Raiders-Bears: Matchups to watch

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Raiders-Bears: Matchups to watch

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders seemingly have Chicago right where they want them.The Bears are breaking in a new quarterback in Caleb Hanie. The Raiders are returning home to their sixth straight sellout crowd to play before the Black Hole for the first time since Nov. 6. Oakland's relatively new quarterback, Carson Palmer, has feasted upon the Bears in his career, going 2-0 in two starts in completing 36 of 47 for 402 yards with eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a 141.1 rating.Sounds like everything's lining up perfectly for Oakland, right? Well...The banged-up and first-place Raiders (6-4) control their fate in the AFC West; the Bears (7-3) are in second place in the NFC North, but are leading that conference's Wild Card race.A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Sunday afternoon from the O.co Coliseum:Raiders punter Shane Lechler (9) vs. Bears punt returner Devin Hester (23).
TALE OF THE TAPELechler: 6-2, 225, Texas A&M, 12th seasonHester: 5-11, 190, Miami, sixth seasonNow, we've already gone over how the last time Hester was in town, in 2007, the Raiders challenged Hester by having Lechler punt the ball right at him. And how the gamble paid off in that Hester returned six of nine punts for a total of 14 yards, even if the Bears won that day.And we mentioned how while so many of the younger Raiders, specifically Mike Mitchell, want to go after Hester again, Lechler has misgivings about that philosophy this time around. After all, Hester has now returned an NFL-record 12 punts for touchdowns.And with the Bears starting a new quarterback in Caleb Hanie because Jay Cutler is out with a broken thumb, Lechler does not want to give Hester a chance to energize and jumpstart the Bears with big returns.So what makes Hester so special?"He's got top-notch vision," Lechler said. "He sees cuts way down the field. He sets up blocks very well, probably one of the better guys that sets up blocks across the league. He's just a guy that we want to try to neutralize and not let him hit the home run against us."I'm going to try to at least make him run sideways early, and we'll go from there."Hester missed two practices this week with a shin injury but is expected to play. He is averaging a career-best 21.2 yards per punt return this season and has already returned two for scores. The Raiders, meanwhile, are allowing 14.5 yards per punt return, fifth-worst in the NFL.Bears coach Lovie Smith said it would be a defeatist attitude for a coach to tell a team to not kick it to Hester because it's essentially telling a punt coverage team it's not good enough."So, I assume a lot of teams have kicked it to him and I think they'll continue to do that, because he's just an NFL player, like everybody else," Smith said. "And believe me, we love it every time that they do decide to do that."Other matchups worth watching: Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer (68) vs. Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (90) -- Fresh off his shutout of what was then the NFL's leading sackmeister in Minnesota's Jared Alled, things get no easier for Veldheer.At 6-feet-7, 287 pounds, Peppers has 95 career sacks since entering the NFL out of North Carolina in 2002, which ranks fourth in the league in that time frame, and he is currently leading the Bears with six sacks this season.In 2008 for Carolina, Peppers had three sacks and forced a pair of fumbles against the Raiders. In two career games against Oakland, Peppers has five sacks."A real physical rusher, looking to not just go around the guy but go through the guy, go inside the guy, go outside," Veldheer said of Peppers. "So he's got a versatile array of moves. You've got to be real disciplined within the technique of the sets. It's going to be great challenge Sunday."It's rare to see that combination of size and speed."The 6-8, 315-pound Veldheer has given up just two sacks this season, a year after giving up 7 12 as a rookie, and has been flagged a mere six times, after being called for 15 penalties last year. And he just had to gain confidence from his showing against Allen in Minnesota, right?"I think it's an every-game type thing," Veldheer said. "Not just last game, but the games before. We played some good edge rushers. Every one of those games, when you see something different and you're able to meet the challenge, that just kind of keeps everything building. Not just from an individual's standpoint but from a line's standpoint."As long as we keep growing, keep getting better, we do feel a sense of accomplishment. We carry that into the next game and we fuel off of it. We don't get satisfied with it, but we yearn to build off of it, so to speak."Raiders offense vs. Fourth Quarter Blues -- The Raiders have not scored a fourth-quarter touchdown since Jason Campbell hit Chaz Schilens with an 18-yard pass 10 seconds into that final stanza at Houston on Oct. 9.They have not scored a single point in the fourth quarter since Sebastian Janikowski's 42-yard field goal with 10 minutes to go in that game.That's 20 series without a fourth-quarter score, a stretch in which the Raiders have run the ball 42 times for 130 yards (a 3.1-yards per carry average, with 30 of those yards coming on one Michael Bush carry at San Diego) while completing just 21 of 46 passes (45.7 percent) for 294 yards with five interceptions and three sacks.And yet, the Raiders have won four of those six games in that stretch.Talk about living on the edge."It starts with me," said Raiders coach Hue Jackson. "I have to, as the primary playcaller and the emotional leader of this team, I have to make sure I'm on my 'A' game at all times. I'm not saying that I'm not, I'm not saying that I'm not looking at it, but I have to go back and at halftime as I address them about making sure they finish, coach Jackson has to make sure he finishes."For some reason we have not been able to score points in the fourth quarter. I mean, we had a field-goal attempt that got blocked (at Minnesota). I mean, man, are you kidding me? So somebody doesn't want us to score in the fourth quarterbut it's not from a lack of trying, I will tell you that."I think the players are working hard, and we know it's an issue. I know it's an issue. But I'm not going to make it too big of an issue. Look, I'll trade all that to keep winning, OK? Let's just keep winning. And once we put this thing together, as I said, we haven't played a whole football game yet, two halves. When we do, we have a chance to be something special."

