ALAMEDA, CA – The Oakland Raiders (2-1) rushed for 234 yards and averaged 7.3 yards per carry as they came back from an early 10-point deficit to beat the New York Jets (2-1) 34-24, Sunday at the Coliseum in front of a sold out crowd. The win keeps the Silver and Black in a two-way tie with San Diego for first place in the AFC West.
Most of the Raiders’ rushing success goes to starting tailback Darren McFadden. The fourth year player from Arkansas averaged 9.0 yards-per-carry on his way to 171 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a game that the Raiders didn’t take control of until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know what rush defense you’re talking about because they had 234 yards [rushing],” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. “I’ve never had that happen I don’t think in my life but it just happened. We’ve got to look at it, find out why it’s happening. I thought we had a great week of practice. We’ve got to give them credit. They made plays.”
McFadden’s 70-yard highlight run was the play of the game for the Raiders. Down by 10, with a little over four minutes left in the first half, and the Raiders at their own 30 yard line, the Jets were in full control. On second and one, McFadden took the ball around the left end, cut towards the middle of the field, and then dashed towards the end zone to bring the Raiders to within three, 17-14.
“[Tight end Kevin Boss] had a great block on the edge, and when I hit the corner, I didn’t see anything else there and the receivers were down field blocking great,” said McFadden from the podium.
Minutes later, Sebastian Janikowski closed the half with a 54-yard field goal to tie the game. Janikowski had previously attempted a 56 yard try, but the ball sailed nearly a yard right of the goal post for the miss.
The game remained tied at 17 for most of the third quarter, but with 1:43 remaining in the period, McFadden struck again with a 27-yard rush around the left end again, to put the Raiders on the Jets’ 23-yard line.
On the next play, rookie play-maker Denarius Moore ripped off a reverse around the left end to go the distance, and give Oakland their first lead since their opening drive led to paydirt.
On the ensuing kickoff, Janikowski kicked the ball low on a line drive to Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie, who had earlier fielded the first return against Janikowski this season, attempted the catch, but the ball bounced from his hands to the 13 yard line. Rookie tailback Taiwan Jones jumped on the ball for the recovery — putting the Raiders within sight of another score.
McFadden nearly scored again on the first play of the possession. Going off the left tackle, McFadden ripped off a 12-yard run to set up a Michael Bush touchdown plunge the first play of the fourth quarter.
Up 31-17 with 14:58 remaining in the game, the Raiders’ only goal was to not have a repeat of the previous week. “Last week we didn’t dig when we were in Buffalo and we dug today,” said Raiders head coach Hue Jackson.
The Jets pulled to within seven on a Mark Sanchez throw to Plaxico Burress for a 16-yard touchdown with 5:38 left on the clock.
Instead of hanging their heads, or going three and out, Jason Campbell and the offense cobbled together an eight play drive for 49 yards, culminating in a Janikowski 49-yard field goal to make it 34-24 with 2:37 to go. Instead of McFadden making the plays to continue the drive, it was Campbell and Michael Bush that carried the load.
McFadden was stretching a groin injury on the sideline. “I felt like we had a pretty good job running,” said McFadden. “We have another great running back in Michael Bush. You know, there wasn’t any point to try to go out there and try to stress it anymore.”
Campbell started off the drive with a 10-yard scramble from the pocket, but it was what he did in the pocket that made the difference. On second and seven from the Raiders’ 40 yard line, Campbell wasn’t able to find an open receiver, so he began moving to the left of the field. As he was about to pull the ball down and run, he found an open Michael Bush for a 28-yard pass and catch play that was a shoestring from going the distance.
“We had the play to go to the slot receiver’s side and obviously they covered it,” said Campbell of the play. “What coach talked about this week was trying to use my feet to create some plays, some passing plays and I was able to roll out and Bush was able to do a good job of getting downfield and beating his guy.”
“It was a heads up play for him also,” continued the starting quarterback. “I thought that was a critical part of the game. For us to put another three on the board and force them to have to throw the ball to score down the field because it put us up by ten.”
The play didn’t just get the first down, it put the Raiders in position to put the game away. After rushing twice, and forcing the Jets to use the rest of their timeouts, Campbell aired it to the right corner of the end zone to Darrius Heyward-Bey. The pass fell incomplete, but it was mainly due to a questionable non-call of pass interference against Jets corner Donald Strickland.
Campbell finished the game with 156 yards passing from 18 completions in 27 attempts and a QB Rating of 81.7. Most importantly, Campbell finished the game against one of the best cornerback tandems in the league without throwing an interception.
“As a quarterback, you don’t like to throw the ball out of bounds or throw it over their heads in those situations but the way they were playing, if you throw it down the field, it’s almost a pick,” said Campbell of his management of the game. “It was tough but at the same time the receivers didn’t get frustrated, I didn’t get frustrated, we just kept trying to work it and I was able to move the ball.”
The Jets, coming off a season in which they nearly made the Super Bowl, wasn’t going to quit either. Sanchez and the offense used what time was left to drive to the Oakland two yard line. Faced with fourth and goal, Sanchez scrambled towards the end zone when he couldn’t find an open receiver, and dove for the goal line.
On the field, Sanchez was given a touchdown for his efforts, and the Jets were about to be within three points with just 46 seconds remaining. However, this year the NFL is reviewing ALL touchdowns, and upon review, the quarterback’s knee touched with the ball nearly a yard away from the goal line.
With the win, it’s the first time the Raiders have a winning record three weeks into the season since the 2004 season. That team finished with a 5-11 record.
Next week, the Raiders will face the New England Patriots — a team that lost to the Bills after getting up on them 21-0 in the first half Sunday. If the Silver and Black can finish week four with a win, it will be the first time since their Super Bowl run of 2002 that they have finished the first quarter of the season with a record better than .500.
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