INSIDE SLANT

There is something cruelly appropriate about the Raiders' next game being in Denver. For years the Raiders -- and most of the rest of the NFL -- have complained that Denver uses illegal blocking tactics, to wit chop blocks. Teams that play in the Broncos' division get to go through this delightful exercise twice a year, three hours a copy.

Now the Raiders have never been known as fair-haired boys around the NFL but aside from a penchant for foolish penalties, they haven't been horribly anti-social in recent years.

Then, Sunday, they encountered the most galling – especially compared to Denver's choppers -- example of officiating ambiguity seen in ages.

A touchdown pass was negated when rookie right tackle Robert Gallery was called for "an illegal block in the back above the waist." Interesting, since all Gallery was doing at the time was pass blocking, in line, and riding a pass rusher wide with a common shove seen on virtually every passing play on any NFL Sunday.

"I've never had that called, ever, in pass protection," Raider coach Norv Turner said. "I've never heard of it. We're going to do some research and see if they changed that rule."

The irony is that if it is illegal now for an offensive lineman to block in the back, above the waist, then consider the apparent legality of Denver players chopping and crippling opposing linemen at the knees away from the play.

During a spin move, what is a lineman supposed to do?

"Let him go," surmised LT Barry Sims, sarcastically.

"That's how we're taught to play tackle," Sims said. "Run the guy around the quarterback and keep pushing. The quarterback steps up and throws. That was the first time I had ever seen anything like that."

The same held true for Gallery.

"But it doesn't do me a lot of good to talk about it," he said. "You have to play the game right. The refs are doing their job and are going to call certain things. Mistakes can happen. He just said it was a push in the back. That was all I got from him."

Asked how he would handle an apparent change in a rules interpretation on blocking against an outside rush, Gallery just shrugged.

"Well, we just have to get the tape and see what I did and not do it," he said. "If they are going to call that then I have to make some changes. I can't sit here and complain. He made the call. It was a key part of the game. That's just the way it is."

NOTES, QUOTES

For the first eight games of the season, tight end Teyo Johnson spent Sunday afternoons in street clothes. The former second round draft choice had clearly fallen out of favor, and not necessarily just because of the emergence of promising rookie Courtney Anderson.

Johnson believed his benching and drop to No. 4 on the depth chart was due to his attending a Nike sponsored trip to China in the off-season during a time when the team was having an OTA.

If that had anything to do with it, it was minor. Although the coaching staff waffled over why, it was fairly common knowledge that Johnson's antics in the first pre-season game in San Francisco had more to do with it. Upon making a big play, Johnson's histrionics -- exaggerated first down signal, doing pushups -- had irritated coaches.

And so it was Sunday that Johnson was in uniform and doing more than just playing special teams. The first pass thrown to him all year went for an 8-yard touchdown.

Whereupon, the world waited to see how Johnson would celebrate. He raised the ball as if to spike it, then didn't. Instead, he flipped the ball to an official and trotted off the field.

"I had told myself I didn't need to draw any more attention to myself," Johnson said. "Ever since the pushup incident, it would make a good point if I just handed the ball to the ref after a good play or a touchdown just to signify I am not trying to make everybody look at me or trying to get on SportsCenter.

"I know the coach could have called for different personnel (on the touchdown play) and it would have been Ron Curry scoring that touchdown. You know?"

--For years the Raiders have suggested that one set of rules exists for 31 NFL teams and another set is designed for the Raiders.

After a handful of calls went against Oakland in the San Diego game, several Raiders and even the head coach began to wonder.

In addition to the block in the back call on RT Robert Gallery, there was a no-call on a pushoff by San Diego's Antonio Gates on a touchdown pass, a blow to the head against Jerry Porter that went unflagged, two holding penalties on Raider defensive backs that were borderline at best.

"The refs are taking us out of the game so much," said safety Ray Buchanan, who was the victim of Gates' push-off. "It's hard to fight one good team and then you are playing against the black and whites, too."

"We get a lot of calls that go against us but we have to overcome all the adverse situations that come up against us," linebacker Danny Clark said. "We have to prevail over them. I mean, it's kind of tough to compete against the striped shirts and the guys on the other team when we have mistakes we're committing ourselves."

-- P Shane Lechler had three punts go into the end zone for touchbacks and told coach Norv Turner he couldn't ever remember having that many in one game before. He averaged 45 yards a kick but his net was just 32.5.

-- FB Zack Crockett has just four carries this year, none in third and short, which has been his specialty over the years. Coach Norv Turner said it was because the team had been successful on all its third-and-short runs this year until the San Diego game and it was because of Crockett's blocking.

-- Although RB Justin Fargas was active for the first time in a month, he did not play from scrimmage against San Diego. Coach Norv Turner said he hoped to get Fargas some carries Sunday night against Denver.

-- LB Napoleon Harris made two tackles on LaDainian Tomlinson for losses in his best outing of the season to date. Overall, he had four tackles.

-- Prior to the San Diego game, the Raiders activated WR John Stone from the practice squad and he was included on the 45-man game-day roster. He did not make a catch nor have a ball thrown to him.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. CHARGERS

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- When Kerry Collins finally had a no-turnover, high production game his receivers let him down. Ron Curry's dropped pass would have been a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jerry Porter failed to get both feet down on two deep end zone touchdown passes. He fumbled trying to make extra yardage in the first half. It is conceivable Collins could have had up to five touchdown passes. As it was, his QB rating was 105.8.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- It has now been six games since Oakland last topped 100 yards rushing in a game. During that time the Raiders averaged 52 yards at 2.9 yards a try. Over the last two weeks their best rushing play netted exactly 10 yards. The only way they make yards at all is when hard-nosed Tyrone Wheatley grinds out an extra few through sheer will power.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Raiders have not intercepted a pass in five weeks, not even by accident. They dropped three chances Sunday. Granted, they improved from last time they faced Drew Brees, giving up one touchdown pass instead of five -- and the one came on a pushoff. However, there were seven third down passes that resulted in 111 yards and first downs. Two more first downs came off defensive holding penalties. The pass rush was lukewarm most of the day (no sacks) and even when it got there, Brees somehow eked out a completion when logic said he should have thrown an interception ... if somebody could catch one.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- On one play, the Raiders look invincible against the run. On the next they can't tackle. LaDainian Tomlinson got to 164 yards off 37 carries in a hit-or-miss manner. He was stopped at or behind the line six times but he also had carries of eight or more yards eight times. Stat to ponder: when the Raiders hold opponents under 100 yards they are 3-1. When they don't, they are 0-6.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Nothing great, nothing horrible except for kickoff returns which averaged 14 yards. Langston Walker blocked a PAT.

COACHING: C -- Norv Turner's decision to punt with four minutes to go in hopes of getting the ball back for a final run was a very by-the-book call and wasn't necessarily wrong. However, having faith in his defense, while watching it struggle, was one heck of a gamble and it did not pay off. The Raiders aren't just the picture of conservative, they are just plain vanilla.


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