Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Around the NFL 10/9/11
By Jason Lewis
Published October 9, 2011

Al Davis passes away

Al Davis fought the NFL as the AFL Commissioner, which led to the merger, and he sued the NFL to move the Raiders to Los Angeles. Despite his battles with the NFL, Davis hoisted the league’s Super Bowl trophy three times.  AP Photo

The NFL lost one of greatest figures in professional football history when Al Davis passed away at the age of 82. 

Love him or hate him, which most football fans chose one or the other, Davis left a great mark on the NFL starting in the 1960s, when he was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, and later the general manager and then the owner of the team.

Davis was such a polarizing figure that as word spread on Saturday morning, it was mostly met with shock.  The Raiders are not only one of the most recognizable teams in the NFL, but one of the most recognizable teams in American sports, and Davis was the iconic figure behind the silver and black shield. 

Davis was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1992 because he was a trailblazer, and he was a true maverick.  He changed the game of football on several different levels.

The Raiders won three Super Bowls and five conference titles under Davis’ leadership, and he was a thorn in the side of the league for years.  As the AFL commissioner in the 1960s, he went after many of the NFL’s best players in an attempt to drive the league out of business.  His efforts put so much fear in NFL owners that they merged with the AFL. 

Davis appeared to take a greater joy in winning the NFL’s championship because he fought against the league for so many years.  He sued the NFL, and won, to move the Raiders to Los Angeles in 1980, and then shortly after he won the Super Bowl for a third time in 1984. 

Davis made Tom Flores the NFL’s first Hispanic quarterback when he gave Flores the starting job in 1960, and he also made Flores the NFL’s first Hispanic head coach in 1979.  He hired the NFL’s first modern day black head coach when he hired Art Shell in 1988, and he hired Amy Trask, the NFL’s first female CEO.  

The Raiders played under the mottos “Just Win Baby,” and “Commitment to Excellence,” which were very true statements for the Raiders for a long period of time. 

Al Davis was, and will always be, what the Raiders embody.  A man who did it his way and fought for what he wanted. 

Big games this week

Hue Jackson Dorsey high school

Oakland Radiers head coach Hue Jackson (Dorsey High School) has his team on the verge of being contenders, but if they lose to the Houston Texans, they could find themselves two games behind the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.  Photo by Jeff Lewis

The Raiders are traveling to the Houston Texans for a game that just took on a greater meaning.  The Raiders need to show that they have the ability to bounce back from a tough loss, they need to keep pace with the San Diego Changers, who have an easy game against the Denver Broncos, and they are also playing in the memory of Al Davis. 

This Raiders team seems like they are on the verge of been a contender, but last Sunday they saw first hand what a true contender is when the New England Patriots came to town and ran them out of their building. 

The stats in the game were nearly the same, and they even slightly favored the Raiders.  But the Patriots were up 31-13 at one point because they run like a well-oiled machine, which is something that the Raiders have not been able to do on a consistent basis. 

The one stat where the Raiders came up lame was turnovers, as they threw two interceptions and the Patriots did not turn the ball over at all. 

If the Raiders want to show that they have built themselves into a true contender, they are going to have to win the tough games, like this Sunday’s game against the Texans.  A loss will put them a game under .500, and potentially two games behind the Chargers. 

If the Raiders want to show that they are a legit team, they cannot hover around .500, they need to win games in bunches.

The Texans are 3-1 and they are doing what the Raiders are trying to do, which is becoming one of the AFC’s top teams. 

Jeff Lewis Photography, Playmaker Images

The New England Patriots may have a lot to celebrate when they host the New York Jets.  This is a heated rivalry, and the Jets are struggling right now.  Photo by Jeff Lewis

The New York Jets traveling to the Patriots looked like it would be a great game because both teams are supposed to be playoff contenders, and they both hate each other.  But the way the Jets are playing, that game has blowout written all over it.  

The Green Bay Packers travel to the Atlanta Falcons.  The last time the Packers were in Atlanta they lit up the scoreboard on their way to the Super Bowl.  Both teams are supposed to be NFC contenders, and the Falcons really have some demons to exorcise.  But the Packers look like they are the best team in the league, and quarterback Aaron Rogers looks like he’s playing high school passing league games out there.

