Raiders ride special teams to 24-17 win over Browns

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Raiders ride special teams to 24-17 win over Browns

BOX SCORE
OAKLAND -- A day that began with a tribute and celebration to late owner Al Davis ended with questions about the Oakland Raiders' future following a serious injury to starting quarterback Jason Campbell.The Raiders overcame Campbell's broken collarbone by getting a 101-yard kickoff return from Jacoby Ford and Kevin Boss' 35-yard touchdown catch from punter Shane Lechler on a fake field goal in a 24-17 victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns in the first home game since Davis' death."This football team will be fine," coach Hue Jackson said. "This team is a little bit more resilient than everyone thinks they are."They showed that Sunday after Campbell was knocked out late in the first half when he landed hard on his shoulder after being hit at the end of a scramble by Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita.Kyle Boller entered in relief and struggled at times but the Raiders (4-2) got enough big plays on special teams to hold off the Browns (2-3) and win consecutive games for the first time this season."We honored one of the greatest Raiders ever in Coach Davis," Jackson said. "I know he's looking down saying 'Just win, baby.' That's what we did. That's what we do here. We win. I don't care what it looks like. I don't care if it's pretty it's ugly or whatever."It was an emotional day at the Coliseum with many old-time Raiders coming back to honor Davis, the man who had been the face of the franchise for nearly a half-century before dying Oct. 8 of an undisclosed illness at age 82.Coaches and team officials all wore black shirts with a simple two-letter message supplanted on the Raiders shield: "AL." The most poignant moment came during a halftime ceremony with dozens of former players standing in a circle around the Raiders emblem at midfield. Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden then lit a caldron on the plaza level in the corner of the stadium with the public address announcer saying the fire will "burn forever" for fans to remember Davis.On a day full of tributes, the one Davis would have appreciated most is the one on the scoreboard."We all knew the task at hand and we just made sure we made the most of it," cornerback Stanford Routt said.Boller completed a 27-yard swing pass to Ford that set up Sebastian Janikowski's 48-yard field goal that made it 17-7 late in the third quarter.Oakland then took over again at the Cleveland 25 after a botched handoff between McCoy and Montario Hardesty. That's when Jackson and special teams coach John Fassel once again successfully went to their book of tricks. On fourth down from the 35, Lechler - the holder - threw to a wide-open Boss in the flat and Boss raced to the end zone for the score that made it 24-7."It's just taking advantage of what the defense is doing," Boss said. "It's a pretty simple pass and a pretty simple catch. I think all the credit goes to Coach Fassel for being able to recognize it's something we should take advantage of. And to Coach Jackson for having the guts to call the play."Oakland's win last week in Houston was aided by a 35-yard run on a fake punt by Rock Cartwright as Jackson has followed his credo to "live on the edge."That lead proved to be enough for the Raiders, who harassed Colt McCoy and held Cleveland's running game to 65 yards. McCoy completed just 21 of 45 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, including a 12-yarder to Mohamed Massaquoi that cut it to 24-17 with 1:06 remaining after Jackson bypassed a chip-shot field goal to go for it unsuccessfully on fourth-and-1 from the 5.The Browns recovered the onside kick, but were unable to generate a first down and Oakland won it."We fought till the end," McCoy said. "Eventually, we thought, we're going to catch a break. In the huddle, after we got the onside kick, we thought we had a chance. We had a minute, that's a long time. We got it on the 50. We just didn't capitalize."Darren McFadden rushed for 91 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown for the Raiders.After a pregame video tribute and moment of silence for Davis, the Raiders started fast. They forced a three-and-out to start the game with safety Matt Giordano sacking McCoy with a blitz on third down. Oakland them methodically moved 88 yards in 15 plays, converting four third-down opportunities and scoring on McFadden's 4-yard run.The Raiders were moving again when Campbell slid headfirst on a scramble and lost the ball. That led to Cleveland's first score on McCoy's 1-yard TD pass to Alex Smith.Oakland answered with Ford's 101-yard kickoff return - his fourth TD return in less than two years as a pro."Typically, if you have one special teams score, that's enough to get you nailed," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "And we had two."Notes: Browns RB Peyton Hillis was limited in the second half by an injured left hamstring and will have an MRI on Monday. ... Fujita left with a concussion. ... Raiders C Samson Satele sprained his knee but told Jackson he likely will play next week.

McKenzie: Osemele gave Raiders OL teeth, Nelson eased Woodson's loss

McKenzie: Osemele gave Raiders OL teeth, Nelson eased Woodson's loss

Raiders general manager built a foundation of talent heading into the 2016 offseason, but needed more to get his team over the hump. Draft picks were essential, and expected. He had significant salary cap space, where he could find some immediate impact players on the open market.

McKenzie signed six unrestricted free agents, a few of them at a hefty price. Most veteran imports worked out well, though some thrived more than others.

It was a solid group that, in addition to the 2017 draft class and some key undrafted pickups, helped McKenzie win the Pro Football Writers of America’s executive of the year award.

He singled out two members of the 2016 free-agent class that helped set the tone for a 12-4 regular season and the team’s first playoff berth since 2002.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele was the first. The former Baltimore Raven signed a record contract for interior linemen but was worth the price, adding attitude to the offensive line during an All-Pro season.

“I think Kelechi solidified our offensive line, from the standpoint of what we wanted from our run game, from a physicality standpoint, what we had always talked about from Day 1,” McKenzie said Thursday in a conference call. “He added to that and he put some teeth into the whole offensive mentality. I felt like that was an impact. I was happy to see him get his first Pro Bowl. That was good to see.”

McKenzie also highlighted free safety Reggie Nelson’s efforts. He signed late in the offseason for relatively cheap, but was voted a team captain after his first preseason as a Raider and helped the secondary function with confidence. That was required after losing the eminent Charles Woodson to retirement.

