The Raider Nation is rejoicing this week after the Raiders beat down the Broncos IN DENVER and sent all of them donkey fans home to cry in their Coors Light. I had a funny feeling about this game and despite everyone insisting the Raiders were going to get trampled by this years vaunted “Orange Blush” defense in Denver, I thought otherwise. It seemed like the stars were aligned for an “upset”. I can’t disagree with those who said “until this Raiders offense proves otherwise…” because after a MONTH without an offensive touchdown this offense didn’t deserve any faith being placed in them. But with the Broncos getting worse as the year has gone on and the Raiders defense looking better, combined with the vengeance on the mind of the Raiders after the 41-14 thrashing they took in week one, this game had upset special written all over it. There were a lot of heroes in this game which is not surprising. Last week, even after a loss, in my B&B I had more good to speak of than bad. Most of which was on the defense. This week the offense got on board in a big way. The Broncos couldn’t get anything going and then they couldn’t stop anything. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around they were in desperation mode and it was over. Here are this week’s biggest contributors along with those that fell a bit behind.
JaMarcus Russell - You have no idea how good this feels to be putting Russell at the top of this list for the first time this year. Actually, you probably have a pretty good idea of how good it feels if you are a Raider fan. We have all been wondering when Russell was going to start showing the same potential as other Qbs in their first year of starting such as Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Brady Quinn, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Cassel and Tyler Thigpen. He may have only had 152 yards passing in this game but he only had ONE incompletion. If you factor in that he had a touchdown pass and no turnovers, his passer rating was around 150 for the game. Among those passes was a 30 yard pass to Zach Miller to set up first and goal which lead to the Seabass field goal, a 51 yard bomb to Ashley Lelie that lead to the Raiders first offensive touchdown, and a touchdown strike to Ashley Lelie in which he scrambled out of the pocket and threw a laser between defenders to put the Raiders up by two touchdowns. Then he had my favorite play of the game. Where he took the snap and kneeled down to end it. He was on target all day and handled the added trick plays flawlessly. Finally, we see what he is capable of and it gives Raider fans a lot to look forward to. But that white fur coat and sunglasses at the press conference was going a bit far.
Chris Johnson - Chris Muthuf!#$%in Johnson! Talk about comin out of nowhere, this guy. Actually, to be accurate, he came out of Louisville and was drafted by Green Bay in the 7th round (245th overall) in 2003. He was out of football in 2004 and played with St Louis in 2005 for 13 games. He was picked up after being released in training camp by the Chiefs in 06 and last year in training camp with the Raiders he looked like he would earn the “most quickly to be cut first” award and yet he kept making the team much to my dismay. Now he looks like the DeAngelo Hall contract should have been given to him. He has no easy task either. While teams stay far away from Nnamdi’s side of the field, Johnson is working his tail off getting half the passes thrown his way. He has instilled a confidence in the coaches and fans that he can carry that load. When you have two corners like this then the other team only has the slot receiver to go to and no team can win games with one receiver picking up a few yards here and there. The first play CJ made looked to be a pick six. But the refs would not allow the Raiders to score so easily. They called him for a holding penalty that was completely ridiculous. His next play was one in which Tatum Bell caught a pass in the flat and CJ NAILED him immediately in the open field for no gain. He had three passes defended to go along with another three passes in which he had his receiver blanketed and the pass fell incomplete. He only gave up one sizable catch to Marshall that went for 32 yards which is pretty good considering Marshall is one of the best receivers in the league.
Ashley Lelie - This is why we got him. So he would go to Denver looking for revenge and leave it all on the field in the process. Unlike Javon Walker who has been hurt for both meetings with Denver. Lelie had four catches for 92 yards and a TD. And the 51 yard catch he made was a beauty. He was double covered and the man covering him directly had his arms inbetween his and Lelie STILL came down with it. That is what great receivers do. I am not saying Lelie is great. I am simply saying that he was acting like a great receiver on that catch. He also was doing a great impression of a great receiver on his TD catch in traffic. Every catch he had on the day was either for a first down or a touchdown. I have no problem with different receivers on this team having coming out parties on different days. Last week it was Curry. Next week, the Chiefs will try and shut down Lelie and Curry and perhaps someone else will show up big. Then again, without being able to double either one, perhaps both Curry and Lelie will have good games. It is the Chiefs afterall.
Justin Fargas - Fargas had the first one hundred yard rushing game for the Raiders all season. And it wasn’t on one big run and a bunch of little runs. It was from ripping off good chunks of yardage to keep drives alive and help the Raiders control the clock throughout the game. He had 107 yards on 24 carries and if you take off the 3 straight predictable run plays at the goal line in the first quarter that went no where, he averaged over five yards a carry. He had a 5 yard run that set up the McFadden TD in the 3rd quarter, then he had a 21 yard run, a hard fought 4 yard run, and a 6 yard run that put the Raiders on the 6 yard line and led to their final touchdown. Then he ran for 12 yard first down on the final play of the game to seal the victory and put him over 100 yards. Now that is what it means to be a workhorse.
