Inside Slant, Matchups, Quotes, Injuries, Etc

The Oakland Raiders are the NFL's pickless wonders, treating interceptions as if they're against the rules. Although playing better in pass coverage than a year ago, and despite an upgraded pass rush, the franchise that once had ballhawks such as Willie Brown and Lester Hayes has just two interceptions through nine games.

And both of those are suspect.

In Week 3, Warren Sapp caught a Donovan McNabb deflection at the line of scrimmage for interception No. 1. The following week, with time running out at the end of the first half, Drew Bledsoe made a Hail Mary throw into the end zone which Charles Woodson intercepted as time expired.

Sapp isn't likely to intercept any more passes this season, and Woodson is out with a broken leg. Other than Woodson's meaningless interception, Oakland's last pickoff by a member of the defensive backfield came last Dec. 19, when Denard Walker had an interception of Billy Volek when the Raiders played the Tennessee Titans.

The last Raider to intercept a pass and run it back for a touchdown was Phillip Buchanon last season in Week 3. Buchanon's coverage was so suspect he was traded to Houston in the off-season. The Texans rank dead last along with the Raiders with two interceptions.

In each of the last two weeks, the Raiders dropped sure interceptions, with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha having one bounce off his hands against Kansas City, and linebacker Kirk Morrison dropping one against Denver.

Raiders defensive backs merely shrug their shoulders when asked about the dearth of interceptions, noting that they often come in bunches.

Coach Norv Turner, whose team has eight fumble recoveries, believes interceptions will come.

"We had our hands on the ball," Turner said. "We are getting so much better in that area. In practice, we're getting to the ball and catching it. Nnamdi had one a week ago he didn't catch. Kirk had one. We're getting to the ball, and now we have to take the next step when you get the opportunity to catch the ball."

The Washington Redskins, Sunday's opponent at FedEx Field, have just four interceptions, none of them from their cornerbacks. Coach Joe Gibbs said had no explanation for the dearth of takeaways, saying, "It's always been a bit of a mystery to me."

Turner said one of Oakland's problems this season is having faced a series of quarterbacks who make very good decisions.

"Look at the quarterbacks we play against," Turner said. "We don't play against guys that throw a lot of interceptions. We've faced some very good quarterbacks who are careful with the ball. Jake gave us a chance for two, I thought, and we didn't get them. You have to take advantage of the chances you get."

New England's Tom Brady, Kansas City's Trent Green, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb, Bledsoe, San Diego's Drew Brees, Buffalo's Kelly Holcomb, Tennessee's Steve McNair and Denver's Jake Plummer have combined for 2,199 passes and have thrown 49 interceptions - or one interception every 44.9 attempts.

Mark Brunell, Sunday's opponent, has just five interceptions in 290 attempts.

Defensive end Derrick Burgess thinks the interceptions are like forced fumbles - do the right things and there's a reward in the end.

"You've got to keep working every week. Just be out there to make those plays because you never know when they're going to come," Burgess said. "The interceptions will come before the season's over if we do a good job keeping pressure on the quarterback."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Raiders lead 6-3. Teams have not played since 1998, with Raiders winning in Oakland 29-19. Raiders last won in Washington 20-9 in 1995 in Week 2 in first game back in Oakland after 13 years in Los Angeles.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Raiders coach Norv Turner was in charge for two games for the Washington Redskins in games against the Raiders, going 1-1. The Raiders won 20-9 in 1995, but Washington played a key role in an Oakland free fall in 1998.

With the Raiders at 7-4 under first-year coach Jon Gruden, Turner's 2-9 Redskins dealt the Raiders a 29-19 defeat in Oakland. His post-game comments sound familiar to what he could be saying down the stretch seven years after.

"When you're a competitor and you like to play football, you have a lot to play for," Turner said.

--The fumble by Tatum Bell which was forced by Derrick Burgess - a play in which Burgess leveled Bell and knocked him backward, with the ball coming loose - was the first forced fumble of his career.

--The Raiders missed Washington the last time they faced the AFC East in 2001, a season in which they beat Philadelphia, the New York Giants and Dallas but lost to Arizona, which was in its last season in the division before moving to the AFC West.

--Defensive end Derrick Burgess had what might have been the Raiders' hit of the season in forcing a fumble from Denver running back Tatum Bell. The force of the blow knocked Bell backwards, with Jarrod Cooper pouncing on the loose ball.

