Five plays that decided the Raiders' fate against the Lions

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Five plays that decided the Raiders' fate against the Lions

OAKLAND -- Still looking for something, anything on which to focus your rage, Raider Nation, after the Raiders' kick-in-the-teeth 28-27 loss to Detroit?Look no further.Sunday's white-knuckle defeat could be traced to five game-turning plays, in which the Raiders came up empty and could not close the door on the Lions. With hindsight always being 2020 and everyone a revisionist historian, a look back, then, at what could have been, what, in the Raiders' view, should have been

Play 1: Going for it on 4th and 1 in the first quarterThe Raiders had driven with seeming ease from their own 31-yard line to the Lions' 24 on their first possession but faced a 4th-and-1 with 9:01 to play in the first quarter.Knowing the importance of getting off to a quick start and getting on the scoreboard early after falling behind by a cumulative 68-0 in his last two games, at Miami and at Green Bay, Raiders coach Hue Jackson, ahem, lived on the edge and went for it. Carson Palmer dropped back and tried to hit rookie receiver Denarius Moore in the end zone. But Moore was held up by cornerback Chris Houston as he ran down field (no, there was no flag) and Palmer put just a little too much on the ball as it fell incomplete."The guy grabbed him early," Palmer said. "I don't know, that's a tough call to make. But that's completely on me. I need to give them a chance to score a touchdown there."Jackson defended his play call."I thought that was a penalty," Jackson said. "Obviously, they didn't call it. What I saw, from what my vantage point is, I seen the guy grab, kind of hook Denarius, and to me you have to take that shot. It looked and the guy was wide open. If you're going to do it, it's good to do it early in the game so it doesn't determine the outcome of the game."Obviously every play now will get questioned that is the reason why we did or didn't win, but we're going to stay aggressive. We took a shot there, I thought we had a good chance at it but we didn't hit it. We came up short."True, but had the Raiders kicked the relatively chip-shot 41-yard field goal, they would have had 30 points, or, two points more than the Lions finished with on the day.Play 2: DHB getting strippedA week after dropping three passes in the first quarter against the Packers, Darrius Heyward-Bey had the game of his life in catching a career-high eight passes for a career-best 155 yards.He streaked by Houston for a 43-yard touchdown catch and run when Houston made like it was a friendly game of two-hand touch in the second quarter. But in the third quarter, in hauling in a deep pass and taking off for the races, Heyward-Bey was caught from behind by linebacker Justin Durant, who stripped the ball loose at the Lions' 15-yard line.The football bounded about and was recovered at the Detroit 8-yard line by cornerback Alphonso Smith.So what, exactly happened on the fumble?"You saw it," Heyward-Bey said.If the Raiders don't lose the ball there, they are sitting pretty near the Lions' 10-yard line. And at the very least, a chippy Janikowski field goal gives Oakland another three points.It all made for a bittersweet day for Heyward-Bey."I don't think about what kind of game I played," he said. "I just think about how we lost."And his fumble contributed mightily.Play 3: Not going for '2' following Curry's touchdownTommy Kelly's strip-sack of Matthew Stafford at the Detroit 5-yard line preceded Aaron Curry's recovery and six-yard return for a touchdown that seemed to seal the game with 7:47 to play.But with the Raiders up by 12 points, 26-14, Jackson declined to go for the two-point conversion that, if successful, would have given the Raiders the true two-touchdown lead and, would have probably led to overtime.Kicking the extra-point was the same difference as missing the two-point attempt."Yup, you just kick it, you go for one," Jackson insisted. "There's a time to go for 'two' and there's a timeto me, I thought going for 'one' in that situation is the right thing to do, O.K.?"WellPlay 4: Carson Palmer throws deep incompletion on 3rd and 3 late in the fourth quarterIt worked to perfection against Chicago four weeks earlier.This time? Not so much.Needing three yards to salt the game away from the Lions' 48-yard line with 3:32 to play and nursing the six-point lead, Palmer tried to hit a streaking and wide open Chaz Schilens down the right sideline. Schilens got a hand on it, but the ball was a tad flat and just missed Schilens by half a step."I put too much on the ball," Palmer said. "I need to give him a better chance to make a play on it. That's a game-changing play."Against the Bears, the Raiders were facing 3rd-and-4 at the 50 with 3:59 to play when Palmer threw the ball to the same spot. That time, though, the ball was delivered perfectly and Louis Murphy hauled it in at the 3-yard line and one play later, Michael Bush plunged in for the game-winning score.Play 5: Um, Rolando McClain in deep coverage on Megatron. Seriously?I'll admit it: I Tweeted a Joe Montana reference as the Lions set up shop on their own 2-yard line with 2:14 to play and no timeouts left needing a touchdown to win -- isthatjohncandyinthestands?It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have made a John Elway reference.In any event, the Raiders middle linebacker finding himself in deep coverage on Calvin Johnson was a thing of beautyfor the Lions.On 1st and 10 from his own 39-yard line, Matthew Stafford lofted a high ball in the general vicinity of Johnson. The throw was short, but with McClain looking lost and oncoming safety Jerome Boyd not looking back at the ball, Johnson came back to it and easily caught it for a 48-yard gain to the Raiders' 13-yard line.So again, yes, McClain was in deep coverage on the most physically imposing and gifted receiver in the NFL."Go make that play," Jackson huffed. "It isn't a scheme issue. The ball's laying up in the air, you've got to go make that play when you've got an opportunity. Their guy made it and we didn't, so they won the game."
OK, but McClain, running 40-plus yards downfield?"Yeah, that's called the 2 Tampa," Jackson insisted. "That's what the middle linebacker does -- he runs right down the middle of the field. They made the play and we didn't."Two plays later, Stafford hit Johnson from six yards out for the game-tying score before Jason Hanson's PAT proved to be the winning point.Boyd had a similar experience on a hanging pass in Houston on Oct. 9.On 3rd and 23 from the Raiders 39-yard line, Matt Schaub floated a pass downfield and rather than make a play on the ball, Boyd made a play on Joel Dreessen, who hauled the ball in at the 5-yard line. That time, though, Michael Huff stepped up and made the play for the Raiders, intercepting Schaub in the end zone to end the game.Oh yeah, Huff was inactive with a strained hamstring against the Lions.

