The Oakland Raiders continued their recent run of inspired play since the passing of Al Davis as they captured a 24-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Raiders received strong contributions in all three phases of the game, but it was some Al Davis flavored speed and trickeration on special teams that really impacted this game.
There were two monstrous plays on special teams that netted the team 14 points. The first is a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by speedy wide receiver Jacoby Ford. The second is a beautiful fake field goal on 4th and 20.
The Cleveland Browns tied up the game at seven early in the second quarter and seemed to have the Raiders a bit out of sorts. A quick three and out after the tying score could have turned the momentum fully in Cleveland's favor. Instead, Jacoby Ford snuffed that out very quickly with his return.
The Phil Dawson kick was actually quite short as it only went about a yard deep in the end zone. We have seen numerous return men have few qualms about bringing kicks back from eight yards deep. There was some concern about moving up the kickoff mark, but it seems like it has added a certain element of entertainment with these big returns.
This the key pair of blocks that sprung the big return. Linebacker Darryl Blackstock is on the lower right part of the screen and engages rookie fullback Owen Marecic. Right in front of Ford we see rookie running back Taiwan Jones as he is about to engage Mike Adams. It wasn't a phenomenal block, but it slowed up Adams enough for Ford to squeeze through.
Ford had to tip-toe his way down the sideline after almost getting forced out by kicker Phil Dawson. The play resulted in a review by the officials but they actually upheld the play after seeing this:
There is just enough grass between Ford's right foot and out of bounds. It was quickly reviewed and upheld.
The second play came late in the third quarter when the Raiders faked a field goal on 4th and 20. It would have been a 52-yarder, which is well within Sebastian Janikowski's ability, but they caught the Browns being a little too aggressive and made them pay for it.
It was a fairly basic field goal formation setup for both teams. Really, nothing particularly crazy. However....
However, as this shows, tight end Kevin Boss released past the on-rushing defenders and was about as open as is humanly possible. All the Raiders needed was a solid throw.
Thankfully Shane Lechler has the arm and the accuracy to drop in an easy pass to Boss, who would turn around and get into the end zone for the touchdown.
One of the reasons I wanted to break down this play was to show you the intimidating blocking of kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Seabass got in front of his "quarterback" and was prepared to lay his body on the line for Lechler. Of course, given that Janikowski might actually be bigger than an offensive lineman or two, maybe it's not so crazy?
Whatever the case, these two special teams proved pivotal as the Raiders held on for the 24-17 victory. On a day in which the Raiders paid tribute to their fallen leader, you've got to think these two plays made him smile just a little bit.