ALAMEDA -- The mystery is solved. Somewhat.Why did the Raiders have only 10 players on the field for Michael Huff's "Immaculate Interception" that sealed their 25-20 victory over Houston on Sunday?"I saw two D-linemen run on; I didn't see nobody run off," said safety Jerome Boyd. "So, it was just a miscommunication. Didn't want to be an extra person on the field."Yes, Boyd bolted during the stoppage in play after Texans quarterback Matt Schaub spiked the ball to stop the clock with six seconds to play and Houston at the Raiders' 5-yard line.
There were two defensive linemen who entered the game at the time -- Tommy Kelly and John Henderson. They replaced Richard Seymour and Lamarr Houston, according to Kelly.And when the Texans lined up for the fateful final play, hardly a soul noticed the Raiders were playing a man short. Save for Mike Mitchell, who was supposed to be double-teaming Texans tight end Joel Dreesen."I looked back and wasn't nobody there," Mitchell said. "I said, 'Oh, shhhhhhooooooot, this ain't good.'"Before the ball got snapped, me and (Tyvon) Branch were both just, 'Something's wrong.' But we couldn't do anything. We had to play it out, and we didn't want to be too crazy because then (Houston) would realize it."Mitchell picked up Dreesen, who went to the right. Schaub rolled out to his left, pumped the ball, faked like he was going to run, was closed in on by Branch, then tossed the ball in Jacoby Jones' direction for the potential game-winner.Instead Huff cradled it and fell to the ground to clinch the heart-stopping win."My thing was," Branch said, "I wasn't going to let (Schaub) run it. He was going to have to work for it."Mitchell agreed."Yeah, no chance. I mean, he would have at least had to cut back or do something. It wasn't going to be easy. Great play, though. Great play by Huff. Great pressure. Thank you, Jesus."When I saw Huff catch it, we were so exhausted, and this is only my second game back, I was really exhausted. Only thing I could do was just fall on Huff and lay there."Still, several Raiders admitted they did not know about their "missing man formation" that many have said was an unintentional tribute to the late Al Davis until Monday or Tuesday."We only had 10 helmets on the field, but it was definitely 11 men out there," said cornerback Stanford Routt. "It was definitely 11 men out there."Meaning what, exactly?"It was very strange," said quarterback Jason Campbell. "To be short one guy on the field? Man, Mr. Davis had a hand in that. Even when the fullback went out to the flat and dropped one for a touchdown."Added Kelly: "Al D. probably had a little help in that."All Boyd could do, though was be thankful his gaffe, as well-intentioned as it was, did not cost his team.So what was on Boyd's mind when he realized he should have stayed on the field?"I'm glad Huff got that (stuff)," he said with an uneasy laugh. "That was the only thing."
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”