49ers, Raiders reps quiet in NFC's Pro Bowl win

49ers, Raiders reps quiet in NFC's Pro Bowl win

Jan. 30, 2011

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HONOLULU (AP) A tropical rainstormmoved in from the Pacific and cleared just before the Pro Bowl began onSunday. What followed was a sloppy show that was not exactly rivetingentertainment a week in advance of the Super Bowl.The NFC's 55-41 victory, a game notnearly as interesting as that score would indicate, did nothing torepair the tattered image of the NFL's all-star contest.New England's Bill Belichick, the AFCcoach and a man of even fewer words than usual, might have come closestto summing up the game with his mumbled cliche, "It is what it is."MVP DeAngelo Hall had one of histeam's five interceptions and returned a fumble 34 yards for atouchdown to help the NFC match a Pro Bowl scoring record in a 55-41victory over turnover-prone AFC. He gets a new Cadillac for hisefforts."I was just about to buy anotherSUV," the Washington Redskins cornerback said, "so to come out here andgrab one for free, I like that."AFC quarterbacks Philip Rivers,Peyton Manning and Matt Cassel each threw first-half interceptions tohelp the NFC blow open a 42-0 lead in a performance ugly even by thehistorically low standards of this game.Fittingly for this strange contest,center Alex Mack of Cleveland scored the final touchdown on a 67-yardpass play that featured two laterals with 16 seconds left.Carolina's Jon Beason returned thefifth interception thrown by the AFC, and second by Matt Cassel, 59yards for the NFC's final touchdown to match the single-team scoringrecord set in the NFC's 55-52 victory in 2004."It feels amazing. It was a lot offun," Minnesota's Adrian Peterson said. "We came out and put up a bunchof points and had some fun doing it, so it was a good day."Belichick, after his Super Bowlfavorite Patriots lost to the New York Jets in the divisional playoffs,had to watch his AFC squad muddle through a first half that ended 42-7.Pro Bowls are, by their nature,laid-back affairs, seemingly played at half speed by players whosebiggest concern is to get on the plane home without injury.The AFC, though, took that attitude to an uncomfortable extreme early on before coming back to outscore the NFC 41-13.The NFC led 42-0 after StevenJackson waltzed through the AFC defense for a 21-yard touchdown - andthere still was 4 12 minutes left in the second quarter.Rivers, starting in place of injured Tom Brady, was picked off twice in the first quarter, the second by Hall."You underthrow one just a hair andthey intercept it," Rivers said. "You get a deflection for aninterception. ... They had all the breaks early."Manning, in his 11th Pro Bowl, cameon briefly in relief and his second pass was picked off. Then Casselgot his chance and quickly joined in the spirit of things, throwing hissecond pass of the game directly into the hands of Minnesota cornerbackAntoine Winfield.But just when it appeared it wouldbe the most one-sided game in Pro Bowl history, eclipsing the JoeTheismann-led 45-3 NFC rout of the AFC in 1984, the AFC scored threetouchdowns in a row. The last came on the game's seventh turnover, whenDevin Hester tried to hand the kickoff return to Hall, but the ballfell to the turf. Montell Owens of Jacksonville scooped it up and ranit in 10 yards for the score to make it 42-21 with 10 minutes left inthe third quarter.With his seven extra points, tying aPro Bowl record, along with two field goals, David Akers moved ahead ofMorten Andersen (45) for most career Pro Bowl points with 52. ThePhiladelphia kicker would have had more but his 36-yard field goal tryin the fourth quarter bounced off the right upright."Morten Andersen was a mentor ofmine and I competed with Morten for a job in Atlanta and he taught me alot," Akers said, "so it means a lot to be able to pass a legend likethat."The game returned to its traditionalhome in Hawaii after a one-year detour to Miami, much to the approvalof the players involved.Eagles quarterback Michael Vick started but played only the first quarter, completing 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards.Peterson rushed for 80 yards in 14carries for the NFC, including a 14-yarder to set a Pro Bowl recordwith four career rushing touchdowns. Atlanta got good performances fromMatt Ryan (9 of 13 for 118 yards and two touchdowns with aninterception), Michael Turner (eight carries for 53 yards) and RoddyWhite (five catches for 69 yards).Notes: A 70-yard punt by Mat McBriarof Dallas in the first quarter tied for second-longest in Pro Bowlhistory. ... The state of Hawaii is paying the NFL about 4 millionthis season and next to keep the Pro Bowl team in Honolulu. Locationfor the contest is up in the air after 2012. ... Peterson had been tiedwith three career rushing TDs with Earl Campbell, Chuck Muncie and MikeAlstott. ... Tony Gonzalez added to his Pro Bowl record for careerreceptions (42) and moved into first in TD catches with his sixth. ...The attendance of 49,338 was just shy of a sellout.

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

Cooper: 'I can go nowhere but up,' wants improved play down the stretch

The Raiders searched in vain for dynamic receiving production before Amari Cooper came along. Thousand-yard seasons proved elusive even in the golden age of passing stats, with a full decade’s drought after Randy Moss posted a four-digit total in 2005.

