The Oakland Raiders: Changing the Way the Game Is Played

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Thomas Howard #53 and Kirk Morrison #52 of the Oakland Raiders celebrate after a play against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 18, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Author’s note: These quotes did not happen anywhere...other than in my head.

When historians look back upon the marvelous game of football, they will point out the Raiders-Eagles game on Oct. 19, 2009, as a turning point in which the way the game of football is played.

The defensive advancements made in this game conjure up images of the apes, in Stanley Kubric’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, coming to the realization they can use bones as clubs to beat the holy hell out of something.

It is obvious now that the presence of the now-famous pigeon on the field is tantamount to the black monolith from 2001, which marked a change in the course of human evolution. Looking back on the game, I cannot help but hear the big drums and horns of the song synonymous with that iconic movie, Also Sprach Zarathustra, playing in my head.

The struggling Oakland Raiders changed their season while ushering in a new era of football. The innovative defense pounded and confused the Eagles vaunted passing attack into impotency. On many occasions, the Raiders sent players from positions other than defensive line after Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb

They sent five and even six guys into the backfield after the dumbfounded and helpless quarterback. After this new defense was unleashed, the game was held up for minutes, while a flabbergasted head coach, Andy Reid, protested with the referees about the legality of such tactics.

“I don’t see how this is legal?” Reid said after the game. “A few times they sent six people...six! In case anyone didn’t notice, there are only five offensive linemen!”

After the game, the referees issued a statement: “We convened and all agreed that the Raiders did nothing outside the scope of the rules when they sent more than four players past the line of scrimmage. Mr. Reid brought to our attention that it seemed like illegal men downfield, but we assured him that that rule only applies to offensive players.”

McNabb was equally confused, saying “It didn’t seem right man. A couple of times they had defenders rushing in on me who weren’t even blocked, but I can’t blame my guys 'cause they didn’t know where they would be coming from. It’s crazy. This is not football.”

Longtime Raider voice Greg Papa may have coined a new term for this defense during his play calling of the game. Here is an excerpt: “Again the Raiders send a sudden rush of pressure after McNabb with linebackers. Down goes McNabb! Donovan McNabb is under a blitzkrieg attack. Mr. McNabb, consider yourself blitzed!”

As if this was not enough for the Eagles to handle, the innovations did not stop there. On some of the Eagles' passing plays, instead of Raider defenders guarding a man, they were playing certain areas of the field. Each defender guarding a specific territory, or “zone.”

Again McNabb was thrown for a loop.

"I would drop back to pass and see one of my receivers breaking free and think this play was just going to be too damn easy," he said. "I would throw it, only to have another defender come in and break it up. It was just craziness out there."

And again his pleas to the refs went unanswered.

"I asked them if they saw Raider defenders letting my guys just run pass them deciding instead to guard areas of the field! They said it was legal," McNabb said. "Yeah right, and NFL games can end in ties. I am not buying it."

The referees released this statement after the game:

“Mr. McNabb expressed his concern over the defense the Raiders were playing. At first, we did not think it was legal either. We had to pick up a penalty flag, because we could not find a rule it was breaking. Mr. McNabb urged us to review how many men the Raiders had on the field. He felt that there were at least 12. We thought so at first too, but upon further review they were only using 11.”

After the game Raiders players were ecstatic, basking in the success of these new tactics.

“We are never going to lose again!” predicted an excited Richard Seymour.

“Everything that happens on this team,” expanded Nnamdi Asomugha, “trickles down from the top. With this kind of vision and forward thinking on our side, the rest of the league better look out.”

It was obvious that Nnam was referring to Raiders owner/GM Al Davis. Take note, NFL; with his new “blitz” and “zone” defense, Davis has just changed the football landscape...again.