What we saw on Sunday from every man in Silver and Black made Al Davis proud. Seeing some of his more controversial personnel moves in recent years make key plays in an important win was more validation for a man whose football mind was as sharp in his 82nd year as it was the previous 4 decades.
Sebastian Janikowski’s four field goals, 3 from 50+, proved Mr. Davis’ decision to take the controversial kicker in the first round was well worth the gamble.
Michael Huff’s victory saving INT validated the continued Davis belief of production over percentages. Huff wasn’t having a great day by any measure as he spent the majority of the afternoon chasing Houston receivers all over the field. But when it mattered most Huff Daddy made the play of the day.
Of all Al’s recent decisions none has drawn as much criticism as the drafting of Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Now I’m not going to act as if it’s all good with DHB. Sure, he’s showing some dramatic improvement in his third year but when a receiver goes top 10 I’m expecting Larry Fitzgerald type production.
That being said, Hey-Bey made a play that helped ignite the Raider revival in yesterday’s contest.
With Oakland’s offense being limited to Jano’s left foot and the defense playing bend-but-don’t-break (as usual) the Raiders needed some momentum going into halftime.
On 2nd and 2, with the ball inside Texan territory, Jason Campbell lined up in the shotgun in a three wide set with Heyward-Bey isolated. With the Texans playing off Hey-Bey, DHB fired off the line, got past the sticks and sat down. Campbell instantly read the D and tossed the ball to Hey-Bey who did the most important thing all receivers must do – secure the catch and move the sticks.
Now that seems pretty simple but when you consider how far he’s come it’s amazing to see DHB trusted as the possession guy on a crucial down.
After making the catch DHB showed the world what Al Davis always envisioned. He put his foot in the ground, turned up field and used his big frame and speed to strike paydirt.
Heyward-Bey shrugged off weak foot tackle, saw day light and ran past a diving Brian Cushing to score a 34-yard beauty that put Lady Momentum back in the lap of the Silver and Black.
Proving the Davis theories on football correct once again, Heyward-Bey showed the world the two things that cannot be coached – size and speed.
Beyond that one play Heyward-Bey has strung together two consecutive games with impressive results. His 115 yards against the Pats came on just 4 grabs while his 99 yards yesterday came on 7 catches.
Now stats are nice but passing the eye test is more important. So far Heyward-Bey is looking every bit the part of a breakout performer this year.
Sure, there is plenty of room for improvement. He’s showing the ability to finally catch the ball away from his body. His route running is looking better by the day which makes that blazing speed even more of a weapon. But he’s still making some of the most simple catches look like an adventure from time to time.
Again, we’ve got to give Mr. Davis some credit here. Nobody doubted DHB’s potential. The only true controversy was in how high he was selected, not that he went in the first round but that he went first among all receivers. Mr. Davis’ patience with some of his projects combined with the continued insistence of letting them learn on the job can be frustrating to endure.
But when you see the results it’s hard to argue the logic. I’m not here to say that all of Al’s decisions have been great but on an emotional Sunday in Houston every one of them paid a king’s ransom.
As for Heyward-Bey, this has got to be a huge building block for his confidence. He’s been working hard to improve and seeing the results has got to be a great feeling.