Nelson also had five interceptions and two fumble recoveries, including three takeaways that secured victory.

I thought Reggie [Nelson] made some plays and was a true leader back there. When we lost Charles Woodson, from the leadership standpoint, communication standpoint, I felt Reggie came in and did a solid job to help ease that transition. You can never replace a Charles Woodson, but he was able to help ease that transition, especially when we had a young rookie back there (in Karl Joseph).”

Let’s take a look at the Raiders unrestricted free agent class and how they fared:

LG Kelechi Osemele
Contract: 5 years, $58.5 million ($25.4 million guaranteed)
Impact:Osemele ranks among the league’s elite left guards, and brought a nastiness to the Raiders offensive line. He helped immensely in the run game, and didn’t allow a quarterback sack all season. He was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All Pro, the results McKenzie hoped for after offering Osemele a massive contract.

LB Bruce Irvin
Contract: 4 years, $37 million ($14.5 million guaranteed)
Impact: Irvin started slow but rounded into a dominant player and an excellent compliment to star edge rusher Khalil Mack. Irvin had seven sacks and an NFL-high six forced fumbles, showing enough versatility to play well in coverage and against the run.

CB Sean Smith
Contract: 4 years, $38 million ($15 million guaranteed)
Impact: Smith was benched in his first game, and struggled against Julio Jones in his second, but played better after than and largely well the rest of the year. His quarterback rating against was 114.0 and he allowed too many big plays. More is expected from a No. 1 cornerback. Smith had shoulder surgery after the season and vowed to be better in 2017.

FS Reggie Nelson
Contract: 2 years, $8.5 million ($4 million guaranteed)
Impact:Nelson wasn’t perfect in his first year as a Raider, but made some big plays during a Pro Bowl year. He had seven takeaways, including five interceptions, and some big hits in the clutch. He was a solid leader in the back who should be better with a year’s experience in a new system to his credit.

S Bryden Trawick
Contract: 1 year,  $675,000
Impact: Trawick was brought in to be a solid special teams player, and he thrived in that role. He was strong in kick and punt coverage, with a team-high 14 special teams tackles. He showed some defensive prowess late when forced into action, and the safety made some nice plays over the last two games.

LB Daren Bates
Contract: 1 year, $850,000
Impact: Bates is a special teams player first and, along with Trawick, helped anchor the coverage units. He had seven special teams tackles over the year.

Lott-led group still working to keep Raiders in Oakland, 'playing to win'

Lott-led group still working to keep Raiders in Oakland, 'playing to win'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oakland civic leaders and deep-pocketed investors fighting to keep the Raiders from moving insist they are still in the game despite team owner Mark Davis formally applying to the NFL to relocate to Las Vegas.

A local investment group that includes Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott said Thursday they continue to negotiate with government officials, the team and the NFL to build a $1.25 billion, 55,000-seat stadium in Oakland.

"We are in this game and we are playing to win," Lott's group said in a statement. The statement said the Raiders' filing Thursday was expected and done to "keep its options open in Las Vegas."

The Raiders have been seeking to replace their dilapidated home for years. The Coliseum has suffered from sewage backups and other infrastructure problems. It's also the only remaining NFL stadium to also be home to a baseball team - the Athletics - and lacks many of the modern, money-making features of new stadiums.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has been negotiating with Davis and investors to find a new home for the team in the city but has said public financing is not an option. She and other local boosters support the bid by Lott's group to keep the team on Oakland.

"Only Oakland brings the Raiders and the NFL a competitive stadium proposal, along with legacy and loyalty," Schaaf said in a prepared statement.

The city and Alameda County still owe a combined $100 million for upgrades made to the stadium in 1995 to lure the Raiders back to Oakland after the team spent the 14 previous years playing in Los Angeles. The city and county were left holding the bag after personal seat licenses failed to cover the cost of the $220 million renovation that added more than 10,000 seats and luxury boxes.

The city is willing to give the team 60 acres of land on the Coliseum site to build a new stadium.

The local investors are competing with a Las Vegas plan that calls for $750 million in hotel room tax revenue, $650 million from billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson's company and $500 million from the Raiders and the NFL.

League owners are expected to vote on the proposed move in March.

Local boosters argue that Oakland offers a better football venue than Las Vegas, a transient tourist town with no professional football history. They say the San Francisco Bay Area's television market dwarves the Las Vegas region's and that it will cost the team $500 million to relocate.

"I think we continue to offer a far superior deal," said Scott Haggerty, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Haggerty is also on the board that manages the Coliseum.

"I think that Mark Davis has been very patient in trying to come up with a stadium plan and I don't blame him for keeping his options open," Haggerty said. "But the Raiders belong in Oakland."

Haggerty and others also say that a Raiders move out of the region threatens to alienate fans who re-embraced the team after it left Oakland after the 1981 season and played for 14 years in Los Angeles only to move back to the Bay Area.

Davis has said the team will continue to play in Oakland until the Las Vegas stadium is finished, likely by the 2020 season. The Raiders have two one-year options to play at the Oakland Coliseum in 2017 and 2018 and are already taking season ticket renewals for next season.

"I'm incredulous this could happen again," said 57-year-old Jim Zelinski, a lifelong Oakland resident and Raiders fan. "I'm disgusted, to be quite frank."

Nonetheless, Zelinski has co-founded a fan organization that is lobbying the Raiders and the NFL to keep the team in Oakland.

"We want to combat the narrative that most Raider fans are neutral and don't care if the team moves to Las Vegas," said Zelinski, who must decide by next month if he wants to renew his season tickets. "The Raiders need to do the right thing."