Raiders ride playmakers to relevance

Raiders ride playmakers to relevance
September 26, 2011, 2:28 am
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Hue Jackson has come to realize over the fullness of time that Darren McFaddens only real opponent is injury. If hes playin, hes doin the sayin, and what he says he says loud and clear.In fact, McFadden shouted so loudly Sunday that Rex Ryan is probably deaf in one year, and he did it so resonantly that Bill Belichick has been scheming for McFadden since the moment he stopped screaming at his New England Patriots for losing to Buffalo.Between the 70-yard burst that helped define Oaklands 34-24 victory over the New York Jets, the option pass that had him and the Jet defenders thinking he might flash back to his high school quarterback days, and the 18 other carries (at 5.6 yards per clip), McFadden became the new face of the Raiders.

Although, it must be said, he would do well to leave room for wide receiver Denarius Moore, who is now the teams second bonafide playmaker on an offense that for so many years has tried to get by with none.Therein lies the major difference at this moment between Oakland and San Francisco and the 2-1 record they share. The 49ers grate on your eyes, win or lose. The Raiders are a pyrospectacular.Put another way, consider how hard it is for a team to score 34 points and beat the two-time AFC finalist while converting zero third downs. Thats what comes when, as Jackson likes to say, You let playmakers make plays. You become an all-or-nothing team.And when you throw in kicker Sebastian Janikowski, now you have a certifiable freak of nature in addition to the more traditional offensive incandescents.In short, what you have is the offense Al Davis has wanted to recreate since Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson. And in a league where six of the top nine scoring teams are Buffalo, New England, Houston, Baltimore and the Raiders, this seems more and more like the American Football League every week.The only real issue Davis might have with Jackson after these three weeks is that the head coach does tend at times to exhort the crowd to make more noise -- a detail Al surely regards as extraneous to the job at hand.Particularly right now, after having polished off the Jets -- the Raiders of the new millennium -- and prepping now for the Patriots -- the Steelers of the new millennium.Having a full house is one thing. Having home TV is yet another. But treating both audiences to the likes of McFadden and Moore and Janikowski, plus a defense that makes and allows big plays with equal facility, and the Raiders may be quietly but surely become the next cool thing for football fans.They have not been that for quite some time, as most of you know. Being dull and dysfunctional and dry and destitute is a bad marketing hook. And the Raiders have tried to be intimidators and rule-breakers and conspiracy freaks and a lot of other things, but the one thing they were in their greatest days was a room full of playmakers.They are not yet ready for the big room, to be sure. They havent been at this long enough to walk into a stadium, even their own, and act like they own the joint. Jackson likes to talk about the Raiders being bullies, but theyre not that yet. There is still growth to be done and smarts to exhibit and a consistency to establish and cling to in good times and bad.And lets be honest here -- beating the Jets isnt the same as beating the Patriots. Not yet. New England may still have some weaknesses, as the suddenly bad-assed Bills are showing a very surprised nation, but they are the Patriots until further notice.But as Jackson said, were getting there. Were not there yet, but were on our way.Now he just has to break himself of the habit of urging on the crowd. If the crowd doesnt get it after Sunday, and if it cant replicate its enthusiasm Sunday against the Belichicks, then no amount of urging from the sidelines will work.Besides, one of the side perks of being a playmaker like McFadden, Moore and Janikowski is that you also get to be a crowd shaker. They all seem to have that down, and it's only been three weeks.