Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel, Etc.

S&BI Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2005


At 1-4, and with wide receiver Randy Moss likely out of action, the only thing left for the Oakland Raiders is to make a run for it. Moss did not practice Thursday and was listed as doubtful. "If he recovers and can run full speed, we'd love to have him," Turner said, although it was clear he did not expect anything that dramatic over the next few days.

The San Diego Chargers laid waste to the Raiders on their home turf with LaDainian Tomlinson rushing for 140 yards on 31 carries and pulling off a rare triple -- rushing touchdown, touchdown pass and touchdown reception.

The Buffalo Bills come to town Sunday with Willis McGahee, who ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing with 604 yards and claims to be Tomlinson's superior.

LaMont Jordan sees this and does a slow burn. Signed to a five-year, $27.5 million free agent contract, Jordan was supposed to be the savior for a team coming off its worst rushing season in club history.

The Raiders ranked 32nd last season with 80.9 yards per game and went 5-11. They've moved up to 31st this season, but are averaging fewer yards per game (70.6) and are averaging 3.4 yards per carry.

In Buffalo, the Raiders have an ideal opponent to get the running game on track. The Bills are ranked 30th in rushing defense at 158.5 yards per game and in the past five games have given up 148 yards to the Jets' Curtis Martin, 97 to Miami's Ronnie Brown, 130 to New Orleans' Deuce McAllister, 97 to Atlanta's Warrick Dunn and 148 to Tampa Bay's Cadillac Williams.

With Moss listed as doubtful with bruised ribs, a strained groin and bone bruise in his pelvic bone, the Raiders may want to re-enact their offensive philosophy from Week 4 when they had their best rushing game of the season.

"Look at our record and our one victory - 26-126," Jordan said.

Those figures represent Jordan's career high in both carries and yardage. In the Raiders' four losses, Jordan has 59 carries for 184 yards.

Jordan, who had 36 yards on 12 carries against the Chargers, relished the opportunity to showcase himself as a lead back on the same stage as Tomlinson and came away disappointed.

"That's my opportunity to go out there and solidify who I am," Jordan said. "You've got L.T. versus me. I'm not going to lie, I felt I was going to have a big game."

Turner believes some of Oakland's other problems - including a 27.4 percentage at converting third downs (31st) and a 46.7 ratio in the red zone - could be alleviated with a consistent 4 to 5 yards on first down.

"The biggest thing is getting the running game some continuity, some consistency," Turner said. "It will help everything else."

The Raiders didn't help their cause falling behind 14-0 to San Diego, or with the numerous times they've started off drives with a penalty.

"It's real hard to stay committed to the run in those situations," quarterback Kerry Collins said.

Time is running out, Jordan believes.

"In the NFL, it's a race to 10 (wins). You're not going to have an 8-8 team making the playoffs in the AFC, I a guarantee," Jordan said. "I've been in the league four years and have been to the playoffs three. That one year, it was hell. Personally, I don't want to go through that again."

SERIES HISTORY: 34th meeting. Raiders lead 18-15, having won last three meetings. Raiders won 13-10 in their home opener last season. Last Bills win as 44-21 in 1998.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Raiders have failed to score more than 20 points in a game through give games _ the first such streak in franchise history.

--Baltimore, the New York Jets and Houston Texans have also failed to score more than 20 points in a game. The combined record of the Raiders, Ravens, Jets and Texans is 5-16.

--In Oakland's 13-10 win over the Bills in Week 2 last season, Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe was sacked seven times. The Raiders had only 16 sacks in the next 14 games.

--The Raiders have started 1-4 only twice in the Al Davis era (1992 and 1996) and finished 7-9 both times.

--Following a 44-21 loss to Buffalo in 1998, the Raiders played 53 consecutive regular-season games without losing by 10 or more points. The 53rd game was a 49-31 win over Buffalo. The Raiders lost to the St. Louis Rams 28-13 to end the streak the following week in 2002.

--The Raiders gaudy 6.07 yards per play on first down is skewed by 10 first-down plays that have totaled 342 yards - including pass plays of 73 and 64 yards to Randy Moss.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Carries LaMont Jordan needs to equal his career high as a backup to Curtis Martin with the New York Jets. He had 93 carries for 479 yards in 2004.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If Randy can't go, put it on No. 34's shoulders." - Running back LaMont Jordan.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Wide receiver Ronald Curry, out since Week 2 after undergoing surgery for a torn Achilles' was placed on injured reserve. Rather than sign another receiver with Randy Moss probably being out, or elevate a receiver from the practice squad, safety Calvin Branch was signed to the roster.

Branch worked in the Raiders personnel department last year and hasn't played in an NFL game since 2000. He doesn't expect to be active and said he will serve as an extra pair of eyes for the coaching staff.

Since Moss played split wide, in the slot and in motion, three receivers will help fill the void. Doug Gabriel, who had 5 receptions for 84 yards last week, plays exclusively outside. Jerry Porter and Alvis Whitted can both play in the slot or outside.

Another option is second-year receiver Johnnie Morant, who was tied for fourth in the preseason among all NFL receivers with 15 receptions and second in yardage with 315.

Coaches, however, are privately concerned with Morant's knowledge of the offense and lack of detail. If Morant isn't active, the nod would go to Carlos Francis, a second-year man out of Texas Tech. PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--C Jake Grove, although cautiously optimistic of a return, was listed as doubtful and took only individual drills Wednesday before taking the rest of the day off.

--DE/LB DeLawrence Grant did not practice and was listed as doubtful. His primary role was playing as an outside rusher in the dime defense with his hand down. If absent, Tyler Brayton or possibly Grant Irons could get increased snaps.

--TE Randall Williams caught two passes for 39 yards against Dallas. He will continue to play as a tight end, but alignments with two tight ends could be part of the plan without Moss.

--RT Robert Gallery was penalized for a hold and a false start - both in the fourth quarter in his worst game of the season.

GAME PLAN: The Raiders will look to attack Buffalo much the way they did Dallas - get Jordan 25 or more carries, control the line of scrimmage and hope to get a few big plays from Collins in play-action.

On defense, Oakland will look cut slow Willis McGahee and rush Kelly Holcomb. The Raiders had seven sacks against the Bills in Week 2 last season and didn't have a pass rusher the quality of Derrick Burgess.

On special teams, Sebastian Janikowski will look to put Bills kickoff return specialist Terrance McGee in corner and get continued good work from punter Shane Lechler.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Raiders kickoff coverage team vs. Bills kickoff return team. The Raiders are ranked 31st in the NFL, with opponents starting on average at the 30-yard line. Buffalo's average drive start is 33.2, the best in the NFL. Bills' return specialist Terrence McGee leads the NFL with a 34.6 average. Raiders' kicker Sebastian Janikowski has just two touchbacks, both in to the north end of the Coliseum where the wind is favorable.

Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha vs. Bills receivers Eric Moulds and Lee Evans. Asomugha has played it safe but fairly well this season. His penchant for playing deep and giving up the short pass could hurt against a Bills offense that has seen Kelly Holcomb throw almost exclusively short passes. Moulds has just 202 yards on 24 receptions with a long of 19. Lee Evans, with 14 receptions for 201 yards (14.4) is the deep threat.

INJURY IMPACT: With Randy Moss unlikely to play, the Raiders could conceivably benefit from going back to basics on offense. They will be forced to run the ball and be unconcerned with running pet plays to get Moss open deep.

If Jake Grove is out, center Adam Treu will have to step up his blocking inside, particularly when faced with helping out on Buffalo's Sam Adams.


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