There’s no other way to describe the Raiders’ win at Houston a day after Al Davis’ death than stirring. Maybe the most emotional win of any Raider win among many, many emotional wins in the team’s glorious history. This game, although just the fifth regular season game of a long season, will always be remembered by Raider fans.
The game was poetic in that so many players that Davis hand picked played key roles in the victory – kicker and controversial number one draft pick Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record by kicking 3 50+ yard field goals and adding a fourth, curious #1 pick (and seven overall) Darius Heyward-Bey caught 4 passes for 99 yards including a key TD on a splendid individual effort, DT Richard Seymour had a huge game with two sacks and pass deflections, and another former #1 pick Michael Huff made the dramatic game-ending interception.
One play in particular seemed to be heaven-sent. When Texan FB Vickers dropped a pass with about three minutes left in the game, where he could have probably walked into the end zone. With a two-point conversion, it would have tied the ball game. It was as if Al’s hand came in and knocked that ball down.
This is a game that the Raiders would have lost last year.
They didn’t really play that well, but they played hard and kept playing hard until things turned around. They even overcame a couple of bad calls, notably a phantom hold on a big McFadden run.
Here’s hoping the effort displayed is just the start of many more, but with better execution.
Back to Al Davis, Jim Plunkett wrote an excellent tribute to him on Yahoo Sports where he described him as the very definition of sand in the oyster. I was also impressed by what presumed Raider-hater Michael Silver wrote:
Davis and I had a nonexistent relationship – we had one meaningful conversation, when he spoke to me on the phone for nearly an hour for a 2002 Sports Illustrated feature I wrote on Trask. He banned me from the team’s training facility and locker room on numerous occasions, and I wrote plenty of critical articles that he undoubtedly despised. And yet, the man was one of the most influential and fascinating figures the sport has known, and his death was sobering and marked the end of an era. As I watched the Raiders honor his memory in Houston from the Candlestick press box, as coach Hue Jackson had told me they would the day before, the experience was more emotional than I could have expected. There is no cheering in the press box, and I am 100 percent down with that rule – yet on Michael Huff’s game-clinching, end-zone interception with no time remaining, I found myself pumping my fist and letting out a restrained but audible yelp of relief. And all I could think was, What is wrong with me? It wasn’t merely that I was rooting for a good story; it was more than I was captivated by what this statement meant to the men who made it, and how much they wanted it to be validated by a victory. As defensive end Richard Seymour told me afterward, “It was very [emotional], because of how he has touched us all in some way or another.” And Jackson? I loved the way he coached this game, from an early flea-flicker that should have resulted in a touchdown to the gutsy fake punt that extended a fourth-quarter drive to the incomplete deep ball to rookie receiver Denarius Moore when conventional wisdom called for the team to bleed the clock in the final minutes. Later, watching that video footage of Jackson’s postgame speech to the team (in which he said of Huff’s interception, “I tell you this, Al Davis had his hands on that ball, man …”), I had chills. What can I say? I tell readers all the time that I don’t care who wins these games, but this was an exception.
I don’t think a true Raider fan could’ve said it better.