Milestone in reach for Heyward-Bey

618944.jpg

Milestone in reach for Heyward-Bey

ALAMEDA -- There's no doubt Darrius Heyward-Bey has made a big jump in this, his third season in the NFL.But the much-maligned receiver has bigger goals. Much bigger goals."That's why I come to work every day, to try to reach my goal of being the best player in the league," Heyward-Bey said. "That's how high the standards are."With 51 catches for 775 yards and three touchdowns, Heyward-Bey has already set single-season highs for himself. Consider: as a rookie, he caught nine passes for 124 yards and one TD. Last season, he had 26 receptions for 366 yards and a TD.
Now, he is on pace for 58 catches for 885 yards and has an outside shot at becoming the first Raiders receiver since Randy Moss in 2005 to have a 1,000-yard receiving season. Moss finished that year with 1,005 receiving yards."I just look at it as doing what I had to do in the offseason," Heyward-Bey said of his statistical leap. "Didn't practice much during camp, but when I got a chance to get going, I had to focus."Heyward-Bey was slowed in training camp by an undisclosed injury and was carted off the field at Minnesota on Nov. 20 after taking a scary looking blow to the back of the head that popped his helmet off.But Sunday against Detroit, he had a career day with eight catches for 155 yards. Still, it was overshadowed by the Raiders' 28-27 loss and a Heyward-Bey fumble inside the Lions' 10-yard line in the third quarter."I don't care what critics say," he said. "All I care about is me and my teammates and my coaches. That's all I care about."His drops, though, have also decreased.According to STATS Inc., Heyward-Bey had nine drops in 105 targets his first two seasons combined. This season, he's had five drops in 91 targets."You know, he looks more confident in himself and in his hands," Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday morning. "Before, it was like he was trying to do too much, he was trying to concentrate too hard when he was catching the ball, instead of just relaxing and playing like he did in college, when he was making all types of plays."But I feel like the game slowed down for him. He gets very relaxed out there and he's growing into his own as an NFL receiver."When Al Davis used the No. 7 overall pick on him in the 2008 draft, Heyward-Bey was compared to Moss by the Raiders, a pure deep threat. But he has found his niche of late catching intermediate passes and breaking tackles."He's not just that guy that can run vertical," Flowers said. "A lot of teams are cautious because of his speed, they give him a lot of cushion for him to break those underneath routes and let him break tackles. He's a strong guy so he's definitely going to break tackles if you don't come with any type of force. He's becoming a well-polished receiver in this league."One that still has the occasional case of the yips."You have your up-and-down days as a human being in general," Heyward-Bey said. "For me, I've been keeping it steady for the most part. The only time I've ever not had confidence was my sophomore year in high school when I didn't make varsity. Other than that, I really don't care. I just go out there and play ball."

Notes: In-game adjustments help Raiders slow Bills run game late

Notes: In-game adjustments help Raiders slow Bills run game late

OAKLAND – It’s impossible to say the Raiders stopped LeSean McCoy. The Buffalo Bills running back had 130 yards on just 17 carries, averaging 7.6 yards per rush.

He was shifty as advertised, hard to bring down especially in open space. He killed the Raiders early on, suffocating them with a steady dose of his rushing style.

They couldn’t stop him at all. Until they made some changes that put more bodies around the ball, dared the Bills to throw deep and came at McCoy in waves.

“We saw how they were trying to attack us,” linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “We found a way to protect ourselves and be in better position to make plays.”

It took some time to figure out, but McCoy started slowing down late in the third quarter. He had 14 carries for 127 yards until he cramped up later in the third quarter, and didn’t do much on the ground after that.

“He’s one of the best in the business,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He made life difficult for us, but we settled in and got the stops we needed to get a nice victory.”

Stopping the run was key to it. Stopping, of course, remains a relative term. Buffalo ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns and, at times didn’t need to pass to move downfield and score.

The Bills offense got bottled up in the third quarter, with three straight three-and-outs that put Buffalo into passing situations where they struggle and the Raiders pass rush can make a profound effect.

“They showed what type of team they are,” McCoy said. “They got stops when they needed stops and scored when they needed to. …I just felt like this is a game we had in our hands that we let slip away.

Carr’s pinky is fine, thank you: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was taken off the injury report after this practice week. He wasn’t questionable or doubtful after dislocating his pinky in two spots last week versus Carolina. He was going to play.

