Higgins' gaffe may lead to changes

Lane Kiffin had some harsh words for punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins after the Raiders' 17-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Friday. He also indicated the team might be ready to turn to a certain rookie running back for help as a result.

Higgins made a questionable decision to field a punt at his own 5-yard line late in the second quarter with the Raiders leading 10-0. As four Titan players closed in, Higgins started to his left then counter-clockwise back to the 1 where he was swarmed and hit by Paul Williams, who knocked the ball loose.
br> Ahmard Hall recovered in the end zone for a Tennessee touchdown, the only real blemish on what was an otherwise solid first half for the Raiders.
br> Afterward Kiffin was asked about Higgins, who he also criticized for running the wrong way on a third-down pass from quarterback JaMarcus Russell shortly before his fumbled punt.
br> "The score at halftime is 10-0... there aren't if's in football, but if Johnnie doesn't give them the touchdowns on special teams," Kiffin said, "our style of play was working."
br> Higgins scored on a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown in Oakland's preseason-opening 18-6 win against San Francisco and had a 90-yard return for touchdown in the preseason last year as a rookie. But his feast-or-famine ways haven't exactly endeared himself to the coaching staff.
br> While his speed has been a blessing, Higgins' decisions have sometimes been like a curse.
br> "I really don't have anybody (else) to look at, that's the problem," Kiffin said. "There isn't anybody there that's very dynamic with the ball. So we're worried that if Johnnie can't do it, we're in a little trouble in the return game."
br> If Higgins isn't the answer, the Raiders' options are limited after seeing last year's kick returner, Chris Carr, sign with the Titans in the offseason. Michael Waddell fielded one punt against Tennessee but isn't likely to make the 53-man roster after his defensive problems flared up for the second straight week.
br> Chris Johnson, who split kickoff return chores with Higgins in the loss to the Titans, hasn't shown any reason to excited. Rookie Tyvon Branch is wearing a cast on his right hand as a result of a broken thumb and is out of the equation at least until he's healed from surgery.
br> That leaves Darren McFadden, who Kiffin hinted might take over the return duties on kickoffs. McFadden returned kickoffs and punts in college but the Raiders hoped to avoid using him on special teams because of how much they expect to use him on offense.
br> "The answer on kickoffs, unfortunately, is Darren," Kiffin said. "But I don't have an answer on punts."

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