Offensive line woes

In the NFL it is extremely important to have a good pass blocking offensive line, and the Jets, Chicago Bears, and Pittsburgh Steelers have far from that. 

The Jets cannot protect quarterback Mark Sanchez, who did not have time to allow receivers to get down field against the Baltimore Ravens last week. 

The Ravens forced Sanchez to fumble twice, both taken back for touchdowns, as defenders came in unblocked and they forced him to throw the ball way too early, which led to an interception that was returned for a touchdown. 

If the Jets cannot solve their line issues quick, they will find themselves out of the playoff race. 

As for the Bears, they had this problem last year.  They simply cannot protect quarterback Jay Cutler, which does not give him any chance to make plays. 

The Bears problem may be offensive coordinator Mike Martz.  Offenses led by Martz routinely give up 40+ sacks, and last year Cutler was sacked over 50 times.  He is on pace for that again this year. 

Martz does not like to run the ball, which is one major problem.  Think back to the Super Bowl when the Patriots knocked off the Rams in 2001.  The Patriots played six and seven defensive backs for the entire game, but Martz still passed the ball for the bulk of the game instead of running it to future hall of fame running back Marshall Faulk.  The poor play calling led to that Super Bowl loss.

Last week Martz closed down the playbook against the Carolina Panthers.  The Bears only passed it 17 times while running it 31 times.  That led to Matt Forte rushing for 205 yards in the game and a Bears victory. 

The Steelers are not protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at all.  Only two other teams have given up more sacks than the Steelers, and the pressure has caused 11 turnovers in only four games for the 2-2 Steelers. 

The Steelers are still in the AFC North race, but if they do not fix their protection issues quick, they could fall out of that race pretty quick.  

Eagles are on the verge of being done

Michael Vick said that the “Dream Team” is dead.  It is probably a good idea to ditch that moniker because the Philadelphia Eagles are 1-3 and if they don’t get right in a hurry, they could be 1-4 if they lose at the Buffalo Bills. 

The Bills are one of the surprising stories of the season, so this is not the best team for the Eagles to get right against. 

The Eagles major problem is that they cannot stop the run.  The Eagles are 31st in the league in rushing defense, and they are giving up 6.2 yards per carry, which is dead last.  To make matters worse, Bills running back Fred Jackson is the NFL’s fourth leading rusher. 

The Eagles have the corner backs to shut down a passing attack, but teams are just lining up against the Eagles front seven and smacking them right in the mouth.  Why pass when a team can just run right over the Eagles defense?    

The Eagles have to get to .500 as soon as possible, preferably before mid season.  But if they dig themselves into a 1-4 hole, that’s going to be tough to get out of. 

It does not help that last week they had some of the silliest turnovers anybody has ever seen.  What was running back Ronnie Brown doing when he tried to pass the ball backwards near the goal line when he was being tackled against the San Francisco 49ers?  Brown may have been thinking about throwing the ball away… on a run play, which was already silly.  But instead of throwing the ball forward he throws it backwards, which is a fumble that the 49ers recovered.

The Eagles also fumbled at the end of the game when they were in field goal range.  A field goal would have won it for them.  That’s just bad football. 

Dallas would be great if…

If quarterback Tony Romo wasn’t one of the biggest all or nothing players ever to play the game. 

So far this season Romo has gutted out two close victories, but he has also made key turnovers in two loses, and in both of those games the Cowboys had a commanding lead.

Up 27-3 last week against the Detroit Lions, Romo threw back to back interceptions, both taken back for touchdowns, in the third quarter, making the score 27-17.  To top it off Romo threw another interception late in the game, as the Lions outscored the Cowboys 31-3 to close out the game. 

Romo can be a driving force in wins against the 49ers and Washington Redskins, who are both average at best teams.  But playoff caliber teams, such as the Jets and Lions, Romo folds, and does it in dramatic fashion. 

Romo puts up NFL history type stats when the game does not matter.  But with the game on the line against good teams he throws the ball game away.


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