Raiders Special Teams Up To Task

The Oakland Raiders took a big risk Sunday against the Chicago Bears, but the special teams continually shut down the league's most explosive return man.

It was about as good as a specific unit could possibly feel when unaccompanied by a victory.

The Raiders not only pulled on Superman's cape, they suffocated him with it.

Given the suggestion by special teams coach Brian Schneider, Lane Kiffin told the Chicago media during a conference call the Raiders would kick the ball to premier Bears return specialist Devin Hester.

It made big news in Chicago, where Hester is the most explosive football player since Gale Sayers and a threat to go the distance every time he handles a punt or kickoff.

It was more than gamesmanship. The Raiders not only kicked to Hester, they stopped him in his tracks in a 17-6 loss to the Bears at McAfee Coliseum.

Hester, who came in averaging 19.6 yards per punt return, fielded six punts and averaged 2.5 per return, with a long of 9. The Raiders were so brazen that with 10 seconds left in the half, rather than kick it out of bounds, Shane Lechler hammered it high and long toward the Bears end zone.

Isaiah Ekijuiba dropped a retreating Hester for a 4-yard loss at the 7.

Lechler punted seven times for a 48.1-yard average and 46.6 net. The day ranks as one of the highlights of his career.

"That was the most fun I ever had in a football game," Lechler said. "I had a blast."

On kickoff returns, the tone was set early. On the opening kickoff, Hester gained 15 yards and was stopped at the 20. After an Oakland field goal, Hester fielded a kick 8 yards deep in the end zone, brought it out, and was stopped at the 11.

"We're trusting one another, and that's key," long snapper Jon Condo said. "We're staying in our lanes, we're getting down there fast, and we're taking shots. When we can trust one another and trust someone to make a tackle, we're going to have good results."

Linebacker Jon Alston, another special teams regular, said film study revealed that teams that hesitated were in trouble.

"Teams that did good against him were the ones that didn't hesitate," Alston said. "The ones that did (struggle) were the ones that did hesitate. You've got to give him his due, but you can't beat 11 guys all the time. With 11 guys hunting for your head, it's a difficult thing to do."

Kiffin found a Hester quote in the Monday morning papers that said the Raiders special teams players simply wanted it more and played at 110 percent. He read it to the entire team.

"For him to make that statement, I want someone to make that statement about our (entire) team some day," Kiffin said.


  • Injured CB Fabian Washington and starter Stanford Routt were both in the corner of Chris Carr, the reserve cornerback who was victimized on a 59-yard touchdown pass from QB Rex Grossman to WR Bernard Berrian with 3:11 to go that put the Bears up to stay.

    "That's the position we play," Washington said. "You can have a hell of a game, but one play and it's like it defined his whole game. If you put on the film, you'd see this guy played great. And if anybody can sit there and say Carr didn't play well, I really don't think they know football."

    Routt agreed.

    "I love the way he played," Routt said. "Hell, I should play more like him. That's why you don't get involved in the hype of the media, because that's the way it goes sometimes. I think he did great."

  • The Raiders, who have given up 100 yards or more to five different rushers and have ranked near the bottom of NFL rushing stats all season, finally found an opponent they could stop.

    The Bears came in ranked near the bottom of the league rushing stats, and they managed just 78 yards on 34 carries. Leading rusher Cedric Benson gained 76 yards on 29 attempts.

    Kiffin credited the Raiders' tackling, which has been a problem all year, and stopping the "explosive" runs.

    "Our problem hasn't been teams going down the field on us," Kiffin said. "It's been giving up 2, then 2, then 40 yards. We tackled better, and it made a difference."

    DT Terdell Sands, re-signed in the offseason just as he was to become a free agent, had his best game "by far," according to Kiffin.

  • It was another heavy dose of boos from the home crowd for QB Josh McCown, who has been getting the bum's rush from Raider Nation as far back as Week 1.

    First, the fans wanted Daunte Culpepper. After Culpepper struggled while McCown was nursing a broken toe, they turned their attention to No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell.

    McCown insists his standards regarding his play do not involve the paying crowd and their opinion.

    "I have two little boys at home. When I jog on that field, in a situation like that, I think about my two little boys and the fact that I will never, ever be able to look them in the eye and say their dad quit," McCown said. "I go out and play as hard as I can and try to get us in the end zone.

    "As I've said from day one, the booing and all that is not an issue for me or anybody else. It's your job, and you go to work. That's how I approach the situation."

    McCown was moving about much better on Monday than he was on Sunday with an injured right quadriceps, but coach Lane Kiffin would not commit to McCown or Daunte Culpepper as the starter against the Minnesota Vikings.

  • CB Fabian Washington said he warmed up before the Chicago game and had no "burst" and was declared inactive. Washington said he expected to be ready to play in Minnesota.

  • CB Nnamdi Asomugha was inactive due to a knee injury. Coach Lane Kiffin said he thought Asomugha would be available to face the Vikings but couldn't be certain until the week plays itself out.

  • C Jake Grove was inactive because of a knee injury, leaving Chris Morris as the backup for Jeremy Newberry. Grove said he thought he may be ready to play this week.

  • LB Sam Williams said he has been cleared to practice after missing five games with a stinger, but it remains to be seen whether he can regain the starting strong-side linebacker position from Robert Thomas, who has played well in his absence.

  • WR Ronald Curry had his worst game of the season against the Bears, catching three passes for only 20 yards with a long of 9. He also committed two false starts.

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