Lechler lets it all fly for the Raiders

540049.jpg

Lechler lets it all fly for the Raiders

ALAMEDA -- So much attention -- both good, and bad -- has been paid to Sebastian Janikowski this week that his running mate has become an afterthought. That is, if many gave Shane Lechler a thought at all.True, Janikowski tied the NFL record for longest field goal with his 63-yarder Monday night, before finding his name in a Contra Costa Times report Friday that said he had been charged with misdemeanor battery and false imprisonment. So the man known as SeaBass no doubt had an interesting five days.But Lechler's 77-yard punt in Denver tied a team record, and his name was not found on a police blotter.So even while he was being peppered with questions about Janikowsi's record-tying field goal (he is the holder, after all) this week, and answering them all with aplomb, a smile did creep across Lechler's weary face when he was asked about his own boot, which equaled the 77-yard punt by Wayne Crow against the New York Titans on Oct. 29, 1961."I haven't felt one like that in a long time," Lechler said. "I hit it and kind of stepped back and was kind of like, 'Where did that come from?'"Lechler, whose previous personal best was his 73-yarder on Sept. 28, 2003, laughed, then grew serious."It had a little anger management behind it," he added, "from the 90-yard punt return we had given up earlier in the game."Indeed, Eric Decker's 90-yard touchdown return came on a 57-yard Lechler punt following the Raiders' first series of the second half and pulled the Broncos to within 16-10 with 12:31 to play in the third quarter."I saw that the ball got kicked really far by Shane Lechler, who has an unbelievable foot," said Raiders coach Hue Jackson. "And then all of a sudden, we broke down on coverage on the left side. Maybe kind of out-kicked our coverage a little bit."The coverage guy has to know. Sometimes when you kick a ball you're not sure how far that thing is going. But once you realize, as a coverage unit, that the ball is in the air a little longer than what you're accustomed to, because normally there's a rhythm to a punt, I think the guy has to understand -- this one went a long way, and all of a sudden we have to attack the guy who is returning the ball a little differently."Lechler, drafted in the fifth round out of Texas A&M in 2000, has long been known as having the biggest leg among this generation's punters. Entering this season, his career 47.29 yards-per-punt average is the best in NFL history, and his 51.14 average in 2009 was just behind the single-season record of Sammy Baugh's 51.40 in 1940. Lechler's net average of 43.85 in 2009 did, however, set a single-season record for highest net average.But the six-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler is also one of the smartest. It's not always about showing distance and hang time. You have to be able to pin opponents with their backs to the end zone.His first punt after the TD return was a 46-yarder to the 8-yard line that Decker was only able to return three yards, thanks to a hustle play by Rock Cartwright.Lechler's next punt was a 50-yarder that was returned 10 yards, again snuffed out by Cartwright."If you look at the punt before (the record-tying kick), I kind of punted to the sideline," Lechler said.It gave him the confidence and the feel for the ensuing 77-yarder. So with the Raiders facing a 4th-and-7 at their own 23-yard line, Lechler let it fly into the closed end Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and the ball rolled into the north end zone for a touchback, while giving Crow renewed life and Jackson a chance to praise the man most vocal in his opposition to former coach Tom Cable being shown the door."He is as good as there is in football," Jackson said of Lechler. "There's not a ball he can't put or place anywhere that he needs to. He really works at his skill and his craft and this team and organization means a ton to him."And he means a lot to the Raiders as well. Remember, he is currently the Raiders' No. 3 quarterback."I always tell the guys 'Pat and Go' is the funnest part of the game for me," Lechler said of the passing drill. "It crosses my mind (I could have to play quarterback in a game). Hopefully, it never happens."Even if it does, he will remain intrinsically linked with Janikowski, as the biggest, most powerful legs in the NFL."Yeah, we take pride in that," Lechler said. "We take pride in still being together after 12 years. You don't see that at all any more, especially this year. A lot of veteran guys got cut or went down this year. We're in our 12th year together this year, which I think is a huge advantage."Especially when one of them can be overshadowed by the other in perception, but not in reality.

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph hurt his toe in Sunday’s victory over Buffalo, and was still in pain early the next week.

That gave him virtually no shot to play Kansas City on Thursday night with a short week to recover. The Raiders made his omission official on Wednesday, and ruled the first-round pick out of the AFC West clash at Arrowhead Stadium on their official injury report.

