Ratto: Raiders' Ford -- The Little Engine That Could

November 8, 2010, 4:49 am
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

Thisis as good a time as any to go over the top for the Raiders. I mean,its been seven years and change since the last time they won threeconsecutive games, so what the hell?And of all the what-the-hells to emerge from the 23-20 overtime victoryover Kansas City, the most hellish of all was wide receiver-ette JacobyFord.It was Fords 94-yard kick return to start the second half that put theRaiders back into a game it had shown little interest joining. It washis outmuscling of Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers for the 29-yardcompletion that set up Sebastian Janikowskis game-tying field goal.And it was his sensational 47-yard catch in overtime that set up thegame-winning kick by Janikowski, putting the Raiders in very rarefiedair, to wit: Theywon three games in succession for the time since the end of the 2002season (two to end the regular season and two in the postseason). Theyve beaten all three AFC West opponents for the first time since that season. They have a winning record for the first time since Week 3 of 2004.For this, a lot of people can be thanked, but first and foremost isFord, the 5-9 (if that), 185-pound rookie from Clemson who made themost of the vacancies opened by the injuries to Louis Murphy and tightend Zach Miller and became a full fledged go-to guy.I did something I dreamed of doing, making plays, having fun, Fordsaid, admiring his six-catch, 148-yard, kick-return-touchdown day.Its something Ive been dreaming of since I was little.No pun allowed.Strangely, it wasnt his work as a wide receiver that openedquarterback Jason Campbells eyes to him, though, but the kick returnthat started the second half and took out most of Kansas Citys 10-0halftime lead.I just found a lane, got a block and started running with it, he said. It was set up really well for me.And armed with the kind of nutritional spark that comes only by eatingspaghetti and meatballs before a game (because Frosted Flakes arentavailable), he burst into prominence in the teams first true must-wingame since Super Bowl XXXVII.Then again, it might not have been the kick return, but the ball hewrestled from Flowers on the third-and-8 from the Kansas City 45 earlyin the fourth that set up Janikowskis first field goal, a 23-yarderthat made it 17-13.That might have been the one, when I scrambled and threw it down thefield for him, Campbell said. He just went up and got control of theball. When a guy makes plays like that, you want to keep going to himto make more and more.So he did, four more times, for 12, 7, 28 and 47 yards. He threw onlyfive other balls to other receivers after that catch, because hedfound the man who not only could save the Raiders but save himself froma day head coach Tom Cable described as frustrating, kind of ugly,frustrating and then really something.Indeed, Ford saved a lot of bacon Sunday. While the defense did asuperb job bottling up the Chiefs offense, the Oakland attack wasmiserable in the first half and needed a two-yard fade to tackle KhalifBarnes to take the lead in the second half. And then there were the 15 penalties for 140 yards that stirred Cableswire-haired ire; I know were a more disciplined team than that, hesnapped, closing on criticizing Jeff Triplettes crew without actuallydoing so.And the third-down conversions, and the silly fake punt call that Cabletook the blame for, and just a general disarray that undermined whatcould have been their true breakout game.Then again, three weeks ago, they lost to the 49ers, so this is prettymuch as big a breakout as they have any reason to think they deservefor now. They are not yet a well-oiled machine, but at least theirgears move for a change. Campbell has not yet won Cables heart (Idont want to get into that right now) but he stopped people frombooing him as though he were a guy whod stolen a school bus with thekids still in it.But they are in a place they havent been for quite some time, and ifthis is as good as it gets, its better than its been. And for that,the first meatball goes to Jacoby Ford. It may not seem like much of areward to you, but hell understand, and appreciate it.

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