Cooper’s made that old hat.

The 2015 first-round pick has two 1,000-yard campaigns in as many seasons. Ditto for Pro Bowl honors. Those feats have become increasingly common, Cooper’s already in rarified air.

Cooper’s career is off to a solid start, but the No. 4 overall pick two years ago believes he can be much better. That especially true later in the season, where production has waned in his first two seasons.

He has nine 100-yard performances in two seasons, with just two coming after week 8. He noticeably struggled with injury at the end of 2015, but wouldn’t make excuses for a production drop last season.

Cooper wants to finish as strong as he starts, and has full confidence that will happen this season.

“Of course it’s been on my mind, but it’s a good thing to me because I feel like I can go nowhere but up,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s OTA session. “I know that I can have a lot more production than I’ve had in the past two seasons, so we’ll just see.”

Cooper has sought counsel from other NFL greats – Calvin Johnson has been in Alamenda this week, offering sage advice – and Raiders coaches have identified ways where he can be even more dynamic working with quarterback Derek Carr.

“Certainly there are things that we think we can do to help,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Also, for him, I think he has a much greater understanding. I thought last year was a step forward. I know he wants to continue to push. It’s great when you have a young, talented player that’s really eager to be special, wants to make a mark in this league. The way he’s working at it right now is outstanding. That’s all we want of our guys.

Cooper is a versatile presence, able to do most everything well. His route running was luaded out of college, though he can be a good deep-ball receiver and can create big plays after the catch. Cooper knows his hands much be more consistent, but the Raiders want to exract more from his natural talents.

“There are a lot of different facets to him,” Del Rio said. “Where his speed is really one of his greatest strengths, obviously, his route running ability was pretty doggone polished when he got here, but even that can continue to improve and the timing with Derek. We think he’ll continue to ascend.”

That’s the goal heading into his third NFL season now armed with greater knowledge of how he’s being covered and muscle memory of what went wrong at times later in the year.

Cooper believes detail work will help him this fall and winter, and that starts in earnest during the offseason program.

“It’s easy to forget the small things like high-pointing the ball, looking the ball all the way through and not trying to run before you actually catch the ball,” Cooper said. “Overall, I’m just working hard in the offseason so that you can come back and you can be dominant.

“I want to be the best Amari Cooper that I could possibly be. I want to be better than every other year that I’ve played football, so that’s how I am looking at this year.”

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Editor's Note: The above video is from Dec. 24, 2016.

Donald Penn was nothing short of awesome last season. The veteran Raiders left tackle proved impenetrable, allowing just one sack and 27 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps.

He ranked high among the NFL’s best left tackles at 33, engulfed a career renaissance that began after joining the Raiders three years ago. Penn made the Pro Bowl. He was a vital piece of a 12-4 team that helped the Raiders reach the playoffs.

He hasn’t reveled much in that. Penn’s driven by opportunities missed, and one mishap that haunts him still.

Penn locked horns with Indianapolis linebacker Trent Cole off the left edge during a Week 16 contest against the Colts, and slipped as he was tracking his man away from the pocket. Penn’s feet got tangled and the big man fell. Cole remained upright, darted in and sacked quarterback Derek Carr.

It was Penn’s only sack allowed all season. And Carr got hurt. He suffered a broken fibula that ended his season and realistic hopes of a Raiders playoff run.

Nearly five months have passed since that fluke play. Carr is healthy and a full participant in the Raiders offseason program. The Raiders offensive line might be better after allowing a league-low 18 sacks last season.

There’s plenty to be excited about as the Raiders enter OTAs and a mandatory minicamp. Penn can’t help but lament that isolated incident when Carr went down.

“You have to be an athlete. You try not to think about it too much,” Penn said Tuesday. “You wish you could go back and get it back. I’ve taken that same set I don’t know how many times, on the same field and never just slipped out of nowhere. I’m not going to put it on myself. I should have been able to do something better. You know me, I’m never going to blame the slip for happening. I should have blocked him and held on to him and taken him down with me. That play sticks with me.”

That isn’t all bad. It fuels Penn to continue growing as a player, even at 34 coming off an excellent Pro Bowl season.

“I’m going to try to do what I can do better and make sure it never happens again,” Penn said. “I’ve never gotten a quarterback hurt in my life since I’ve been playing. That was a first. That’s something I take pride in. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Penn wants a different ending to this season. Last year the Raiders lost the AFC West crown and a shot to win the team’s first playoff game. Penn suffered a knee injury the following week that kept him from playing in the postseason.

The goal is to realize vast potential now that the Raiders offense is back healthy again.

“I’m all about karma and stuff like that,” Penn said. “Maybe (God is) trying to tell us that this is our year. We have to put in the work to get it. I know D.C. is happy, I’m dang sure happy to get him back. We’re growing and masterminding this offense trying to make it as explosive as possible.”