"Holy Toledo!"

October 21, 2008

Raiders Learn Lesson In How To Win

Filed under: NFL — Bill @ 10:56 am

How do you turn around a team that has a severe confidence issue?

Over the past five years the Raiders have gone into the 4th quarter trying not to lose. This mindset is decades from the old Silver & Black swagger that guys like the Snake carried into the final fifteen minutes. There is a huge difference in knowing you will find a way to win versus doing everything you can to avoid disaster. Overcoming this phenomenon is the task bitten off by new head coach Tom Cable.

The answer to such a difficult dilemma will not come in one game, but over time as a young team learns how to win. Last Sunday as the Raiders battled the N.Y. Jets we may have been given a clue as to how Cable plans to turn his team around. There was 6:37 left in the 4th quarter and the Raiders were starting to get that all too familiar “dear in the headlights” look. The Jets had just tied the game at 10-10, and yet another Raider’s drive had stalled, it was 4th & 2 , and the new head coach made a daring decision that turned the tide of the game. The Raiders lined up to punt, but instead they hiked the ball directly to the up man Jon Alston who rumbled for 22 yards and a first down. An extremely risky call given the field position, but it worked like a charm.

Instead of feeling the weight of “here we go again” pressure now the young Raiders were fired up and on the attack. Seven plays, 32 yards, and 3:36 later the Raiders had a 13-10 lead. Cable’s bold decision was just what the Raiders needed, and perhaps gives us an insight into what we might expect to see in the future from the new leader of the team.

On the Jets next possession it looked like DeAngelo Hall had sealed the game with his interception of a Favre pass. With only 2:25 left the only thing standing between the Raiders and victory was one first down. As the Raiders must learn to win so to must their new head coach. The next three plays gave Cable a lesson he will certainly draw from in the future, when you have a chance to put a team away don’t get conservative. Instead of coming up with a safe pass play to win the game Cable opted for three straight Justin Fargas running plays. Now they had to punt, and by doing so they left the back door open for that cagy cat burglar Brett Favre.

The old master promptly marched his team 61 yards and with 8 seconds left Jay Feely nailed a 52 yard field goal to tie the game at 13-13.

It didn’t matter that the game went into overtime because Cable had already done what he needed to do to help his team win. His fake punt call is what ultimately altered the outcome of this game. Without that call the Raiders likely would have gone on to lose yet another 4th quarter lead and the game. In only his second start as the Raiders head coach Tom Cable had found a way to alter the psyche of his team.

Late in the overtime period Sebastian Janikowski (a.k.a. “Super Toe”) connected from 57 yards, the longest overtime field goal in NFL history. The Raiders went home winners, they had found a way to win, and most of the credit should go to Tom Cable.

** Game Notes **

A disturbing new trend in the NFL once again found it’s ugly way into Sunday’s game. As the Jets Jay Feely was about to attempt his game tying kick Tom Cable called timeout. As fate would have it the kick bounced off the upright and the game would have been over. Instead, because of the timeout call, Feely was given another try and he delivered. This sneaky strategy began in ’07 when Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan used this technique effectively against the Raiders. The following week Lane Kiffen pulled the same crap against Cleveland. Unfortunately this strategy worked both times.

Since then it has been copied by several head coaches. Fortunately the last two times this garbage has been attempted it has come back to haunt the team using the late timeout. Last month Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt lost a game because of it. The Raiders managed to win inspire of using this ill-conceived strategy.

While it is within the rules to call a timeout seconds before a field goal attempt, it comes across as dirty play. My hope is that the rule will be changed so we never have to see this seemingly unsportsmanlike strategy again.

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