Raiders

Raiders, Steelers Set to Revive 'That '70s Show'

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Raiders, Steelers Set to Revive 'That '70s Show'

Nov. 18, 2010RAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEOSTEELERS PAGE GAME PREVIEW

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Suddenly, it's looking like the 1970s again for what once was the NFL's nastiest and most compelling rivalry, one so inflamed it once spilled over from the football field to a federal courtroom.

Welcome back, Raiders vs. Steelers. The NFL and its millions of fans have missed you.

Two storied franchises that have disliked each other since they first met 40 years ago face each other Sunday in what might be the most meaningful game between them since 1984. That season, the last remnants of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl teams of the 1970s upset the Raiders during the final weekend of the regular season to make the playoffs, and the Steelers went on to reach the AFC championship game.

It's a rivalry that was kindled by the most miraculous game-winning play in NFL history, the Immaculate Reception in 1972. With Hall of Famers such as Al Davis, Chuck Noll and John Madden, Mean Joe Greene and Franco Harris, Gene Upshaw and Art Shell all playing key roles, the teams faced each other in the playoffs every season from 1972-76.

The games were so fearsomely physical, there were frequent allegations of crossing-the-line play and, even, a lawsuit after Noll accused the Raiders' George Atkinson of being part of the league's "criminal element."

For much of the '70s, it was the NFL's rivalry beyond all others. Now there are hints it could be percolating again.

The Raiders scored three touchdowns in the final 8 12 minutes to beat the Steelers 27-23 in Pittsburgh last season, a significant upset that eventually put the reigning Super Bowl winners out of the playoffs. Of the Steelers' five consecutive late-season losses, this one might have hurt the most.

"We went home and kept wondering, What if? What if?'" wide receiver Hines Ward said.

The Raiders (5-4), with a dozen-plus first-round draft picks, now look to be one of the league's on-the-rise teams after winning three in a row and four of five. The Steelers (6-3), trying for a third Super Bowl in six seasons, looked like an elite team until Tom Brady shredded their defense for 350 yards passing in New England's 39-26 rout last weekend.

Oakland, tied for the AFC West lead with Kansas City, knows it can legitimize its status as a playoff contender if it can overcome the cross-country trip and beat the Steelers on their home field for a second successive season. The Steelers, tied for the AFC North lead with Baltimore, want to show that last week was an anomaly.

"I hope everybody's (ticked) off," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "The way we played last week was unacceptable. It's something we can't have if we want to be a championship team. I haven't gotten my butt whipped like that in a long time."

That loss cost longtime kicker Jeff Reed his job. He was cut after missing a 26-yard field goal attempt, with former Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham replacing him.

Raiders coach Tom Cable would love to extend the Steelers' miseries for another week.

"It's very dear to me to get this place back to respectability and back to being a team that everybody talks about like the Steelers, the Patriots, like Baltimore, like the teams that have been good here for a while," Cable said. "There was a time when you mentioned those teams, and you would mention Oakland that way."

Ward is too young to remember the height of Raiders-Steelers rivalry, but he's heard enough to know what it meant.

"Our organization, theirs, (are) probably the marquee organizations throughout history, especially on the AFC side," said Ward, who expects to play despite getting a concussion against New England. "Some of the great plays in history have come in this game. It's always great to play the Oakland Raiders, it's a lot of rich tradition."

Bruce Gradkowski's 11-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy with 9 seconds remaining last season might not go down among those great plays, but it was enough to beat Pittsburgh. Gradkowski now backs up Jason Campbell, the former Redskins quarterback who has thrown for 743 yards, five touchdowns and one interception during Oakland's three-game winning streak.

Campbell might need to consistently pick on Pittsburgh's suspect cornerbacks to sustain any offense, especially if Darren McFadden - whose 108.1 yards rushing average leads the NFL - can't get going. Pittsburgh's defense has allowed only one 100-yard rusher in 43 games and is giving up a league-low 63.2 yards per game.

"It's a great buzz for us right now," McFadden said. "We've won three games in a row so it has been great for confidence. Guys approach the game with a 'we are supposed to win' attitude."

Oakland's dominant defensive front four of Lamarr Houston, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Trevor Scott hopes to disrupt quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as successfully as New England did when it surged through an injury-thinned offensive line to sack him five times. Roethlisberger, who leads the NFL in passing yardage since returning from his four-game suspension, threw for many of his 387 yards after the Patriots opened a 23-3 lead.

"Teams start to separate themselves in November and December," Seymour said. "We want to be one of those elite teams."