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

The Raiders signed several members of their 2017 draft class, the team announced on Friday. Later round picks put pen to paper following the first week of OTAs, which began on Monday.

Fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and fifth-round linebacker Marquel Lee highlight this group of signings, as both players inked four-year rookie contracts.

All four seventh-round picks also signed their first professional contract. That group includes running back Elijah Hood, safety Shalom Luani, offensive lineman Jylan Ware and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.

These deals aren’t hard to work out. The NFL and the league’s players union agreed on a rookie wage scale in the last collective bargaining agreement that slots salaries by draft order, which leaves little negotiating room within the set payment structure.

The team’s top picks remain unsigned, though they’ll get done in time. First round cornerback Gareon Conley, second-round safety Obi Melifonwu and third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remain unsigned.

Here’s a list of estimated contract values over a four-year rookie deal for each signed draft pick, per spotrac.com:

OT David Sharpe (No. 129 overall): $2,986,415 total; $586,415 signing bonus
LB Marquel Lee (No. 168 overall): $2,653,693 total; $253,693 signing bonus
S Shalom Luani (No. 221 overall): $2,494,414 total; $94,414 signing bonus
OT Jylan Ware (No. 231 overall): $2,484,295 total; $84,295 signing bonus
RB Elijah Hood (No. 242 overall): $2,469,750 total; $69,750 signing bonus
DT Treyvon Hester (No. 244 overall): $2,468,601 total; $69,750 signing bonus

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

ALAMEDA -- Marquel Lee’s NFL draft weekend wasn’t always fun, a byproduct of high hopes unrealized. The former Wake Forest linebacker wanted to go early, but slid into Saturday and waited well into the fifth round before his phone lifted spirits.

A 510 area code brought Lee out of an emotional rut, one so deep he started wondering whether he’d get drafted at all.

“When I got the call from the Raiders, everything changed,” Lee said in the latest episode of NBC Sports California’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “I was so excited to play for this organization.”

Marquel Lee wasn’t the only one. His father jumped over the moon.

“He might’ve been more excited than I was,” Marquel Lee said. “He started bawling. I’ve never seen my dad cry like that.”

Corey Lee’s tears don’t come easy. He’s a no-nonsense military man who served 11 years in the Navy before entering the private sector. He was a strict but fair father and football coach who instilled the discipline and work ethic required for his son to realize great potential.

Corey Lee is also a lifelong Raiders fan. Seeing his son get drafted by his favorite team created a perfect emotional storm.