Veteran Nate Allen will take his place in the starting lineup. He played well in Joseph’s stead against the Bills, and has the versatility to play back or closer to the line of scrimmage as Joseph did.

The Raiders defense is still ailing on the interior, with defensive tackle Stacy McGee (ankle) ruled out of his second straight contest.

There is slightly better news for Darius Latham, who was deemed questionable after missing two light practices but returning in time for limited work on Wednesday. Getting him back would help a thinned rotation that heavily features Denico Autry, Dan Williams and Jihad Ward, who has struggled some of late.

The Chiefs have a healthy team despite the short week. Receiver Jeremy Maclin will return from a groin injury. Edge rusher Tamba Hali will play despite limted practice work, and defensive tackle Dontari Poe is questionable with a back issue.

Raiders Status Report
Doubtful

LB Shilique Calhoun (knee), S Karl Joseph (toe), DT Stacy McGee (ankle) Questionable
DT Darius Latham (ankle), LG Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Cory James (shoulder)

Chiefs Status Report

Questionable
DT Dontari Poe (back), DE Kendall Reyes (knee)

NOTE: Kansas City’s WR Jeremy Maclin, OLB Tamba Hali and CB Phillip Gaines did not receive an injury designation, meaning they will play.

 

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

The Buffalo Bills were running right through the Oakland Raiders early in Sunday’s contest, a never-ending assault that took its toll on defenders in silver and black.

That was the case for the most optimistic, steadfast member of that unit.

“We were giving up big plays, and I was frustrated,” star edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “Actually, I was pissed off.”

Bruce Irvin sensed a disturbance in the force. The veteran pass rusher knew how to fix it.  A little pep talk would get Mack going again.

“We feed off each other’s energy. … That dude pulls me up. I was feeling a little down towards the middle of the game, and he was like, ‘Come on. We need you. Come on. Let’s go. He pulled me up and kept pushing.”

That wasn’t the turning point in yet another comeback win. It wasn’t the only reason why defense locked Buffalo down during a run of 29 unanswered points.

It showed how strong a friendship Mack and Irvin have formed since the spring, one that helps get the best out of the other. Bonds formed from insatiable work ethic, one evident even in the offseason program.

“We’re both so hungry to be great that it just brought us together,” Irvin said. “When I got here, we talked right away. Khalil and (quarterback Derek Carr) were the first two guys I sat down with, and I told them I was coming over to play with Khalil, to help turn this thing around and become one of the top units in the league. Khalil and I just bonded quickly, and it was like we had been friends forever. It’s like whole thing was meant to be.”

It has turned out to be a productive pairing. There are 15 sacks, 94 other quarterback pressures and eight forced fumbles between Irvin and Mack this season.

Mack has the bulk of those numbers, especially during a second-half run where he has been outright dominant and jumped into the conversation for defensive player of the year. Mack has been involved in four turnovers the last two games, including game-sealing strip sacks while recovering his own fumble in consecutive weeks.

“You all don’t want to talk to Robin,” Irvin quipped. “Batman’s right over there.”

Irvin has used that line after two home victories in a row. The fifth-year pro is more than Mack’s sidekick. He’s on a roll himself, with sacks in three straight games. He uses speed and agility to create pressure off the strongside edge, dealing with left tackles on a consistent basis.

“I’m in a good groove right now,” Irvin said. “Mentality, physically, I’m in a very good place right now. It’s really showing on the field these past couple weeks.”

Irvin has been a productive defender either making plays on his side or driving traffic back towards Mack. It works both ways, with Mack drawing significant attention that often leaves Irvin in more favorable matchups.

The combination has been impactful, especially on a defense that doesn’t’ get pressure from other sources. They’ve been productive in the clutch as well, with six sacks coming in the fourth quarter. Mack has big plays the last two weeks, and Irvin has a big sack late in a victory over Houston in Mexico City.

The Raiders defense is improving, and having Irvin rushing strong recently helps Mack and the entire Raiders defense.

“He’s always been in a good groove, but there are things going well for this defense,” Mack said. “I’m on the other side, and you have coverage going well. (Opponents) try to do all the chipping and those things that play a factor in doing what we do. The fact that he’s rolling right now is not a surprise.”