Two plays define Oakland's season

Two plays - and they happened in succession - defined the Oakland Raiders season. Both came on offense and both ended in the defense taking the field.

Tight end Randal Williams lost fumbles on consecutive receptions in the fourth quarter as the Raiders floundered on offense. His position coach, John Shoop, was elevated to offensive coordinator in place of Tom Walsh on Tuesday of last week.

"Obviously, I feel bad," Williams said. "We all wanted Shoop to win his first game as offensive coordinator. You've got to feel bad for the organization, feel bad for the Raider Nation. I let down a lot of people today. No excuses. I just have to bounce back and be better against Cincinnati."

Place kicker Sebastian Janikowski, listed as questionable all week with a sore back, missed field goal attempts from 53, 39 and 29 yards. At least one Oakland special teams defender, Jarrod Cooper, called it a "questionable" decision to have Janikowski kicking when the Raiders had a pair of place kickers in for workouts.

Coach Art Shell, however, decided not to sign Paul Edinger or Kurt Smith. It was the first time Janikowski had missed three field goal attempts in a game since 2001.

Shell said Janikowski had received a clean bill of health from trainer Rod Martin, and that was good enough for him.

Punter Shane Lechler, the holder on place kicks, said Janikowski may have been a little stiff but thought the two shorter field goals were struck well -- they just happen to hit the left upright.

It didn't help that with veteran long-snapper Adam Treu out for the season after quadriceps surgery, the Raiders had a rookie snapper in Chris Morris. Since Janikowski didn't kick until Friday, their practice reps were limited.

"Whenever you break up a battery like me and Adam and (Janikowski) that's been together for seven years, and throw somebody else in there, it's tough," Lechler said. "It's over and I'm not going to blame anybody. Not me, not Chris, and not Seabass."

The latest on left tackle Robert Gallery, out since Nov. 19 with a dislocated left elbow, is he might return for the final two games of the season -- at home against Kansas City Dec. 23 and on New Year's Eve against the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.

"I was shooting for next week, but that will be tough," Gallery said of Sunday's game in Cincinnati. "Right now the week after is my goal. I'm working on getting my full range of motion back. Sometimes I feel pretty good, then I go out and punch and I couldn't break a paper bag."

After going the final eight minutes of the game with no timeouts, Shell said Oakland's problems had to do with players lining up incorrectly.

"I thought we were getting the plays in on time, but you have to call the formation and get it correct," Shell said. "When you realize you're not in the right formation for the play call, we had to use time outs."

It happened twice.

Oakland also used a timeout before a Houston field goal attempt because there were 12 men on the field and blew a chance at going for a fourth-and-1 play because of a delay of game penalty.

"We didn't get it called in the huddle and get to the line of scrimmage on time," Shell said.

Texans:

On one play, he was in the backfield picking up a sack. A few plays later he was in the flat, nearly picking off a pass. A couple more plays went by, and he was forcing a fumble.

Then there was the recovered fumble, the interception and a host of tackles sprinkled throughout.

There was a corporate name on the building. The face of a pirate wearing an eye patch was painted at midfield. And thousands of wild fans were acting as if they ran the place.

But make no mistake about it: For one afternoon, at least, DeMeco Ryans owned McAfee Coliseum and the Raiders.

Ryans had a special day Sunday in what has been a special year, posting a stunning stat line that likely will earn him Defensive Player of the Week honors in the NFL and could springboard the rookie to a Pro Bowl.

Ryans had 15 tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, a sack, a quarterback pressure and three pass breakups to lead the Texans to a 23-14 win over Oakland.

The season high in tackles is the top individual effort by a Texans defender this season.

"He had quite a phenomenal game," Texans defensive coordinator Richard Smith said. "That's the best I've ever been around for a young guy. He ought to be Defensive Player of the Week for the NFL."

Ryans' teammates agreed.

"It makes a lot of teams look bad for passing on him (in the draft),"cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "I don't think there's a veteran linebacker that is playing as good as he is right now. I'm glad he's on my team.

"I haven't seen a linebacker play like this since Jamie Sharper left, and he might be a little bit better than Jamie was right now."

Ryans, who was taken first in the second round in this year's draft, entered the game leading the NFL with 83 solo tackles and added 14 stops to that total with a dominating performance.

"I don't know that I've ever been around a rookie like him," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's been doing those things all season."

Some of the things he had not done. The fumble recovery, forced fumble and interception were firsts for him this season.

"If you expect to be good in this league, you have to force turnovers and put the ball in your offense's hand on the short side of the field so they can put points on the board," Ryans said.


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