(by Stewart Upton)
RAIDERS ISSUING LOTTERY TICKETS TO DEFENSIVE PLAYERS – Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen, a former defensive coordinator with the Broncos, deserves some of the credit for the teams improved defense this year versus last. He and Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver have worked together to create a defense that is simple for their players to understand but hard for opposing offenses to read. Grab some paper and a pencil. Class is in session and Tarver is at the chalkboard:
“It’s categories,” he said. “We can make the (defense) look totally different by only switching two or three guys and what they do. ‘Hey guys, you all know this call right? Well you two guys are going to switch.’ “So now, to an offense, it looks totally different because somebody is blitzing and somebody is dropping when it’s the same call to everybody else.” Tarver adds and changes categories every week, and players pay attention because any one of them might be getting a clean shot at the opposing quarterback. That’s a winning lottery ticket for the defense – and 12 players have cashed in with sacks. – Vic Tafur, SF Gate
RAIDERS-STEELERS GAME SOLD OUT, TELEVISED LOCALLY – The Raiders game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday sold out, and it will be televised locally, a team spokesman said Thursday.
“This marks the fourth sellout in as many regular-season home games for the Raiders this season. They sold out 19 of their past 20 such games dating to the start of the 2011 season.” – Steve Corkran, Bay Area News Group
STEELERS FAVORED BY 3 – PITTSBURGH (2-4) at OAKLAND (2-4) Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS … OPENING LINE – Steelers by 3
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – Raiders won only two meetings in Oakland between teams since 1995. … QB Ben Roethlisberger two TDs shy of joining Terry Bradshaw as only Steelers with 200 in career. … Pittsburgh ranks 31st in sacks with eight after tying for most in NFL over previous five seasons. … Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley leads team with five sacks and has at least one in four straight games. … Pittsburgh’s six TDs on 16 red zone trips second worst in NFL to Jacksonville. … – Associated Press
ALLEN STILL CONFIDENT IN SEABASS – Head Coach Dennis Allen discussed injuries, facing the Steelers, new LB Martez Wilson and more as the Raiders get set to face Pittsburgh.
Q: Have you seen progress with [Sebastian] Janikowski through the bye week?
Coach Allen: Yeah, listen, I think he’s going to be fine. Everybody goes through a little bit of a rough patch. He obviously has. Obviously with the expectations that we have of him, and I think we all have pretty high expectations that every time he trots out there he’s going to kick it through the uprights, but it’s just been a situation where he’s got to be mentally strong. He’s got to continue to battle through it and he will. When you look up at the end of the year, I think all of us will be pleased with the results of what we’ve seen out of him.
Q: Was it any more disconcerting that the one he missed last time he came up short, which I don’t know if we’ve seen that for a long time that he basically mishit a ball that came up short instead…?
Coach Allen: Either it goes through or it doesn’t. And that’s really all we look at. Did it go through or did it not go through? I still have confidence I can trot him out there at any time and feel good about the ball going through the uprights. My confidence in him hasn’t wavered at all.
Q: You have those conversations with him. I know all the coaches do before every game and the head coach, ‘Okay, what do you think your range is today?’
Coach Allen: He’ll lie to me every time. No, so we feel confident really once we get 40-yard line and in, in a normal situation, we feel pretty good about it. Obviously, if it’s to win the game, we’ll extend that out, but he’s still got a strong leg. He can still knock it through from a good ways out there. I’m not worried about him.
CATCHING A FEW BODY BLOWS AT THE WRONG TIME – Tony Sparano once took over a 1-15 team in Miami and had the Dolphins in the playoffs as an 11-5 division champion the next year. So yeah, the Raiders assistant head coach, who is also Oakland’s offensive line coach, knows all about challenges. But his current situation with the Raiders’ banged-up O-line is a different animal. A wounded one, so to speak.
“There’s body blows that go on in our league every single day,” Sparano said. “We just happen to be catching a few body blows right now at the wrong time, and you’ve got to be able to overcome them. “People that can overcome them the best and the fastest will end up being in the mix at the end of this.” – Paul Gutierrez, ESPN
RAIDERS 2014 OPPONENT IN LONDON IDENTIFIED – The 2014 International Series games are set and an unprecedented six teams will play a regular-season game in London next season. The OAKLAND RAIDERS will host the MIAMI DOLPHINS, the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS will host the DALLAS COWBOYS and the ATLANTA FALCONS will host the DETROIT LIONS at London’s Wembley Stadium next season. NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL confirmed the match-ups today at a luncheon with sports journalists in London. The dates and times of the games will be announced at a later date.
“Our fans in the UK continue to demonstrate their passion for more football,” Goodell said. “Next year for the first time we will play three regular-season games in London. We have scheduled three attractive games with four teams playing in their first International Series game. The growing enthusiasm for the NFL internationally is exciting and we look forward to continuing to respond to this interest in our game.”