EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Falcons matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at the Georgia Dome.
Matchup No. 3: Tyvon Branch vs. Tony Gonzalez
Matchup No. 2: Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. Falcons FS Thomas DeCoudTale of the tape
Heyward-Bey (85): 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, fourth season, Maryland
DeCoud (28): 6-foot, 193 pounds, fifth season, CaliforniaATLANTA -- It was a safety in Pittsburgh's Ryan Mundy who knocked Darrius Heyward-Bey out the last time the Raiders' receiver played in a game. Heyward-Bey was concussed, strapped down to a gurney, carted off the field, spent the night in the hospital and missed the following game.So yeah, you might want to forgive him if he hears footsteps the next time a safety, like Thomas DeCoud, comes bearing down on him on the Georgia Dome's unforgiving artificial turf. Except, Heyward-Bey insists he's actually kind of looking forward to getting that first hit out of the way."I'm not really worried," Heyward-Bey told reporters Friday. "Everybody who plays football wants to get that first hit in, and you go from there. When it happens, it happens, and you move on to the next play."Heyward-Bey, who was injured on a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone that cost Mundy a 21,000 fine, has caught nine passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in three games. And while he may not come across the path of DeCoud in the Falcons' deep split-safety secondary all that often, DeCoud is more ballhawk than thumper so Heyward-Bey has to be mindful of that as well.RELATED: Raiders injury report
DeCoud's four interceptions are tied for the NFL lead with Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings."Even though (DeCoud) is a young guy biologically, he has got a lot of games under his belt," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said of the 27-year-old DeCoud."And he has really done a nice job playing the ball this season and I think it is evident by the way he is taking the ball away."From the Raiders' perspective, they are just happy that Heyward-Bey is healthy. His being on the field and healthy at the same time with a healthy Denarius Moore for really the first time this season is the bonus."It's always great to have an extra weapon there in the huddle with you," Moore said. "Just him on the other side of the field being able to stretch the field and then put him anywhere, along with the rest of the wide receivers."It's just a feeling that you have, just to see your best friend right there beside you, knowing that he's there to help you."And Heyward-Bey's presence should help the running game."We need a receiver that can get out there and stretch the field for us, just get some of the guys out of the box," said running back Darren McFadden. "He's a great contributor."RELATED: Raiders lacking in explosive plays
Said offensive coordinator Greg Knapp: "Their defense plays a lot of zone down (in the red zone) and we're trying to find some seams and have to break a tackle. And (Heyward-Bey's) size provides that for us after he gets the ball in the seams."