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Sunday, October 18, 2009
Harsh criticism spurs Oakland's upset win

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

 
  Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
 The Oakland Raiders were clearly motivated against Philadelphia.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

OAKLAND -- Antonio Pierce’s harsh comments about the Oakland Raiders ended up doing both the Raiders and his New York Giants a favor.

Pierce’s words woke the Raiders up, who reacted by punishing the Giants’ NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, in a 13-9 upset win Sunday. Somebody should ship a game ball to Pierce.
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After a four-week funk, the Raiders finally played with the passion they showed in a narrow Week 1 home loss to San Diego. In the three games prior to its stunning win over bumbling and unprepared Philadelphia, Oakland was 0-3 and was outscored 96-16. The embarrassment reached a climax last week when the Giants beat Oakland 44-7. Pierce said playing Oakland was like playing a “scrimmage” and he expressed shock at how listless the Raiders were.

“I’m not going to lie, it was noticed by us,” Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison said. “We talked about it. We don’t want people saying that stuff about us. We all agreed that we were not playing with confidence and it was time to wake up. Those comments really got us going. ... What happened to New York today. They gave up 48 points [in a 48-27 loss at New Orleans]. This is a week-to-week business … But Antonio did us a favor by saying those things.”

Oakland defensive tackle Gerard Warren had this to say: “I hope we can get to the Super Bowl and face the Giants again … [Pierce] has no effect on this locker room.”

Actually, he did, and it was positive.

Oakland rookie Louis Murphy said the players took Pierce’s comments to heart.

“We had enough,” Murphy said. “We wanted to end this nonsense.”

Murphy played a major role in ending the nonsense. The play of the game was an 86-yard touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell to tight end Zach Miller on a 10-yard pass. Murphy, a fourth-round pick from Florida, threw two nasty blocks for Miller, who rambled into the end zone to give the Raiders a 7-3 lead. It was Oakland’s biggest play of the day and the only touchdown of the game.

When asked if that play could be the turning point of Oakland’s season, Murphy said, "I think it is."

It takes only one win to change the morale of a locker room. And for now, all is well in Oakland, whether Pierce thinks so or not.

Warren said Oakland, thanks to its win Sunday, can now focus on the good and bury the past month.

“Spaceships don’t have rearview mirrors,” Warren said. “You can only look up.”

Here are some other key developments from Oakland’s win:

Here comes the blitz: The Raiders finally unleashed the blitz Sunday. Oakland had blitzed only 20 times going into Sunday’s game.

Oakland pressured Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb relentlessly. The Raiders had six sacks, their highest total since 2005. Philadelphia had major trouble with the blitz after left tackle Jason Peters left in the first quarter with a knee injury.

“We came after them hard,” Warren said. “We wanted it.”

Eagles coach Andy Reid admitted that his team didn’t expect Oakland to blitz much and that the Eagles were unable to adjust.

Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said the Raiders worked on blitzing in practice often during the week. He said he hopes the team continues to use it more in the future. The Raiders play host to the New York Jets on Sunday. Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez has been shaky in recent games, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Oakland tried to harass him.

Stopping the pass: Perhaps it was Oakland’s blitzing, but the Eagles were out of sorts all game. The team could do little right on offense and Reid tried to solve the problems in the air. Forty-six of Philadelphia’s 60 offensive plays were passes. McNabb completed 22 passes for 269 yards.

The Eagles ran the ball twice in the fourth quarter.

“We thought they would run some more, but they just kept throwing,” Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “We just adjusted and played it pretty well.”

Oakland’s effort in the pass-defense game was admirable considering Asomugha missed most of the game with an eye injury. He said he the injury is not expected to be long-lasting.

Just enough offense: Oakland won this game on defense and because the Eagles floundered all game. But the offense did show some improvement.

Oakland had 325 yards of offense. It was the first time since Week 1 that the Raiders broke the 200-yard mark in total offense. Russell wasn’t great and he missed several open receivers. But he didn’t kill the Raiders.

He completed 17 of 28 passes. The Raiders continued to play it safe with Russell, but he looked comfortable. A key for Russell is finding Miller, his favorite target. Russell threw to Miller 11 times. Miller ended up with six catches for 139 yards.

Miller is Russell’s way out of the abyss. If Russell can rely on Miller, cut down his mistakes and throw accurately, he has a chance to salvage his season.