Elite isn't a word that's been heard around the Raiders for a long time. They might hear it again if, for the first time in franchise history, they can win in Pittsburgh in successive seasons.

"Last year is last year," linebacker Sam Williams said. "This is a new team, different players everywhere on the field. This is a new team that's focused and not even close to the team we had last year."

Snap count: Raiders LBs Jenkins, Morrow receive long look inside

Snap count: Raiders LBs Jenkins, Morrow receive long look inside

OAKLAND – Raiders second-year pro Cory James seems set to play most every down at weakside linebacker. He doesn’t yet have a running mate on the inside.

Tyrell Adams was his wingman during the offseason program. Marquel Lee was his primary partner during training camp and in the exhibition opener. The fifth-round middle linebacker started Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams but didn’t last long.

He was removed after opening series, which left an opening for veteran Jelani Jenkins to earn more snaps.

Jenkins played two series with the first unit – he was anchored to the second team in camp -- and played 34 defensive snaps in all. He had six tackles, including two for a loss.

“I think Jelani Jenkins went in there and played pretty well in the second or third series and played the rest of the first half,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought he was pretty solid.”

Del Rio has used a platoon in the middle, with Lee in the base package and other options playing in sub packages. The Raiders have used several players in a hybrid coverage linebacker role, one originally set for second-round safety Obi Melifonwu. He missed most of training camp with an undisclosed injury, and the Raiders have experimented with Sean Smith, Keith McGill before he got hurt, and now undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow in that spot.

Morrow took a turn with the first unit, and completed his 26 defensive snaps in the second half.

“Nick, those young guys we gave them an opportunity to compete. He finds the ball a little bit,” Del Rio said. “...Nick, at the end of the game, had a nice breakup. Almost got a pick. Would’ve ended it. Would’ve been nice.”

Morrow finished with two tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass defensed. He was targeted three times in coverage and allowed one catch for five yards.

Playing close to the line of scrimmage is relatively new for Morrow, who played farther back at Greenville College.

“It was an adjustment because I’m used to playing outside of the box,” Morrow said. “I started watching film with some of the vets, and I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable in there.”

While Lee had 40 defensive snaps in the exhibition opener, he only had 11 in the second game. He allowed one 24-yard catch on the opening series and made one tackle, but Del Rio focused on positives for the young linebacker learning on the fly.

“I think he’s actually done some pretty solid things,” Del Rio said. “He’s not the first linebacker to ever get exposed in man coverage, which happened last week. So, I think he’s actually been pretty solid. We have a pretty solid run front and he’s part of that.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Connor Cook 25, Derek Carr 17, EJ Manuel 17
Running back – Elijah Hood 13, George Atkinson III 12, DeAndre Washington 12, John Crockett 10, Jalen Richard 7, Marshawn Lynch 4, Jamize Olawale 1
Wide receiver – Johnny Holton 29, Isaac Whitney 24, Jaydon Mickens 22, K.J. Brent 21, Keon Hatcher 18, Amari Cooper 17, Michael Crabtree 16, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Ishmael Zamora 6
Tight end – Clive Walford 15, Jared Cook 15, Gabe Holmes 11, Pharaoh Brown 11, Lee Smith 10, Ryan O’Malley 8
Offensive line – David Sharpe 38, Jylan Ware 35, Jordan Simmons 35, Ian Silberman 25, Oni Omoile 41, Vadal Alexander 24, Gabe Jackson 24, Kelechi Osemele 24, Rodney Hudson 24, Kareem Are 22, Marshall Newhouse 15, Oni Omoile 13, Jon Feliciano 10, Chauncey Briggs 6

DEFENSE
Defensive line –
James Cowser 33, Eddie Vanderdoes 30, Mario Edwards Jr. 30, Treyvon Hester 28, Denico Autry 27, Khalil Mack 20, Darius Latham 19, Branden Jackson 16, Paul Boyette 11, Justin Ellis 11, Jimmy Bean 4, Fadol Brown 3
Linebacker – Cory James 37, Tyrell Adams 36, Jelani Jenkins 34, Nicholas Morrow 26, Shilique Calhoun 23, Bruce Irvin 20, LaTroy Lewis 14, Marquel Lee 11, Rufus Johnson 11, IK Enemkpali 10, Brady Sheldon 6
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 37, David Amerson 37, Antonio Hamilton 26, Kenneth Durden 26, Sean Smith 26, Dexter McDonald 20, Chris Humes 16, Breon Borders 8
Safety – Karl Joseph 37, Reggie Nelson 37, Shalom Luani 20, Marcus McWilson 20, Anthony Cioffi 16, Rickey Jefferson 16

