Dream night for Raiders' kicker
September, 13, 2011
By Bill Williamson | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireSebastian Janikowski's 63-yard field goal tied an NFL record and helped the Raiders top the Broncos.DENVER -- Sebastian Janikowski wasn’t overly impressed.
It was much prettier in his dream Sunday night.
“To be honest, I didn’t hit it very well,” Oakland’s rifle-legged kicker said of his NFL record-tying 63-yard field goal that was the difference in the Raiders’ 23-20 win over the Denver Broncos in a sloppy game Monday night.
“I just saw the replay. It barely made it.”
Janikowski was much more enamored with his dream sequence from the night before the opener. While in his Mile High City hotel, Janikowski dreamt he tied the NFL record -- which he now shares with Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam -- and sent the game to overtime. He said he was going for the record in overtime in his dreams.
“It was weird that it all happened,” Janikowski said.
Prior to the game, Janikowski knew his dream could become a reality when he drilled a 70-yarder in warm-ups. He was also much more impressed with that effort than the record-tying kick. Janikowski said Oakland coach Hue Jackson saw the 70-yarder before the game, which gave him confidence in his kicker.
“The Denver air is unbelievable,” Janikowski said. “The ball really carries.”
It is the field goal record capital of the NFL. Elam’s kick came in the Old Mile High Stadium.
Still, Janikowski benefited from a 15-yard penalty by Denver late in the second quarter. Oakland seemed satisfied with running out the clock before a face-mask penalty on Broncos DT Kevin Vickerson. Then the Raiders got aggressive and gave Janikowski a chance. He said he was ready for the opportunity when it came.
But Janikowski is always ready for the chance. The 63-yarder was his seventh field goal of 55 yards or more in his career. His previous career high was a 61-yarder at Cleveland in 2009.
This 63-yarder barely made it. But it was good enough to tie the record and help Oakland win the game. While it gave Oakland a 13-point cushion at halftime, the Raiders needed the points as they held off Denver’s second-half comeback.
“He’s phenomenal,” Jackson said of his kicker. “What Sebastian did is unheard of.”
Here are some other key aspects of the game:
Denver doesn’t do it the Fox way: Coach John Fox’s mantra is simple: Run the ball on offense, stop the run on defense. The Broncos did neither in his debut.
In fairness to Fox, Denver's defense looks much more competitive than it was last season when it was ranked No. 32 in the NFL. But Denver's offense is way out of sync and was mistake-prone. Denver miscues sparked all of Oakland’s points.
The Broncos could not ignite the run game (38 yards on 13 attempts). Kyle Orton threw the ball 46 times. Fox will want to change that approach moving forward.
Defensively, in the end, Denver was beaten up in the run game. It allowed 190 yards on the ground. Oakland star rusher Darren McFadden had 150 yards on 22 carries.
Seeing his team end up minus-152 yards in the rushing yardage outcome will frustrate Fox. Expect him to pound that into his team this week.
Injuries mounting for Denver: Key defensive standouts Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey have injuries. The extent of the injuries is unknown, but Denver can’t afford for either player to be out for an extended period of time. Dumervil said he hurt his shoulder in practice last week. Dumervil, who missed all of last season with a pectoral injury, played only on passing downs Monday night.
Bailey, the team’s star cornerback, left the game with a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter. He did not return. Running back Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and receiver Brandon Lloyd (groin) were also banged up. This ugly night could end up getting worse for the Broncos.
McFadden is a McStud: The Broncos pressed their luck with McFadden and got burnt. After Orton lost a fumble with Denver driving to potentially take the lead early in the fourth quarter, McFadden made him pay for the miscues. He blasted a 47-yard run to the Denver 1-yard line to set up a touchdown that gave the Raiders enough of a cushion to win.
McFadden broke out in his third NFL season last year and became one of the league’s most dynamic runners. He continued it in his opening game of his fourth season. He is a legitimate NFL workhorse.
Hooray for Hue: The win wasn’t pretty and the Raiders will have to do something about those 15 penalties, but this was a big night as Jackson debuted with a victory. Jackson was beaming in his postgame news conference. He knew the win broke some nasty streaks.
The Raiders won to open the season for the first time since 2002. That season ended in the Super Bowl. It also broke an 11-game prime-time losing streak for a team that once dominated the "Monday Night Football" landscape. Oh, and the Raiders remain the kings of the AFC West. They have now won eight straight division games, dating to 2009. It’s the longest such streak in the NFL.