Sports column | Raiders put on clinic how to lose
December 20, 2011
The Oakland Raiders created an instructional video Sunday, and#8220;How to lose a football game while punching 60,000 home fans in the gut,and#8221; co-starring the Detroit Lions. It was a sequel to their previous two productions of recent weeks, and#8220;How to get blown out of a football game early and#8212; Volumes 1 and 2.and#8221;
Not only instructional, their latest piece of work doubled as drama-filled TV, steadily building hope among the most gullible of the Raider Nation and#8212; reaching a crescendo when the team took a 27-14 lead with 7:47 remaining and#8212; only to crush it with a series of gaffes that led to heartbreaking defeat.
An uneducated viewer may have been fooled into believing it was an orchestrated collapse, a rehearsed performance complete with actors and a script. How else could a team of professional athletes battling for a postseason berth roll over in the final half-quarter, virtually handing its opponent the hard-earned win it had seemingly secured? There’s no logic behind it.
But to the most educated, and thus skeptical, faithful of the Silver and Black, the improbable outcome and#8212; a 28-27 comeback win for the Lions and#8212; never seemed far-fetched at all. No loss, after all, is inconceivable in the wake of the and#8220;tuck rule.and#8221;
So after taking the first double-digit lead of the game with 7:47 to go, even the most fervent of Raiders fans had to feel a slight sense of uneasiness behind their spiked clothing and skulls, no matter how dull the morning of tailgating left their senses.
Sure enough, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford injected life into the visiting sideline when he promptly drove his team down the field and into the end zone on the ensuing possession, cutting the lead to 27-21 with 4:59 to play. The Raiders helped pave the way with a couple of ill-timed penalties, remaining consistent with their past, self-inflicting form.
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The offense and head coach made sure the instruction didn’t stop there on how to lose.
After several positive runs by Michael Bush gained at least two first downs, causing the Lions to take their final two timeouts to preserve time, Raiders head coach and offensive play-caller Hue Jackson called for a pass play on third-and-3 with 2:32 remaining. Risky.
Sure enough, the one thing that couldn’t happen and#8212; or had to happen when demonstrating how to lose and#8212; did. Carson Palmer slightly overthrew his receiver, Chaz Schilens, who watched the ball spring off both outstretched hands with nothing but green grass in front of him.
At that moment, the sense of doubt became a strong premonition that failure was on the horizon. It remained, even after All-Pro punter Shane Lechler pinned the Lions at their own 2-yard line with 2:14 to go. The Raiders’ defense, after waiting patiently for one final opportunity, now had its chance to blow it.
Sure enough, after advancing the ball a safe distance from their own goal line, Stafford launched a deep, underthrown duck down the middle of the field, where the Lions’ best receiver, Calvin Johnson, turned and had time to file his fingernails before making the 48-yard reception at the Raiders’ 13-yard line.
Playing a zone coverage, 255-pound linebacker Rolando McClain chased Johnson on the deep route, to no avail, while safety Jerome Boyd came in late to provide and#8220;help.and#8221; Either way, the best receiver on the field and#8212; and one of the best in the NFL and#8212; was left wide open. The Truckee Wolverines would have covered him tighter.
A couple plays later, Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt manhandled Johnson as if no one was watching, drawing an easy pass interference penalty. Johnson then hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass a play later to give the Lions their first lead of the game with just 39 seconds left, 28-27.
Sebastian Janikowski attempted a 65-yard field goal in the final seconds, but the kick was partially blocked by Ndamukong Suh to put the finishing touches on the Raiders’ latest instructional video.
With giddy teammates bounding by his side, Suh pranced around in celebration like an overgrown fairy, thrilled to receive the gift of a hand-wrapped victory.
and#8212; Sylas Wright is the sports editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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