SPECIAL TEAMS
Tyrell Adams 14, Shalom Luani 13, Shilique Calhoun 11, James Cowser 12, Elijah Hood 10, Nicholas Morrow 10, Jamize Olawale 10, Dexter McDonald 9, DeAndre Washington 9, Xavier Woodson-Luster 9, Marquette King 8, K.J. Brent 8, Isaac Whitney 8, Antonio Hamilton 8, Anthony Cioffi 7, Rickey Jefferson 7, Karl Joseph 6, Jelani Jenkins 6, Clive Walford 5, John Crockett 5, Sebastian Janikowski 5, Andrew East 5, Jalen Richard 5, Breon Borders 5, Marcus McWilson 4, Jaydon Mickens 4, Chris Humes 4, Ryan O’Malley 4, TJ Carrie 4, Darius Latham 3, Gabe Holmes 3, George Atkinson III 3, Eddie Vanderdoes 3, Mario Edwards 3, Treyvon Hester 3, Justin Ellis 3 Denico Autry 3, Jon Condo 3, Jon Feliciano 3, Lee Smith 3, Marshall Newhouse 2, Khalil Mack 2, Bruce Irvin 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2, Cordarrelle Patterson 2, Vadal Alexander 2, Gabe Jackson 2, Kelechi Osemele 2, David Sharpe 2, Jylan Ware 1, Chauncey Briggs 1, Cory James 1, Oni Omoile 1, Kareem Are 1, Jordan Simmons 1, Ian Silberman 1, Branden Jackson 1, Brady Sheldon 1, Paul Boyette 1

DID NOT PLAY
WR Seth Roberts, CB Gareon Conley, S Obi Melifonwu, DB Keith McGill, OL Denver Kirkland, DL Jihad Ward

Raiders' Carr, Mack promote unity, racial harmony during national anthem

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USATSI

Raiders' Carr, Mack promote unity, racial harmony during national anthem

OAKLAND – All eyes shifted to the Raiders sideline Saturday night when the national anthem played.

Yep, Marshawn Lynch took a seat. No shocker there. He did the same thing last week, and while he hasn’t addressed it specifically, the action is linked with other anthem protests bringing attention to mistreatment of minorities in the United States.

Bruce Irvin stood with his brethren but raised his fist, as he did several times last year.

Derek Carr stood right on the sideline, and put his arm on Khalil Mack’s left shoulder. That gesture wasn't happenstance. It carried a message. It wasn’t, Carr insists, meant to protest anything.

“We’re not doing anything like that,” Carr said after a 24-21 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Coliseum. “We wanted to show the kids that look up to me, look up to him, white kids, black kids, brown kids, blue, green, it doesn’t matter -- all be loving to each other. We’re best friends and we’re loving to one another.

“The only reason we did that was to unify the people that look up to us because obviously you see what’s going on in the world. Obviously everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays. We just said that obviously this was the best time to do it while still honoring this country because I love this country. We’re free to live here and play this game but we’re also free to show that we love one another.”

Mack isn’t one to rock the boat. He and Carr wanted to make a statement without ruffling feathers, something that would remain positive while addressing racial issues prevalent in the news today.

“It’s discussed a lot,” Mack said. “It’s one of the things I feel passionately about but I just don’t like the tension that comes with it. But at the same time, just using our platform for positivity is what’s important to me.”

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing put an arm on fullback Jamize Olawale and echoed the Carr-Mack message. We’ve seen similar signs of unity across the league. Philadelphia defensive end Chris Long, son of former Raiders pass rusher Howie Long, put an arm around Malcolm Jenkins while he protested. Seattle center Justin Britt put an hand on Michael Bennett’s shoulder while he sat for the national anthem.

Those actions drew attention. Carr and Mack do the same.

Their star power increases the volume of their message. Carr’s an MVP candidate and the league’s highest-paid player. Mack is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. When they do something, people pay attention. That was their hope on Saturday, when the cameras would be aimed at them.

Carr and Mack are good friends off the field, and want to be an example of unity despite different races and backgrounds.

“I think that’s the message, the only message we were trying to get out,” Carr said. “Any kid, any family, any adult that follows us and looks up to us we knew their eyes would be on us and we wanted to show them for a white kid and black kid that grew up in different neighborhoods can grow up and love one another and be best friends.”