21 Oct 2008
by Ned Macey
The linked article sorts through the odd situation of two strong-armed quarterbacks consistently throwing safe, underneath throws. While both teams played it too close to the vest, the Jets matched the Raiders on offense and defense but lost the game on special teams.
The Raiders, despite their myriad problems, had the league's best special teams coming into the game. (The Patriots passed them on Monday night, so they are now second.) Other than one errant Sebastian Janikowski field goal, they did little to change that status. The two crucial plays were Janikowski's 57-yarder to win in overtime and a forced fumble on Leon Washington on a punt return that set up the Raiders' first field goal.
In less noticeable plays, the difference was equally stark. Janikowski had four kickoffs into the end zone and two touchbacks. Jay Feely had none. The Jets had no punt return yardage, while Johnnie Lee Higgins averaged 11 yards per return. The Raiders' net punting was five yards longer per punt. Five punts out of seven were stopped inside the Jets' 20.
The discrepancy between the two teams led to a radical difference in field position. The Jets never started a drive outside their own 30-yard line and only one outside their own 22-yard line. The Raiders, meanwhile, capitalized not only on the Washington fumble but started on their own 30-yard line or better on six separate drives (one the result of a turnover rather than special teams).
Needless to say, the very thought of the Raiders winning a game by doing the little things well is surprising. Special teams' success is new to the Raiders, who ranked 29th last season and 26th the year before. If Sunday is to be believed, the improvement seems to be for real.
17 comments, Last at 22 Oct 2008, 4:25pm by df
The Giants and Ravens set a record in Super Bowl XXXV with 21 total punts. That record may well be in jeopardy. But in this battle of top defenses, Carolina's superior and more flexible offense gives the Panthers the edge.