“I’m as die-hard as they get,” Corey Lee said. “When they called his name in the fifth round, it was such a great, powerful moment. There was some relief, because he worked so hard and sacrificed to reach this point. When families were on vacation, we were in summer camps and working out hard.

“Everything we did was to prepare him for the next level. I was so proud to see him achieve a goal he had.”

Corey Lee didn’t break down completely when Marquel Lee officially became the Raiders’ fifth-round selection. This proud papa let emotion overcome for a beat, and then darted for his bedroom. He returned to the party with a brand new Raiders hat and a No. 89 Amari Cooper shirt from his vast Raiders collection.

Marquel Lee threw on dad’s gear to honor his new team and the golden opportunity to play for a linebacker-starved Raiders team.

That wasn’t Marquel Lee’s first time in silver and black. He rocked a full Raiders uniform at age 2, complete with a helmet, football pants and a Tim Brown jersey.

He donned one again when rookies reported to the Raiders offseason program earlier this month. The full-circle moment wasn’t lost on Marquel, a man proud of his past and excited about an NFL future.

“There’s a picture of me in a Raiders jersey, pants and a helmet on my second birthday,” he said. “I look at it now and think, ‘Wow. It really happened.’ I’m wearing a Raiders uniform for real. My dream is becoming a reality.”

Corey Lee grew up a Raiders fan in Southern California, going to games with his family at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Pardon Marquel for not following in those footsteps. He grew up on the East Coast when Donovan McNabb was a superstar and gravitated toward the Eagles. Ray Lewis performed in Lee’s Maryland backyard and became an athletic role model.

Marquel watched tons of NFL football with his dad, complete games where father and son would talk about strategy and scheme. Marquel would watch game tape with his father at an early age and when Corey Lee deployed with the Navy, his mother Katanya – she, too, understood football -- made sure that practice continued.

Marquel Lee was armed with natural athletic gifts and cultivated knowledge of the game, allowing him play quarterback and middle linebacker as a junior at Westlake High in Waldorf, Md. His dad was a guiding light as youth instructor, a JV head coach and a varsity linebackers coach, but took steps to separate family and football.

“As a father, I never would allow him to call me dad on a practice field or anywhere,” Corey Lee said. “I was always ‘Coach’ during the season, whether we were at home or at practice, because I wanted to keep him in that mindset.”

Football was a primary focus back then, when the family often traded summer vacations for skills camps. Despite buzz around Marquel’s talents, Corey was against his son doing interviews with recruiting websites or ranking services. Father wanted his son’s head on straight, and it has remained that way. 

Top schools were slow to come around, but gravitated after Marquel fully recovered from a torn patella and stood out early in his senior year. He chose Wake Forest, a commitment his father wanted upheld even with late interest from other programs.

His growth continued as a collegian, and took a real spike during the 2016 season. Wake Forest’s defensive captains graduated, leaving him to assume a leadership role and put team over stats. Lee considered his junior season at Wake Forest subpar, and vowed to do better.

“I was pressing a lot, trying to rush my time and trying to get to the NFL,” Lee said. “I was on a road where I thought I wanted to leave (school) early. I was so hard on myself, especially if I didn’t produce. That’s why I said it was subpar. I don’t think I played like a team player that year.

“(The next season) I made a decision to finish what I started and be the leader I always knew I could be. I wanted to help my team get to a bowl game. I hadn’t played in one. That was a major part of me coming back in 2016. … I grew up a lot. I feel like I gained respect as a team leader, and really understood what it took to own that responsibility.”

Lee might have major responsibilities as an NFL rookie. The Raiders don’t have many options at middle linebacker, and Lee will be allowed to compete for a starting spot. It’ll take a solid spring and summer to earn it and give the Raiders confidence to hand an important starting spot to a rookie. The Silver and Black could add a veteran to that position group, though they have high hopes for their fifth-round pick. Lee could well make an instant impact. 

“We definitely think he has the potential to start,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in an interview with 95.7-The Game. “He’s a long ways away from that. We haven’t even begun to get the pads on, so a lot will be determined in training camp and the preseason. So far, he has looked very good.”

Lee considers himself well prepared for the challenges ahead, and believes he can compete at the professional level.

“I’ve been getting ready for this a long time,” Marquel Lee said. “My dad has been telling me that this experience will be different. It’s not like college anymore. It’s a job, and I have to be mentally prepared for everything I’m about to do. I’m here and I’m learning and I’m trying to do my best.”