The flight to Oakland had a dubious beginning. The in-flight movie was "The Devil wears Prada." That is as close to a chick flick as I can imagine for a football team to watch. It's like painting your locker-room pink.
Warm-ups gave me a chance to catch up with an old teammate of mine from the couple years I spent in exile in Minnesota. Former Vikings DT Keith Mallard is one of the Raiders defensive line coaches. He told me they were a hungry, enthusiastic group ready to play. Yep.
Chris Kemoeatu got his second start of the season at RG. He still drops his head on pass rushes, which creates quick penetration problems. And getting out on the range and hoofing it to the second level is something he's got to work on. But when he gets his drive blocking "schwerve" going, he's fun to watch.
Arnold Harrison was beside himself with frustration after his knee injury while sitting on the Doc's table. It's a bitter dose of NFL reality to come out of nowhere and claim a roster spot and have your season finish that way.
Ben's second INT that Thomas Howard tipped and Nnamdi Asomugha caught showed what staring down a WR in the NFL will do. Santonio Holmes has to learn to flip the switch after an INT and get after the guy running with the ball with the intensity that he runs routes.
I just happened to be at the right spot for a wrong moment for the Steelers and Cedric Wilson on that reverse. I looked directly into Ced's eyes as he took the handoff from Ben. He was looking up-field at the moment the ball hit his belly.
Game officials are going down faster than the price of gas. HL John McGrath blew out his ankle/Achilles tendon area while positioning himself for a play. Only six officials finished the game, just like Kansas City.
Speaking of Max, the great Mike Webster once told me after a lousy outing, "You'll have days like that on big jobs like this."
Lose a Casey Hampton, you lose a big chunkeration of your defense. Chris Hoke did a pretty dad-gum good job of clogging up the middle in Hamp's absence. He defends the stretch play almost as well as Casey. His greatest challenge is when he's called on to sit and anchor on the double team, when he's not gaming with the ‘backers, using his quickness and agility to overcome big hogs. That's where Casey really shines.
Clark Haggans wins the John Wayne tough guy award. Watching him come off the field after the Atlanta game, I thought there was no way he'd play yesterday. Two sacks and seven tackles later he proved me wrong. Don't tell me these guys don't care or have pride. That cat played in some pain.
Two unsportsmanlike penalties back to back in the 3rd quarter against Foote and Porter were disturbing. You simply can't have it. No matter what, a pro has to have control. The ability to restrain yourself after a play is just as important as the ability to pull the trigger during a play.
I can't believe the horse collar call on Aaron Smith. That's a great play and a lousy rule. As if calling facemasks aren't hard enough for officials to see, now a player's gription point on the back is an issue. They're feminizing a great game.
I was watching the hogs on the field after the Kirk Morrison break-up on the 4th and goal pass attempt to Santonio Holmes. The look of disbelief on their faces and unwillingness to come off the field right away showed me how bad this one got to their gullet. Been there, done that, and it's a sickening feeling.
Mistakes are an issue, and players will have to be held accountable because results are the only thing that ultimately matter. But I don't question their fighting spirit. Not from my vantage point. Not even for a moment.