The Oakland Raiders limped into their critical AFC West matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs missing key players on both sides of the ball. However, they played out Cable’s mantra of team first and other guys stepped in to fill the void.
The biggest name on the injured list entering this game was All World defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha. His mere presence on the field is something that opponents plan their passing game around-throw it where he isn’t. He regularly renders even the most elite receivers harmless. However, he was out with a sprained ankle and Chris Johnson started in his place. The Raiders only allowed 200 yards passing.
On offense, their pro bowl caliber tight end Zach Miller couldn’t go with a foot injury. His absence likely contributed to their struggles in the passing game, but second year tight end Brandon Myers stepped in an d had three catches. Reserve tackle Khalif Barnes has been used as a blocking tight end, but he now has a catch in each of the last two games, including a two yard touchdown grab.
Miller was not the only key portion of the offense that was missing. Wide receiver Louis Murphy missed his second game with a bruised lung. Another expected starting wide receiver Chaz Schilens has not found his way onto the field. Rookie Jacoby Ford had six catches for 148 yards in the best performance by a Raider receiver since Jerry Porter had 148 yards against the Titans in 2004.
In the first half, first round pick Rolando McClain had to leave the game with a hip pointer. Special teams player Ricky Brown stepped into the all important mike linebacker role and helped hold the league’s top rushing attack 75 yards below their per game average. After the game Brown chalked it up to the backers seeing themselves as a unit, “with the (linebackers) its kind of like the Marine Corps. If a guy goes down, you’re gonna pick up his rifle and go fight.”
In the second half, strong safety Tyvon Branch was forced out of the game with a concussion. Mike Mitchell, just a year removed from being a controversial pick, stepped up and finished the game with no dropoff, sans one touchdown where someone missed their assignment and Mitchell was forced to cover Dwayne Bowe. After the game Mitchell said of guys stepping up, “A: We’re a team, 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. Bad things happen all the time. You give up a play, we’re not going to point the finger and get down, we’re going to pick each other up. That’s what we did.”
Cable summed up the ability of the different players to step up and help the team succeed, “We’re becoming that kind of team where when someone goes down someone steps up. You have to take your hat off to those guys that replaced them. Chris Johnson stepped right in no big deal, Brandon stepped right in no big deal. Maybe didn’t have as many catches as he would have liked but he caught some key balls. “
This is one sign that the Raiders are maturing as a team, and that Cable has changed the culture of the team and they won this critical game. Guys are stepping up to fill the roles tht the team needs, and that is what good teams do to win.