalized.
I have this feeling Coach Allen is the quiet and logical type behind the scenes, just like he is on the sidelines.
I picture a conversation between he and Tommy Kelly going like this after last week…
SCENE: A dimly lit room in the Raiders Alameda facility … Coach Allen is sitting at a table with one chair opposite him … a single bare lightbulb hangs from the ceiling. Tommy Kelly walks in and grabs a chair.
TK: Hey Coach, I heard you wanted to see me. (rolls back in chair arrogantly)
COACH ALLEN: Um, yes Tommy. Thanks for coming. Um … yes … well, I was noticing that you represent a large chunk of our payroll. See? (holds up paper with salaries listed.
TK: Well, yeah. But I’m an old school Raider. (strokes beard)
COACH ALLEN: Yes, but you are also draw a lot of penalties and that hurts the team. Is this your house? (holds up photo of beautiful East Bay spread close to Reggie Jackson’s house. )
TK: Yeah, where’d you get that?
COACH ALLEN: Um … you’ll have a difficult time paying the mortgage after we waive you.
TK: Wait, WAIVE ME?
COACH ALLEN: Yes, I’m going to release you if you have another multi-penalty game. And I’m going to spread a vicious rumor across the league’s personnel departments that we let you go because you were a big … how should I put this … you were a big fan of Jerry Sandusky’s work, and I’m not talking about Linebacker U.
TK: Now listen here, you punk….
COACH ALLEN: That camera in the corner is on, Tommy. You don’t want to be known as a pedophile AND a player who attacks coaches do you?
TK: Ummm … no.
COACH ALLEN: Very good then. You might want to casually mention to your friends and acquaintances on the defensive unit that it’s hard to keep an NFL lifestyle without an NFL paycheck. Have a good practice, Mr. Kelly.
TK: (exits with a stunned look on his face)
That’s really the only explanation I can come up with for the striking about-face performed by the Raiders’ defense. Maybe Dennis Allen is Kaiser Soze.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is alive today, but for several minutes after he was leveled by Steelers DB Ryan Mundy, I had my doubts.
Mundy says he “prayed” for DHB after the hit, and “didn’t mean to hurt the guy because it happened so fast”, but he should be fined and possibly suspended today. An example needs to be made to protect guys like DHB, and the NFL product at large.
The only suggestion I have (besides bringing back the old refs, of course) is that the league adds an enforcer position to NFL rosters.
Each team will be able to carry one “player” who can take to the field one time per game to address a player like Mundy at the middle of the field after a play like the one that left DHB in a heap.
Helmets and torso padding will be removed, and the “player” will most likely be a top-flight MMA fighter who has zero football skills, but is excellent at knocking people out. The offending player will have one hand taped to his waist, and he’ll have to survive 60 seconds with the enforcer, and he’ll be ejected from the game afterward. If he refuses to fight, he’ll be suspended three games.
I know this is a stretch, but there has to be some kind of serious and severe deterrent before someone dies on national television. The hit on DHB was one of the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for him.
I think we’ve gotten a taste of what this system can do, and regardless of the quality of the Steelers team we faced, the Raiders finally played up to the promise of the new regime.
The autumn wind is a Raider, indeed.
And Dennis Allen is a scary little dude behind closed doors.