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr isn’t one for extravagance. The low-key Raiders quarterback already has some nice cars, a house and some luxury items to his name, but signing a $125 million contract extension Friday morning won't prompt a spending spree.

Cornerback Sean Smith suggested he get a Bugatti. That’s a $1 million car.

“Yeah,” Carr said with a smirk. “That’s not going to happen.”

That isn’t the 26-year old’s style. Carr had a his own plan after signing on the dotted line.

“I’ve been eating clean,” Carr said. “I’ll probably get Chick-fil-A.”

That makes sense. This is a guy who celebrated his first NFL victory with a trip through a Carl’s Jr. drive-in.

There will be other purchases. His wife Heather will get something nice in the near future. His family, especially Heather and sons Dallas and Deker, will be taken care of for life.

After all that, Carr plans to spread the wealth.

“The exciting thing for me moneywise, honestly, is this money is going to help a lot of people,” Carr said. “I’m very thankful to have it, that it’s in our hands because it’s going to help people. Not only in this country, but in a lot of countries around the world. That’s what’s exciting to me.”

Carr and former Raiders running back Latavius Murray took a missionary trip to Haiti, an impoverished nation had a profound impact on the star quarterback.

“I’ve been down to Haiti and I’ve seen some of those struggles that they have and the kids there, and my heart just… I cry sometimes thinking about it,” Carr said. “So, just knowing that we can go down there and make a difference and help, those are the kind of things that the money makes me kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Because now we can really do some things to help a lot of people.”

He plans to support those in that area, in addition to global and domestic charities he has been involved with over the years. Don’t expect a press release accompanying every donation. Carr would rather keep those decisions private.

“I’m going to do my best to make sure no one knows what we do with it,” Carr said. “I’ll just say this, I can assure you that it’s going to help a lot of people. I’m not stingy. My business manager will probably be on me saying, ‘Hey man, that’s enough.’ I won’t get into when, how or why. It’s not all about that for me. It’s about making a difference. That’s what’s exciting for me is that we’ll be able to do that.”

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

ALAMEDA – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year contract extension Friday morning that will pay him $25 million in 2017 and $125 million over the life of the deal.

That’s a lot of scratch. Could’ve been more.

Carr received life-changing money. He didn’t want to handcuff the Raiders front office in the process.

“I just wanted to be a Raider,” Carr said Friday in a press conference. “It’s more than just a team to me. It’s family. The way it went down, it was easy. Both sides wanted it to get done, and it was about family members figuring out to get along. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign other guys who are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not to just take every single dime that we could”

That list is long but it starts with homegrown talents Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack. Jackson is up next, and could get locked up before the regular season starts. The Raiders have some time on Mack – his contract doesn’t expire until after 2018 – and Amari Cooper should be a keeper on down the road.

“The bottom line is we’re able to continue to move forward with it, keep all the players that we need to keep in the correct timing,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “This affords us to do that. We’re going to start on that ASAP.”

Carr got the deal he wanted. The 26-year old found market value and upped the ante for NFL quarterbacks a smidge while deferring some cash payouts – his big-time bonuses are broken up over two years -- to create windows of financial flexibility to sign other players. Carr’s percentage of the salary cap should decrease over time and won’t become an insurmountable burden to his employers. His deal won’t prevent the Raiders from keeping Jackson, Mack, Amari Cooper in time, or other vital veterans in house.

With Carr locked up, the McKenzie can work deals and the timing of them around his centerpiece.

Carr understands the NFL business and his role in the market, but he wants to maintain a competitive window as best he can and understands other guys will draw huge paychecks in the near future.

He’s scheduled to draw the NFL’s largest sum next season. A record $25 million is headed his way, though that total will decrease a bit in time and will certainly he surpassed by Matthew Stafford and possibly Kirk Cousins in the near future.

“I don’t care if they all do. We got our contract done, that’s all that matters to me,” Carr said. “The other thing that was important to me is that we didn’t worry about what other people were going to do or doing. I just wanted to get mine done and make sure that the team had, again like we talked about, flexibility to make sure my friends stay around.”

Carr was intimately involved in the negotiation process. Both sides said it was easy, wrapped up well before Carr’s training-camp contract deadline. Common ground was found in short shrift once talks warmed up – preliminary talks started months ago -- and a deal was ironed out that produced smiles on both sides once the deal was formally done.

Even after taking a relatively soft-line stance on dollars and the timing of payments – Carr could’ve been difficult all year and eventually forced a franchise tag – he’s still the league’s highest-paid player. His salary will now be compared with his stats. He was a second-round draft steal before. Now he’s a big-money player. In short, expectations will rise.

Carr insists it won’t add pressure to next year’s proceedings.

“You could give me a dollar, you could give me $25 million, it doesn’t matter,” Carr said. “To me, my No. 1 goal is to make sure that I give everything that I have to this organization. There’s no pressure. There’s no we’ll be on the 1-yard line and I won’t give it to Marshawn (Lynch), I’ll throw it. None of that stuff. I don’t care about the stats. That’s not my No. 1 objective. I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns next year. If we win every game, that’s all I care about.”