There are two sides to every coin. There is also two schools of thought in regards to the miraculous game that Jacoby Ford had against the Chiefs last Sunday.
One school is that this is Ford’s coming out party and the other is that it is just another example of how many playmakers this team has and it was simply his turn to step up.
The latter was echoed by several of his teammates after the big come-from-behind win over the Chiefs. Several times we heard Ford’s Raider teammates pointing to the team aspect as opposed to the individual. The mantra of this team under Cable has long been “Next man up.” As Mike Mitchell puts it, “We’re always going to say ‘next man up.’ We’re a family. So when someone’s got to step up, hey, it’s your turn to step up.”
That school of thought makes some sense considering just last week versus the Seahawks, Darrius Heyward-Bey had his coming out party. Then this week, DHB sees some extra attention and has zero catches while Jacoby torches the defense. The week prior to that it was Darren McFadden pulling an Al Bundy with his 4 touchdown day versus the Broncos.
But let’s take a broader perspective on what Jacoby Ford did on Sunday.
Purely from a numbers standpoint, it was an all-around great performance. Having 148 yards receiving is a pretty good day for a Pro Bowl calibre receiver. Having a 94 yard kickoff return for a touchdown is a great day for a return specialist. And having over 300 total yards is a great day for anyone.
But this is no All-Pro receiver we’re talking about. This is a 4th round rookie who, in his 7 games as an NFL player had never started a game and had a total of 4 catches for 37 yards. Heck, he didn’t even start THIS game. It is one thing to come out of nowhere, it is another to show up from nowhere like this.
Then to further appreciate his performance, you have to see his plays by their significance in the scheme of the game. His first play was his kick return for a touchdown. Which, by itself, it is important enough. But considering it was the first points the Raiders had in the game after being stagnant through the entire first half, it meant a whole lot more. It jumpstarted the entire team and everything changed in the game after that.
Ford had 6 catches in this game– all in the 2nd half and overtime. And three of those catches were three of the most important catches any Raider receiver has made in a game for a long time. The first was a short, wide throw that he came back and laid out to catch for 37 yards which led to a field goal.
The 2nd was the most amazing of all and it made the rounds of the highlight videos for a couple days after. If you haven’t seen it, welcome back from your coma. With just a few seconds left on the clock, Jason Campbell put up a last gasp heave in the hopes that his short, speedy, rookie receiver could catch it. Well, he didn’t. The Chiefs Brandon Flowers intercepted it…. for an instant. That was until Ford just took it out of his hands as Flowers attempted to come down with it. And with :07 on the clock, Sebastian Janikowski kicked the game tying field goal to send it to overtime.
In overtime it took one play to put the Raiders in scoring position and it was a long pass play that took every bit of Ford’s sub 4.3 speed to catch up to it. But he reached out and fingertipped it to put the Raiders in field goal range yet again. And Janikowski put the game away.
That isn’t where this story ends. The numbers are great, the fact that it was a rookie who has never started a game is miraculous, and the fact that every one of his plays in this game were critical to getting the win all stand on their own merit. But to gain complete perspective, you must see this performance in the scheme of this season and the 7 previous seasons of futility.
This was against the AFC West leading Chiefs and brought the Raiders to 3-0 in their division for the first time since 1990. It gave them their first winning record (past week 3) since 2002, and their first three game winning streak since 2002 while showing a confidence the Raiders have not had since that time either. A confidence that could have been shattered if it weren’t for Ford’s amazing plays at those critical times.
Here are a few things Ford’s teammates had to say about his performance after the game:
“Jacoby Ford stepped up to the plate today, and to be honest with you, he had…one of the best receiving outings that I’ve seen since I’ve been here. I honestly can’t think of anyone else who’s had a better receiving day than he has. He had three huge plays, catches that you don’t see people make, and you know, it was an amazing job by him. I’m proud of him. We all knew that he could do it and just excited to see it.”
“He wants the ball. He’ll come back, say ‘give me an opportunity’ and you respect that from a guy, that wants the ball and wants to make the big play. It’s exciting because he’s just a rookie… I was excited to see Jacoby go get that ball. It meant a lot from a quarterback standpoint, you see a guy, you put it out there for him and see him burst into another speed and go get that ball, it’s just exciting, not just me but for the whole team.”
“Big game. Rookie, I love him. I love him, I swear. I told him I would give him anything he wanted right now. Two big catches and that kickoff return. He came up huge. HUGE.”
“Well, Jacoby, it was just he had the opportunity to make the plays that came to him. I don’t think you can say a lot more about that. It was a heck of a effort and performance on his part.”
So regardless of whether this is a “Next man up” situation or the start of something great for Jacoby Ford, it doesn’t much matter. I am not really sure which situation I’d prefer to see. He stepped up big when this team called upon him. If he continues to do so, great. If someone else steps up next week and the week after that as they had the weeks prior, that would be great too.
For now, however, this performance is one that stands on it’s own merit. Regardless of which perspective you choose to view it. Whether it be his status as a rookie, his day statistically, the importance to the team, the significance to the season, or it’s place historically.