Raiders

Super Bowl XI Raiders break through

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Super Bowl XI Raiders break through

Programming Note: Watch Super Bowl XLVI live, Sunday at 3 p.m. on NBCSports.com. Pregame simulcast will kick off at 11 a.m.

John Cannon
CSNCalifornia.com

Much was made a few weeks ago about the 30th anniversary of The Catch, but this season is also a significant anniversary for the NFL team on the other side of the Bay. Thirty-five years ago, the Oakland Raiders won the first of their three Super Bowls, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 32-14.

For the Raiders, the victory was made sweeter by the fact that they had finally won The Big One after years of frustration. Oakland had played for a Super Bowl berth six times in the eight seasons between 1968 and 1975. It lost every one of those games and every single time, the victors went on to win the Super Bowl.

Thus, the 1976 season began with a huge weight on the shoulders of the Raiders, and especially coach John Madden and quarterback Ken Stabler. As fate would have it, their very first game was against the team that had ended their previous two seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers took a 21-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Raiders came storming back with 24 fourth-quarter points and won the game on a late field goal.

The Steelers and Raiders were famous for their dislike for one another, and things didnt get any better in this game. Raiders safety George Atkinson knocked Steelers receiver Lynn Swann out with a forearm to the back of the head -- on a running play. In fact, on the NFL Films highlight you can see Atkinson clock Swann -- then a second later Franco Harris barrels past on a 25-yard run!

The comeback win, and the Atkinson-Swann incident, set the tone for the Raiders season. They barely survived games against Kansas City and Houston, and took a shaky 3-0 record to New England to face the Patriots. The Raiders were blown out, as Steve Grogan threw two TD passes to Darryl Stingley and ran for two more scores. The final score was 48-17.

As it turned out, that was the only game the Raiders lost in 1976. They had a couple of close calls, the closest being when Bears kicker Bob Thomas hit the upright on what would have been a game-winning field goal. Their biggest blowout of the season was a 49-16 win over the expansion Tampa Buccaneers led by QB Steve Spurrier.

The Raiders were unconventional on both sides of the ball. On offense, they were left-handed, with a southpaw QB in Stabler and perennial All-Pros Gene Upshaw and Art Shell at left guard and left tackle, respectively. Tight End Dave Casper often lined up on the left side, which was highly unusual at the time. They controlled the ball on the ground with an incredible line and backs Mark Van Eeghen and Clarence Davis, with Pete Banaszak coming off the bench when it was time to stick it in the end zone.

When defenses cheated up to play the run, they paid a terrible price. Flanker Cliff Branch, one of the most underrated players in NFL history, had his best season in 1976. He averaged a stunning 24.15 yards per catch, and scored 12 TDs. While he was stretching the field vertically, sticky-fingered split-end Fred Biletnikoff and Casper were finding holes underneath. Stabler completed exactly two-thirds of his 291 passes, leading the league by a fairly wide margin.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders had changed to a 3-4 defense, still a pretty novel concept at the time. The personnel was a combination of All-Pros (Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, Willie Brown) and guys who came out of nowhere (Willie Hall, Monte Johnson, Skip Thomas). The result was a defense that was not easy to run on (10th in the NFL), which was a bigger deal back in 1976 than it is now.
There was little drama involving the AFC West, as the Raiders clinched the title in Week 12. The remaining intrigue in the regular season centered around Game 13, a Monday night matchup at home against the 9-3 Cincinnati Bengals. If Cincinnati won, the Steelers would have been eliminated from the playoffs, and more than one observer felt the Raiders would have been better served to lose to Cincinnati to avoid the red-hot Steel Curtain.

Madden, of course, was not interested in any such scenario, and he later called the 35-20 win over the Bengals one of the proudest of his career.

To start the playoffs, the Raiders had a rematch with the Patriots, the one team that had beaten them. The playoff game looked like a repeat, with New England taking a 21-10 lead into the 4th quarter in Oakland. Stabler dug into his bag of comebacks, however, and the Raiders survived to meet Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship for the third straight time.

Unfortunately for history, the Steeler team that played in Oakland that day was without both starting running backs, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, and the Raiders rolled 24-7.

After six failures on the doorstep, the Raiders werent going to be fussy about how they finally got to the Super Bowl. Instead, they dealt out some misery of their own, handing the Minnesota Vikings their fourth Super Bowl loss, controlling the game from start to finish. Biletnikoff was named the games MVP, although he didnt score any of the Raiders four TDs. He did have four catches for 79 yards, and three times was tackled at the Vikings 1-yard line.

It was a glorious day in Pasadena, the last outdoor day game in Super Bowl history, and as the Raiders carried John Madden off the field on their shoulders his grin was so wide that radio announcer Bill King said he looked like a split watermelon. It was the grin, finally, of a champion.
Media professional and Bay Area native John Cannon was a television and radio sportscaster in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Follow him on Twitter at @JCannonSports, or email him at JCannonSports@gmail.com.

Raiders snap count: Sean Smith the odd man out

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USATI

Raiders snap count: Sean Smith the odd man out

LANDOVER, Md. – The Raiderss cornerback corps was completely healthy for the first time all season. That meant there would be an odd man out of the typical three cornerback rotation.

