What do 14 penalties for 85 yards, 17 for 30 passing, 19 first downs to the Jets' 23, 4 for 17 on third down, 3 for 4 on field goal attempts and a +3 turnover margin over all have in common? Nothing, really. Let's be honest, that list of stats is mixed with the good, bad and mediocre (and if you saw the Raiders' defense on the first Jets' possession, you'd have to add ugly in there too).
Frankly, none of that matters, though, as of last night. The Raiders won. That's what mattered as of last night and today. Was it pretty? Nope. But it was a win. A win that we, the fans, and the team needed. Personally, I couldn't stop smiling for 20 minutes after CBS' coverage went off the air. It was a great feeling. Liberating. The 800 pound gorilla is off the back of the Raider Nation, if only for a few hours or days.
I was encouraged by what I saw, for three quarters on offense and almost 5 quarters on defense. Russell looked a bit more comfortable and in tune with his receivers through the third quarter. Javon Walker even made an appearance. The defense did a good job getting pressure on Favre and shutting down the passing game. The Jets did put up 242 total rushing yards, but we didn't let them beat us with both the run and pass. I can't even say anything bad about DeAngelo Hall's coverage and effort. The secondary allowed the front line to get in Favre's face and get pressure on him to disrupt the Jets' passing game. A lot of credit has to go to Trevor Scott. With Burgess out, he came up with two big sacks; one of which came on a key third down in overtime. His youth also helped out the d-line which was gassed from being on the field for long stretches again. Between Walker, Russell's serviceable three quarters, Scott and Janikowski setting another Raider record, the unexpected performances yesterday were very much a pleasant surprise.
I called up my dad (a lifelong Raiders fan, as well) right after the game finished up and we started talking. I was much more optimistic than he was, but he did bring up a valid point. It should've never gotten to overtime, but when we had the ball in the fourth quarter, Knapp and Cable went conservative with the play calling. Run, run, run, punt. Run, run, incompletion, punt. You get the picture. Where is the killer instinct that all great teams possess? That attitude where you step out on the field on offense and know you're just going to stomp on the other team's proverbial neck and delivery that crushing, clock draining drive and touchdown?
Cable talked about it in his first couple press conferences, but we didn't see it yesterday. They looked like a team scared they were going to lose. Russell became inaccurate, the play calling went very conservative and it appeared that the team was unsure of itself. When Russell was cut loose on the short to intermediate throws, he looked sure of himself, confident and in rhythm. It looked like the "Run, run, run, punt" play calling/mentality (Has anyone else seen how well that style of offense and play calling has worked for Herm Edwards? I hope you can detect the sarcasm.) triggered a voice in Russell's head that said, "Oh, no. They're running. They're running again. They're running a third time and now we're punting. It must mean that I can't screw up and cost us this game." The good news is, he didn't screw it up and it gave Janikowski a chance to do what he's paid to do and we got a needed win.
Hopefully, the win yesterday will give us something to build on. Maybe it will show the team they can win and they should go out on the field and believe they can win and beat anybody on any given Sunday. No matter what the deficit or circumstances, step out on the field with poise and the belief that no one's going to beat us and we're going to score on every possession from the beginning of the game until the final whistle blows. That's the mentality that the Silver and Black has always been about and always should be about.
The circumstances of the past five years would cause any team to lose sight of it's tradition and the mentality that it was built on and used to succeed over the years. No killer instinct in Oakland? No problem....yet. It looks to be coming. Until that time, maybe the only true killer instinct we can conjure up is when Janikowski needs to knock one through from 50 yards out. I'll take that killer instinct, as long as it's for a win.