He didn’t wear a glove on his ailing digit, though he sported a splint of some sort during the game. He had his throwing hand’s pinky and ring fingers taped together in a postgame press conference – it’s that way much of the time – but insisted it caused zero issues during Sunday’s game. The Raiders played all but one snap from the shotgun and pistol, but Carr bristled at questions whether his finger limited the offense in any way.

Proof is in a 97.3 passer rating, 260 yards passing, two touchdown and no picks. He was rarely inaccurate, and played well throughout the game.

Carr had his left hand examined after a planned run, but never missed a snap and came out of the game just fine.

“It really didn’t (impact me),” Carr said. “If I missed a throw it was just because of me to be honest. They took me off the injury report for a reason. It was not affecting me at all. Just leaving it taped for precautionary, just to be safe.”

Marquette gets flagged: Raiders punt Marquette King feels so good after a punt goes well that he just has to dance. That’s why he busted out the Pee Wee Herman “Tequila” dance after pinning Buffalo at their 4-yard line.

A rusher hit him in the leg and was called for roughing the kicker, and King went a smidge too far. He picked up the flag – you can’t do that – did a jig as he waved it in the air, and then spiked it to the ground.

It was entertaining, sure. But it also drew another flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“It’s definitely a teachable moment,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s not mean spirit in what he’s doing. He’s having fun. He enjoys himself. He had the Pee Wee Herman out there today. I saw that. I got a giggle.

“He’s enjoying himself. Now, right there, he just didn’t realize you can’t do that. He was like, ‘Really? I couldn’t do that? Oh man. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Mr. Ref.’ It really was innocent and obviously, we’ll make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to teaching to make sure we understand what we need to do there. That should never happen again.”

Cowser’s first sack: Undrafted free agent James Cowser is popular among his teammates. The edge rusher was well liked during his time in the preseason, and was welcomed back when signed to the practice squad near midseason.

He was added to the active roster last week, made his professional debut on special teams against Carolina and made a big impact on defense Sunday afternoon.

He sacked Tyrod Taylor for a 10-yard loss in the second quarter to help force the Bills’ first punt. It was his first as a pro, though the action is old hat for the all-time FCS leader in sacks.

It was a big moment for Cowser and those around him.

“Cowser stepped up and got a big sack at an important time,” fellow edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “We knew he could step in and play well and do some things. It’s key for us that the young guys step up.”

This ‘n that: RB Latavius Murray scored his 10th and 11th rushing touchdowns of the season on Sunday night, the largest total since Marcus Allen had 12 in 1990. That’s the fifth-highest total in franchise history. … S Karl Joseph suffered a foot/toe injury and did not return. … The Raiders have won six straight games, and haven't allowed a 100 passer rating in that stretch. …Khalil Mack has had a sack in seven straight games. Bruce Irvin has had a sack in three straight.

Raiders 'continue to fight,' score 29 unanswered points in latest comeback

Raiders 'continue to fight,' score 29 unanswered points in latest comeback

ALAMEDA – The Buffalo Bills were in firm control of the Raiders on Sunday afternoon. That was the case well into the third quarter.

Then this game turned upside down.

The Raiders scored 29 unanswered points in just over 15 minutes. They erased a two-score Buffalo lead in the second half by doing everything they couldn’t do at the start.

The 34-28 victory was the Raiders’ sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the season, but this one was special. They went from 0 to 60 in a snap.

The Raiders were down 24-9 before that big surge, but the mood was hardly somber.

“We don’t dwell too much on the score,” receiver Michael Crabtree said. “We don’t say, ‘We’re down 15 and we need this.’ We don’t panic. We don’t sweat. We just go out and play ball.”

The Raiders played some of their best ball this season during that stretch.

They consistently halted drives on defense, including three straight three-and-outs to start the surge. They created turnovers in key moments. Special teams tightened up. And, of course, the offense got rolling after playing with pace.

“It felt like everything was smooth and working out,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “The confidence keeps building on this team.”

During that blitzkrieg, the Raiders out-gained Buffalo 212-8. It was all out dominance, the Raiders have been looking to play for four full quarters. That’s been largely elusive, but they’ve learned to clamp down and execute when it matters most.

Several Raiders were asked what was more impressive: The 29, or the 0.

Picking wasn’t a common response. Most focused on why this team is able to rally, and why they did so against Buffalo.

“We just continue to fight, continue to believe,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “29 unanswered is hard to do in this league. Buffalo has an explosive offense. Hats off to us and to Derek Carr for continuing to believe in us, continuing to battle and put points on the board.”