TJ Carrie started and played every snap in a 27-10 loss to the Washington football club on Sunday night at FedEx Field. David Amerson missed only two plays. Rookie Gareon Conley was a featured member of this group, entering in sub packages.

Sean Smith, by contrast barely played at all. Healthy again after missing last week’s game with a neck injury, Smith took three defensive snaps early in the game and never saw the field again.

He was charged with covering tight ends and struggled to blanket veteran Vernon Davis, allowing two catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in as many targets.

He didn’t play much after that touchdown pass. Antonio Hamilton was a fourth cornerback later in the game.

Snaps for Nicholas Morrow continue to rise. The undrafted rookie played 42 snaps from the middle linebacker spot in the sub packages.

Mario Edwards Jr.’s hot start continued and brought an increased workload. He played solid run defense and had two quarterback hits.

Here’s a look at the snap count for the entire Raiders team.

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Derek Carr 51
Running back – Marshawn Lynch 16, DeAndre Washington 16, Jamize Olawale 7, Jalen Richard 6
Wide receiver – Seth Roberts 45, Amari Cooper 44, Michael Crabtree 31, Cordarelle Patterson 26, Johnny Holton 7
Tight end – Jared Cook 41, Lee Smith 12, Clive Walford 4
Offensive line – Gabe Jackson 51, Kelechi Osemele 51, Rodney Hudson 51, Donald Penn 51, Marshall Newhouse 51, Jon Feliciano 1

DEFENSE
Defensive line – Khalil Mack 51, Mario Edwards 43, Denico Autry 39, Eddie Vanderdoes 39, Treyvon Hester 26, Justin Ellis 26 James Cowser 16
Linebacker – Cory James 68, Bruce Irvin 54, Nicholas Morrow 42, Marquel Lee 23
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 68, David Amerson 66, Gareon Conley 46, Sean Smith 3, Antonio Hamilton
Safety – Karl Jospeh 68, Reggie Nelson 68

SPECIAL TEAMS
Shalom Luani 27, Keith McGill 27, Tyrell Adams 27, James Cowser 21, Jamize Olawale 19, Antonio Hamilton 14, Johnny Holton 13, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Xavier Woodson-Luster 12, Nicholas Morrow 10, Jon Condo 9, Marquette King 9, Marquel Lee 9, DeAndre Washington 8, Lee Smith 8, Jalen Richard 8, Khalil Mack, Mario Edwards 8, Denico Autry 8, Jon Feliciano 8, Treyvon Hester 8, Eddie Vanderdoes 7, Bruce Irvin 6, Giorgio Tavecchio 5, Karl Joseph 3, Gareon Conley 3, Justin Ellis 3 Gabe Jackson 2, Marshall Newhouse 2, Kelechi Osemele 2, Clive Walford 2, Vadal Alexander 2

DID NOT PLAY

QB EJ Manuel

Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

LANDOVER, Md. – The Raiders planned to skip Sunday night’s national anthem all together. They were going to remain in the locker room until kickoff, as several teams across the league did in response to President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about NFL players.

The schedule didn’t permit that. Kickoff and the national anthem was too close together. So the Raiders were on the sideline, and what they did was far more powerful.

Most of the team sat during the anthem, arm and arm together. Raiders coaches and several players stood with arms linked. Others took a knee. A few guys stood alone.

No Raider had a smile. The image was broadcast to a national television audience. A movement popularized by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to shed light on racial injustice and police brutality against minorities took another turn this weekend, after Trump said Friday night that any NFL player not standing during the national anthem should be fired. He called them sons of bitches.

Players heard what was said. They took it to heart.

The Raiders had a grand platform on Sunday Night Football. They took advantage of it.

“It hit a lot of guys. A lot of guys felt it on a personal level,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “They felt that, as role models, they needed to do something to show a sign of unity. Our country was built on equality and freedom and us having rights as human beings. We’re athletes, but we’re humans first. There were some disrespectful comments, and the guys felt like they had a duty to do something, given the stage we have as athletes. You have to do something. We talked about it, and we wanted to be together and show that freedom of speech still matters.”

Owner Mark Davis approved of his team’s reaction. He prefers players don’t protest in a Raiders uniform, but his stance changed this weekend.

“I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform,” Davis said in an interview with ESPN. “The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”

Every Raider interviewed about this topic emphasized that their decision to sit or kneel wasn’t meant to disrespect the military, police or the American flag. It was a direct response to Trump’s comments. The Raiders felt they had to respond. Outside of Marshawn Lynch, who always sits for the anthem, this won’t be a weekly thing.

The Raiders made their point and want to move on.

“Stuff is getting out of hand,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I don’t really want to talk about it or give him more of my time. We have disasters going on in Florida and Puerto Rico, and he’s worried about us doing a silent, peaceful protest? When the people of Charlottesville did their thing, he didn’t call them sons of bitches or assholes.

“We were all on the same page. I wish I didn’t have to do anything like that. I’ve been standing for the anthem all the time, but when you get called out, you take it personally. You have to do something.”