"Just win, baby."
Despite his contributions to the game, the lasting legacy of former Raiders owner Al Davis will be those three words, his mantra for his organization. His passion, more than anything else, was seeing the Silver and Black win football games. It didn't matter if it was the three Super Bowls the Raiders captured or a regular-season game in mid-October, more than anything Davis loved seeing his team win.
The owner passed away Saturday, and on Sunday, for the first time in 48 years, the team took the field without Davis' leadership. The Raiders pulled out an emotional victory, 25-20 over the Texans, to give them a 3-2 record on the season. Following the game, head coach Hue Jackson told reporters that while he might not have liked his team's sloppy play, Davis would have loved the end result.
"I know (Davis) right now is saying 'Hue, God dang it, what's going on?' He'd be getting after me because of the way we played," Jackson said. "But he'd be happy because we won the game. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Coach is somewhere up there rejoicing because his team did what he always wanted them to do."
The Raiders now return home for a month, as they play their next three games at home, with their bye in between. They don't play a road game until Nov. 10.
The PFW Spin
Beyond the emotional impact of the game, the victory in Week Five was huge for the Raiders in other ways. Jackson wants to lead his team to the postseason in his first season at the helm, and the Raiders' organization, as a whole, is desperate for a return to the playoffs, a place it hasn't been since 2002. At 3-2, the team has an opportunity to make that a reality.
For that to happen, however, the team needs to improve its play. Even the strength of the team, the defensive line, could use an upgrade. Too often this season, the front four has been undisciplined and careless, leading to big plays for their opponents. While, at times, they have been impressive, it remains to be seen if the unit is mentally strong enough and physically dominant enough to lead the team to the playoffs.
Against the Texans, the Raiders'D-line played well. It helped limit the NFL's leading rusher from last season, Arian Foster, to just 68 yards on 22 carries; 20 of those yards came on a run in the first quarter. They also rushed the passer, sacking QB Matt Schaub three times, hitting him on five other occasions and forcing several off-balance throws, including the final play of the game where FS Michael Huff intercepted Schaub in the endzone to seal the win. For a team that doesn't blitz too often, that is an impressive pass rush.
DT Richard Seymour, the leader of the defensive line, had two of the sacks and added two batted down passes. With Seymour, there's always a bad with the good though, as he was flagged for a blatant roughing-the-passer call on the Texans' final drive of the game. The penalty could have cost Oakland big time, giving Houston 15 yards with no time coming off the clock as it was driving in an attempt to grab the win, but the defense prevailed in the end. The roughing penalty was the second time in as many weeks that Seymour was flagged for that infraction.
In order to make the defense playoff-worthy, Seymour will need to eliminate the mistakes and continue his superb play. That goes for the rest of the line, as well. When the Oakland front four is penetrating offensive backfields and keeping blockers off the team's playmaking linebackers, the Raiders' D-line is as good as any in the league. When they get lazy and allow offenses to overpower them, which is what the Patriots did in Week Four, they have major problems.
There's a reason the Raiders have the 30th-ranked defense in the league, and while it's not all the fault of the defensive line, improved play from that group will help the team follow Davis' famous mantra more often this season.
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