NASHVILLE – Seth Roberts must really love Tennessee. Or country music. Or the Nissan Stadium turf. Or having a dozen-plus family members in the crowd.
There must be a reason why the Raiders slot receiver owns the Titans.
“It’s the matchups their defense has given us,” Roberts said. “When they provide certain looks, I’m able to capitalize.”
Oh. Well, that isn’t quite as fun. Roberts doesn’t care, as long as it’s effective.
Roberts has had two excellent games in Nashville, with a combined eight receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns. His scores decided both games. He had a game-winner late in 2015, and the decider last season.
Clutch moments might be due to more than attractive matchups in Tennessee. He creates those against everybody.
Roberts has made four game-winning catches in two seasons with the club. While everyone remembers Michael Crabtree’s two-point conversion and Jack Del Rio’s gamble, Roberts caught the touchdown pass to set that up. Amari Cooper was a supernova against Tampa Bay, but Roberts’ 41-yard overtimes catch and run beat the Buccaneers.
Consider it a good omen if Roberts scores in Sunday’s regular-season opener. Odds are the Raiders will win another clash with the Titans. The Silver and Black are 9-0 when Roberts scored a touchdown.
That stat is Roberts’ favorite. That’s why he’s driven to perform in big moments. He feels a certain devotion to the Raiders and his teammates. He wants to come through for them.
“Deep down, I want it. I want to own the moment,” Roberts said. “I want to show up for the guys around me. They’ve always had my back. I have to have their theirs.”
Roberts remains thankful for the opportunity to shine. It wasn’t expected of an unheralded kid from Moultrie, Ga. who spent time at Pearl Rivers Community College and West Alabama before going undrafted. He spent camp with the Raiders and then got cut. He re-signed with the practice squad, impressed there, and became the team’s slot receiver. The rest you’ve seen on Sundays.
Roberts turned those efforts into a three-year, $12 million contract extension with $6.45 million guaranteed. The deal came together quickly, after summer contact between Roberts’ reps and the Raiders proved desire to extend was mutual. It was a proud moment for a player without pedigree, who toiled and grinded and never gave up.
“I’ve always had to work for things my whole life,” Roberts said. “Nothing was ever given to me. It feels even better to work and earn something like this.”
Roberts wants to repay the Raiders with clutch moments and steady play. Roberts’ clutch moments have come in droves. Consistency hasn’t been his calling card. He played through a double hernia last year and never missed a practice and had a newborn in season, but refused to use that as an excuse.
He spent the offseason getting healthy, while working on one major flaw in his game.
“The drops. That’s the main thing,” Roberts said. “It’s about concentration on what you’re doing and, at the same time, not thinking about it too much. You can’t have that. You can’t be thinking, “Am I going to drop the ball?’ You can’t worry about that. I think I went through that some last year. But, honestly, I’m over it. I’m confident in everything I do now.”
Fans will like hearing that, especially after Roberts dropped 10 passes last year and six the year before. It’s a new issue for Roberts, one he believes is corrected.
“Pluck and tuck. It sounds so easy,” Roberts said. “I never used to drop the ball, so it was a strange experience going through that. That’s not me.”