ALAMEDA -- They were as surprising as they were blatant and uncharacteristic.Four times the Raiders' usual sure-handed receiving corps dropped passes in the course of Sunday's 26-16 victory at Kansas City. And four times observers scratched their heads."The first thing is, thats football," said Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer on Wednesday. "Theres going to be stretches where you catch the ball phenomenally, and guys are making one-handed grabs and going up and high-pointing the ball. And the balls not touching the ground. Theres going to be skids where a guy has a rough game or a group has a rough game. In my experience, in my career, thats football, that happens."But I think, unless you just dont have good hands, and we dont have any guys that dont have good hands, all of our guys have good hands, nothing needs to be said. Every good football player knows when he dropped a football. The last thing that he needs is a quarterback in his face, screaming and pointing at him."Besides, that's not Palmer's style. Not even when his competition percentage and efficiency rating went down after he was 14 of 28 passing, for 209 yards, against the Chiefs.Perhaps the most shocking drops came from Denarius Moore, who let a sure 17-yard touchdown pass go through his hands on the first play of the second quarter. The Raiders had to settle for a 35-yard field goal and a 6-0 lead.Then, early in the third quarter and on 2nd and three from the Kansas City 11-yard line, Moore dropped a pass on the right side. Oakland again had to settle for a field goal, going up 16-6.The two other drops came courtesy of rookie Rod Streater, who caught just one pass in the five times he was targeted, and Darren McFadden."If something needs to be said, it needs to be said," Palmer added. "But for the most part, our guys all can catch the ball really well and they all know as soon as the ball hits the ground when its one they should have caught and when its one they shouldnt have."But Im not the type to jump down someones throat and be all over them. Our guys respond well. I know D-Moe had a couple of drops, but hell make a couple of phenomenal ones this week that will make up for last week."
TAMPA, Fla – Raiders fans are a migratory bunch. While the Bay Area remains its largest stronghold, the franchise has supporters across the country and will attract large crowds in opposing cities.
That’s logical in destination cities like New Orleans and Nashville, but they’ve had solid turnouts in less attractive destinations like Baltimore and Jacksonville.
Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter hopes that doesn’t happen Sunday when the Raiders invade Tampa Bay. Both teams sport similar mascots, and he doesn’t want Raider Nation feeling comfortable on the Raymond James Stadium pirate ship.
“Let’s keep those Raiders jerseys out of the lower bowl,” Koetter said after beating San Francisco in Santa Clara last week. “Let’s get some Bucs jerseys in there. Let’s rock that place next week.”
Koetter knows Raiders fans travel well, and imploring season ticket holders to hold onto their seats is a reaction to recent games where visiting fans have turned out in droves.
“Every place you play on the road is different, as far as how hard it is to play there and how hard it is to hear there,” Koetter said. “We’re not fooling anybody that some teams travel a lot better than others. Players notice, coaches notice. That’s the truth. And I’m 1,000-percent aware that the more you win, the better it gets. But with that said, do we have a home-field advantage? That’s our job to create it.”
The Buccaneers haven’t rewarded paying customers recently. They’re 3-15 at home since the start of 2014 and have lost both home games this season. Visiting fans can often get tickets easier without a good product on the field, especially in a market without strong roots.
“When you can’t hear, it’s rough,” Koetter said. “When you have to do everything silent cadence, everything hand signals, you can’t hear yourself think. Compared to if you’ve got to go to silent cadence in your own stadium.”
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio wouldn’t mind that one bit. Raiders fans have been heard in all four road games thus far. It’s uncertain how big the visiting crowd will be, but Raiders fans have enjoying cheering on a winner in 2016.
“They’re a big presence,” Del Rio said after Friday’s practice. “We really appreciate their support. They do a tremendous job. Our fans travel. Wherever we’ve been thus far, they’ve been there in large numbers and I think it’ll be the same (on Sunday). Come on out, Raider Nation. We’re excited about it.”
TAMPA, Fla. – NFL players are a transient bunch, often switching teams a few times in free agency. That’s why there’s a Raiders homecoming story available almost every week.
Kelechi Olsemele was emotional about playing at Baltimore. Sean Smith faced an old team when the Chiefs came to Oakland. Reggie Nelson played the team that drafted him and later traded him in Jacksonville last game.
Donald Penn’s up this week, though the circumstances are a bit different.
He wanted to remain in Tampa Bay and play out a big contract. The Buccaneers cut him during the 2014 offseason, after eight years of service. He started his last 108 games in Tampa, and went to a Pro Bowl in that span.
Tampa Bay imported free agent Anthony Collins, which made Penn expendable. Tampa Bay made a business move. It was the wrong one.
Collins played one disappointing season and was cut the next year. Donovan Smith has started each game this year and last, but hasn’t been productive.
Penn has meanwhile experienced a career renaissance in Oakland, and is playing quality football at 33 years old. He’s happy being closer to his L.A. home and with a surging Raiders squad. Doing better is the best revenge, but Penn still wants to show well in his return to Tampa Bay. That comes Sunday, when the Raiders complete their Florida road with a contest at Raymond James Stadium.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s very huge,” Penn said Thursday. “You know me, I’m a straight forward guy. That’s definitely in my mind. I mean that’s something I’m never going to forget, when they released me.”
Penn’s playing as well as ever this season. He hasn’t allowed a sack, according to Pro Football Focus statistics, and has given up just one quarterback hit and 12 pressures through seven games. He even slid over to right tackle in a season-opening emergency and fared well in that spot.
“He wants to protect me more than anything,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “He gets mad even if his guy, his finger touches my jersey and the balls out. So, when you got guys that it means that much to them to do their job and it means that much to them that it makes them sick, not only to have a sack but for those guys to even touch you, you know you have the right person protecting you.”
Penn has been protecting Carr since he turned pro in 2014, and has kept the young quarterback largely clean over the pass three years. It’s a luxury some quarterbacks don’t have – just ask Derek’s brother David about the importance of pass protection – and Carr would like to keep it that way.
Carr wants five more years out of Penn, who has said he’d seriously consider retirement when his contract expires after next season.
His level of play may change things. Maybe, maybe not.
“Derek stays in my ear about (playing five more),” said Penn, halfway through his 11th season. “After next year, we’ll sit and see how things go. Thirteen has always has been a number in my head since I was younger. When I was younger, I was thinking 13 NBA years. It switched over to NFL years quick. We’ll have to readdress that, but I have a lot more football in me. I could probably play five or six more years if I want to, but the thing is do I want to?
“When am I going to call it quits? My body has been great. Hopefully it stays great, but I have three kids. I want to make sure I’m still able to do things with them and be able to do stuff and enjoy that. Right now with the way it's going, especially with us winning, it feels good. It feels fine, but you never know. I might still be out here a little longer.”
Penn has learned to be efficient in training, to avoid unnecessary taxation on a body that doesn’t rebound like it used to.
Experience, technical mastery and football smarts have mitigated any agility loss, and Penn’s still going strong despite the fact Tampa Bay let him go.
And, for the first time in 11 tries, Penn has started 5-2. He has only had three winning seasons and one playoff appearance, which makes 2016 more meaningful.
“Especially at this point in my career, I really do appreciate it a lot,” Penn said. “It really means a lot because, like I said, I’m more seasoned. I am going to play, and I want to win now. I’m not trying to win later. The good thing is these young group of kids we have. Some kids come in here and they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get it eventually.’ These young kids on this team, they want it now, and I love that because they’re on the same page as me because I want it now. The effort that we’re putting out on the field, on the practice field, it’s showing. We just have to keep that up.”