Darren McFadden - While he only had 38 rushing yards in the game, he added the dynamic to this offense that we have been waiting and hoping for since he was drafted. He lined up at quarterback in the wildcat formation and ran 11 yards for a first down. He caught a screen pass that went for 9 yards and a first down. Then two plays later he scored the Raiders first offensive TD in four games on misdirection pitch left. He lined up at receiver and drew a pass interference call that put the ball at the four yard line which led to the Raiders second offensive touchdown. Then he ran it right up the middle to score the final TD of the game. Now THAT’S versatility. And it is about time.
Jonnie Lee Higgins - Two punt return Tds in two games?! The difference in this game was that he had an all around good game on the returns. Simply because he didn’t lose yards and he didn’t take punts and run right into a tackle as he had for the last few games. He smartly got well out of the way of a punt that was troublesome. He also had an end around that went for 9 yards when it initially looked like he would be tackled for a loss.
Thomas Howard - He led the team in tackles (again) with seven. Three of those tackles were on run stuffs for little or no gain. He didn’t give up a single big catch all game. He also had three QB pressures and two ridiculous roughing the passer penalties which can be added to the mountain of useless evidence for the case against the refs and their Raider hatred. Most notably though was Howard’s interception which was the only interception all day for either team. He ran full speed at Tony Sheffler after the ball was in the air and he turned around just in time to grab the pass and continued his momentum out of bounds. It was as if he had eyes in the back of his head. That interception set up the Raiders final TD to put the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Gibril Wilson - He didn’t give up a single big catch all day and still was second on the team in tackles. He had two run stuffs, one pass defended and one QB pressure. He recovered the Broncos fumble on the five yard line to stop them from scoring. As usual, he had a good all-around game. He deserves to be in the probowl this year. So get out there and vote Raider fans!
Sebastian Janikowski - So what if he only had one chip shot field goal on the day. I am not going to penalize him because the Raiders were able to score four touchdowns. His first kickoff went for a touchback…of course. His next kickoff was from the 15 yard line after Jonnie Lee Higgins was flagged for excessive celebration. Then Seabass said to the refs and the Broncos “Oh, you wanna throw a BS flag huh? Ok I will go ahead and kick this ball 85 yards to the goal line anyway! That all you got for me?” His next kickoff was a bouncing kick that was taken at the 7 yard line and returned to the 15. His next kickoff went to the goal line and was returned to the 22 yard line. And his last two kickoffs went for two more touchbacks. I am so glad he is on our side.
Jon Alston - He only had two plays in the game. Both were blips on the radar but they went a long way. He blew into the backfield on the first play of the game to tackle Hillis for a four yard loss. It was like he was saying “I just wanted you to know what you are in for ALL day.” Then on the Jonnie Lee Higgins punt return TD he ran up behind Higgins to block prospective tacklers…with his HELMET in is HAND! I am sure many Raider fans (including myself) were laughing histerically every time the network replayed it. It is enough that he kept blocking without a helmet but to do it with his helmet in his hand while using one arm? That certainly is enough to make this list. And it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Stanford Routt - Well it only stands to reason with Asomugha shutting down the left side of the field and Chris Johnson only giving up one big catch, that someone had to have given up some catches for some yards. Afterall, Cutler did have 204 yards passing. So in this game, it was Routt who was victimized most of all. On the Broncos first drive he gave up a 9 yard catch to Stokley, and missed a tackle on a Brandon Marshall catch that went for 21 yards and put them in scoring position on the 5 yard line. On the Broncos next drive Routt gave up a 6 yard catch to Stokley for a first down, and then gave up a 28 yard catch to Darryl “Stone Hands” Jackson. Then on the Broncos next posession he gave up a 13 yard catch to Stokley on a drive that ended in the Broncos tying the score at 3-3. On the last Broncos posession before half he was called for illegal contact on a drive that luckily ended in a missed field goal. Which means that he was responsible for 87 yards of Bronco offense in the first half alone. He seemed to hold it down a bit better from there on out but late in the game the Broncos needed to go down field more so there were less short passes in the slot for him to worry about.
Refs - They tried their best to screw over the Raiders but could not keep them down this time. The Raiders were flagged 10 times for 90 yards. There were three roughing the passer penalties and every single one had the booth anouncers saying “Oh come on!” and they are non bias. Then there was the holding call on Chris Johnson that was incidental contact and negated a pick six. And the most ridiculous one was the excessive celebration call on Jonnie Lee Higgins for doing a backflip. He didn’t use a teammate or a prop and the back flip took all of two seconds. Not only that but he has ALWAYS done a back flip when he has scored and has NEVER gotten a flag for it in the past. So why now? Why ever? Could it be because they were in Denver? Makes one wonder.