Full team effort keeps Raiders atop division
Posted By Eli Kaberon
It's not too often that kickers and punters receive more attention than quarterbacks and pass rushers, but that's exactly the case when reviewing the Raiders' Week 12 victory over the Bears. The performances of PK Sebastian Janikowski and P Shane Lechler cannot be ignored, and they were vital to the team's 25-20 victory. Janikowski set a franchise record with six field goals, while Lechler punted five times for a net average of 49.2 yards, completely negating the impact of Chicago All-Pro return specialist Devin Hester.
Janikowski aided the offense and Lechler put the defense in position to succeed in the victory. However, there were also more than a handful of players on each side of the ball who also deserve major credit for the victory, which kept Oakland in sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
The PFW spin
Three of the Raiders' next four games are on the road, where the Raiders are 4-1 this season. To continue those winning ways, they'll need more performances like these in the coming weeks:
- How has the Raiders' offense continued to thrive without injured RB Darren McFadden or WRs Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford? Because they've put other players in spots to succeed, specifically FB Marcel Reece. On Sunday, Reece lined up in the backfield, at the end of the line like a tight end and even out wide similar to a receiver. He finished the game with five receptions for 92 yards — including a 47-yard reception — along with two carries and a handful of big blocks. Since missing time early in the season with a ankle injury, the versatile fullback has become one of Oakland's most important players.
- The most important play of the game against the Bears wasn't a field goal or punt by one of the specialists; it was the interception made by OLB Kamerion Wimbley at the end of the first half. With Chicago driving inside the Oakland 10-yard line, Wimbley sniffed out a throwback screen pass, jumped in front of Bears RB Matt Forté and picked off the throw, bringing it back 73 yards to put the Raiders in position to add some more points before the second quarter ended. The play was at least a six-point swing, all the difference in the final score.
- Safety has been an inconsistent position for the Raiders this season, as the last line of defense has occasionally been out of place and allowed big plays. That happened again on Sunday, as Bears WR Johnny Knox got behind S Matt Giordano for an 81-yard reception late in the fourth quarter. Still, the performance of SS Tyvon Branch was too good to ignore. He led the team with eight tackles and also had a sack. When Branch is all over the field making plays, the Raiders are usually successful.
- Finally, the improved play of QB Carson Palmer has to be acknowledged. A few weeks back, when he threw six interceptions during his first six quarters in the Silver and Black, it looked like the Raiders' season was going to sink with their trade for the former Bengal. While turnovers are still an issue, Palmer has drastically cut down on mistakes and is becoming much more comfortable in the Raiders' offense. The special teams will be there every week, and the Oakland defense has shown it can rise to the occasion when necessary. If Palmer continues to play well, a long playoff run for the Raiders is not out of the question.
Follow Eli Kaberon on Twitter