The last time the Oakland Raiders sold out Oakland Alameda County Coliseum was September 14, 2009 on the Monday night season opener against the San Diego Chargers.
The Raider faithful that filled Oakland Alameda County Coliseum yesterday were treated to an exhilarating and exhausting comeback overtime win against arch rival Kansas City.
The win was the first time the Raiders have won three in a row in the AFC West since 1990 and three in a row overall since their Super Bowl runner-up season of 2002. It has been a long time since a matchup between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs was relevant and meant so much to the AFC West.
Several milestones were reached as Oakland walked away with a improbable 23-20 overtime win behind rookie wide receiver Jacoby Ford's playmaking ability and kicker Sebastian Janikowski's 33-yard game-winning field goal.
The Raiders looked good defensively and kept the Kansas City running game in check, stuffing back to back 3rd-and-1 possessions to start the game and causing the Chiefs to punt twice. For the better part of four quarters, the Raiders defense hurried and harassed Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel and forced him out of the pocket and to make plays with his legs.
The Oakland defense would end the day with three quarterback sacks, which is impressive when you consider that Kansas City has allowed the second fewest sacks with eight for the entire season. The Raider run defense was the difference maker and should be given all the credit for keeping the game close.
Kansas City never got its running game going and was forced to throw the ball in less then desirable weather conditions. When the Chiefs did go to the air they took advantage of Nnamdi Asomugha's absence and picked on veteran Chris Johnson whenever possible.
The Raider offense seemed to be out of sync and struggled to get anything going for most of the game. The offense took to the field and ran the "Wildcat" formation that highlighted red-hot running back Darren McFadden, who was coming off back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.
There is a glaring need for a legitimate wide receiver. Credit the loss of tight end Zack Miller, who can easily stretch defenses and open up the offensive attack. The emergence of rookie Jacoby Ford in crunch time and the fact that tackle Khalif Barnes has just as many touchdowns as No. 7 draft pick Darius Heyward-Bey speaks volumes. Even when Bey was targeted, he and the other receivers could not seem to hold on to the ball.
Make no mistake about it; Jacoby Ford was the difference maker in this game. His kickoff return for a touchdown to open up the second half seemed to breathe life back in to the team and the sullen crowd.
But Ford saved his best work for last as he rose to the occasion and singlehandedly snatched defeat from the waiting hands of a Kansas City defensive back and pulled down a catch that would lead to the game-tying field goal from earlier goat Sebastian Janikowski.
Ford's touchdown return was the longest since the team moved back to Oakland and his 148 receiving yards and 158 kickoff return yards made him only the second player in NFL history to have at least 140 receiving yards and 150 kickoff return yards in the same game. The other was Gary Ballman, who on Nov. 17, 1963 had 161 receiving yards and 159 kick return yards for the Steelers.
After another Ford catch in overtime, kicker Sebastian Janikowski trotted out to the field and nailed a 33-yard field goal to seal the game, and end a seven-game home losing streak to the Chiefs.
The win was ugly, but it was a win that both the team and the Raider nation desperately needed. The fans had endured so many ups and downs during the game that included everything from turnovers to referee blunders. It was a moment that seemed to legitimize the efforts of a team that at times could not seem to get out of its own way.
The Raiders go into a bye week and are left with several questions that must be addressed before they hit the road and face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Who exactly is the starting quarterback? Jason Campbell has stepped up and guided the team to three consecutive victories, but he has done so on the shoulders of Darren McFadden and the Raider running game. Campbell still looks lost at times and has trouble finding the open receiver.
As each week passes, incumbent Bruce Gradkowski grows healthier and awaits his chance to reclaim his starting position and add that spark to the team that only he can provide.
Also, there is a glaring need for a wide receiver to step up and solidify himself as the “go to Guy." Ford was impressive, but can he be counted on week after week to carry the load?
Darius Heyward-Bey is an enigma and week to week his Houdini act only leaves fans and coaches scratching their heads and wondering exactly who and what he is. He was targeted five times and ended the day with no catches. When will it be DHB's turn to step up and prove that the Raiders did not waste their pick when they selected him seventh overall in the 2009 draft?
Lastly, the organization needs to hold players accountable and make a genuine effort to drastically cut down on the penalties. When was the last time the label, "the most penalized team in the NFL" did not belong to the Oakland Raiders. Not only does it show the immaturity and lack of concentration of the team, but it also enables opponents to get back in to the game and gain momentum.
But for now Raider fans, enjoy this victory. It has been a long hard road, and many of you weathered it without ever waning. Yes, you true Raider Faithful have suffered for nearly a decade while your team underachieved and sank deep into the depths of inconsistent play and shattered expectations.
This win may signify a change not only in attitude but in performance and culture. The Raiders proved recently that they can win big, and suck it up and win ugly. This change is like a strong wind, and it is an autumn wind at that.
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