"I kind of timed it up pretty good, I guess," Burgess said.

Burgess, however, thinks one thing kept it from being perfect.

"It would have been better if it was a quarterback," Burgess said.

--Quarterback Kerry Collins was grateful that running back LaMont Jordan defended him to the media after Collins was booed by the home fans and questioned sharply in the postgame press conference.

"It's great to have a guy like LaMont support you," Collins said. "I think he's come in here and been a pretty good leader for us. It's nice when people take up for you. I'll do the same for him."

--Center Adam Treu will be the only player in uniform Sunday who played when the teams last met in Oakland in 1998.

--The Raiders beat the Redskins 20-8 in 1995 in their second game of the season and their first road game as the Oakland Raiders after 13 years as the Los Angeles Raiders. Quarterback Jeff Hostetler threw for two touchdowns and completed passes to nine different receivers for 205 yards.

--Wide receiver Randy Moss, who has not granted an interview to Bay Area media since the season opener at New England, taped an interview that is to air Sunday on ESPN.

ESPN aired a portion of the interview, in which Moss pauses six full seconds and appears to roll his eyes when asked his thoughts about coach Norv Turner.

Turner, when asked about it, said, "Should I wait 15 seconds?"

He then said he read the transcript of the entire interview and thought Moss was extremely positive.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 - Fair catch called for by punt return specialist Chris Carr in 26 returns.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You live and die on third down in this league. That's where you make your money." - Raiders center Adam Treu.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Communication will be key among safeties Stuart Schweigert, Jarrod Cooper, nickel back Renaldo Hill and linebacker Kirk Morrison when it comes to defending Washington H-back Mike Sellers. Sellers has just nine receptions, but five touchdowns. Defensive Rob Ryan must decide how to best deploy those defenders and make sure they're responsibilities are clearly defined. Offensively, the probable return of Jake Grove at will give the Raiders a less experience regarding line calls at center, which was a strength of Adam Treu. PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--DE Bobby Hamilton opened the week as doubtful, meaning he will likely miss his third consecutive game. That means additional snaps for ends Derrick Burgess and Tommy Kelly, and occasional play at end for Tyler Brayton.

--C Jake Grove has been getting most of his work at center and will likely return to that position against Washington. Adam Treu was limited at practice with tendinitis above his left kneecap.

--DT Warren Sapp has four sacks in his last five games against Washington, all of which came as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

--RB LaMont Jordan topped 1,000 yards in yards from scrimmage against Denver. With 640 yards rushing and 399 receiving, Jordan's 1,039 yards ranks fifth in the NFL.

--QB Kerry Collins has a 5-2 record against Washington.

GAME PLAN: The Raiders will look to catch the Redskins for big plays on the blitz, particularly early in the game, so they can get Washington to ease off on the pressure. Opportunities early against Denver slipped away, and the Broncos got off to a 23-0 lead. Defensively, Raiders will attempt to seal off the run - the Redskins ran surprisingly well against a stout Tampa run defense - and keep Mark Brunell pinched in the pocket.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Redskins LT Chris Samuels vs. Raiders DE Derrick Burgess: Drafted by Washington in 2000, Samuels was installed by then-Washington coach Norv Turner as the starter from Day 1 and has started 85 games since. Burgess has been more effective as a non-starter and change-of-pace rusher but has thrived while playing more of late after an ankle injury to Bobby Hamilton. He is the Raiders' best natural pass rusher.

Raiders WR Randy Moss vs. Redskins CB Shawn Springs: Moss appears to be emerging from an injury-induced haze with a season-high six receptions last week against Denver. Springs has been virtually non-existent - a good thing for a cornerback if it means he is not being called out for being victimized by the opposing wide receiver. Springs will get some help, but his ability to stick with Moss on those plays where the Raiders have something specifically called for their best playmaker will be crucial.

INJURY IMPACT: Although C Jake Grove's likely start at center could hurt Oakland from the standpoint of experience and line calls against the blitz, it should help in terms of running the ball at the middle of the Washington line as Grove is a more powerful point-of-attack blocker than Adam Treu. Bobby Hamilton's absence at defensive end was hardly noticed last week as the Raiders defended the Broncos running game well, giving up 3.2 yards per carry.

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