Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski
The Oakland Raiders had several key standouts on special teams that would warrant a game ball. Let’s start off with Chekwa’s heads up play on Royals muffed punt in the second quarter. The recovery gave the Raiders starting field position only 37 yards shy of the end zone and putting Oakland up 17 – 0. Marquette King had a booming punt of 64 yards backed up to Oakland’s own 11 yard line in the 4th quarter. Tracy Porter got in the mix with a blocked field goal early in the third quarter. In an unusual turn of events the blocked kick was recovered by San Diego’s TE Green behind the line of scrimmage and was able to run for the first down. But the game ball for special teams goes to Seabass! Janikowski only made a pair of field goals Sunday night but both came from the infield, meaning on the dirt. The second of the two field goals was a 50 yarder from the dirt to put the Raiders up by two scores with under 5 minutes left in the game. With the recent misses by Janikowski it was an excellent sign to see him return back to himself and coming through during clutch moments like Sundays.
Defense: Charles Woodson
The defensive performance of Oakland Sunday was outstanding. Haven’t had a interception all year and the Raiders secondary was able to come away with three of them against Philip Rivers. Early on the opening drive of San Diego on a 3rd and 10 scenario Rivers overthrew Royal and Usama Young was there waiting. This interception would then set up the one play touchdown from Pryor to Streater rocking the house. DJ Hayden came up with what would be perceived as the game clenching interception at the back of the end zone with 1:48 left in the game. Not only was it a monumental moment being the first career interception in the young career of Hayden but hopefully he’s learning from a legend… Charles Woodson gets the defensive game ball, and how could he not? 13 defensive touchdowns, tying the record of Darren Sharper and Rod Woodson who ironically scored his 13th touchdown while wearing the silver and black. Woodson’s fumble recovery and run of 25 yards for a touchdown wasn’t his last in the game though. Woodson intercepted Rivers one more time with 0:45 left in the game and allowing Pryor to make the best play in football. Taking a knee, and for this, Woodson gets the defensive game ball.
Offense: Terrelle Pryor
On offense Denarius Moore was able to scorch San Diego’s secondary for 84 yards and a touchdown. Moore did have a 33 yard touchdown called back due to an illegal touch pass penalty in which Moore ran out of bounds on his own rendering himself ineligible. Rod Streater set the whole crowd on fire when he beat Derek Cox on a 44 yard jump ball for a touchdown on the Raiders first offensive play of the game. Some would argue this was the play of the game setting the tone for the first half and inspiring a sell-out crowd. But the offensive game ball has to go to Terrelle Pryor, his NFL career is practically a story book that Al Davis used to read to Mark Davis before tucking him in at night. Took a chance on a fast, big athletic player in the supplemental draft was a typical Al Davis pick. Unfortunately it was Al’s last pick but you couldn’t help but think he was smiling down upon the coliseum Sunday night. Looking like the next franchise quarterback for Oakland. Pryor had a quarterback rating of 135.7, the highest rating for a Raider quarterback since Rich Gannon 138.9 in September 2002. Not only did he start the game with a huge 44 yard touchdown but he finished it with a 20 yard pass to Brice Butler on 3rd and 14. Flushed out of the pocket as usual he was able to remain calm and poised and deliver a crisp bullet to Butler for the first down, which would later lead to a 50 yard field goal by Janikowski putting the Raiders up by two scores with 4:24 left in the game. Pryor would finish the night with 18 of 23 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns, and 31 yards rushing. Keep in mind all of this came without LT Veldheer, RT Watson, and OC Wisniewski. Pryor also didn’t have the help of McFadden to run out the clock and protect the lead. So for this, Pryor easily deserves the game ball, and quite possibly a new contract!
OFFENSE: Terrelle Pryor — 18/23, 221YDS, 2TD
This one is a no-brainer. On the Raiders’ very first offensive play, Pryor hit a streaking Rod Streater down the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown. The next time he got his hands on the ball was no less impressive, as he masterfully eluded pass rushers and carved through the Chargers defense with both his arm and his legs en route to yet another touchdown pass, this time to Denarius Moore in the back corner of the endzone. His first incompletion didn’t come until more than halfway through the second quarter of play, and he was responsible for zero turnovers. The wildfire became a smolder in the 2nd half, but Pryor’s statement had already been made: The NFL game is not too big for him.
Honorable Mention: Denarius Moore — 5 Catches, 84YDS, TD
DEFENSE: Charles Woodson — 4 tackles, 1 INT, 1 Fumble Recovery, TD
Once again, it would be some sort of blasphemy to give the Defensive game ball to anyone other than Woodson. After halftime, the Raiders came out flat on both offense and defense. They needed a spark, and that spark came in the form of Kevin Burnett crashing through blockers and punching the ball from the hands of Danny Woodhead. The Chargers offense, like so many offenses before, could only watch as No. 24 scooped up that ball and ran it all the way to the endzone. It marked Woodson’s 13th defensive touchdown, tying him with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper for the most in NFL history. He later added his 56th career interception with less than a minute remaining in the game, effectively squandering any remaining hope for the Chargers.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Burnett — 14 tackles, 1 Sack, 1 FF
SPECIAL TEAMS: Marquette King
Marquette King is a young stud of a punter, but his punting is not what earned him this honor in my book. I was most impressed by his ability to overcome adversity and pull through at a crucial moment. All year long he has struggled in his other new role: holding field goals for Sebastian Janikowski. But on Sunday, with only 4 and a half minutes remaining, Marquette and Seabass got on the same page and connected on a 50-yard field goal to extend their lead to 10, and put the game out of reach.
Honorable Mention: Tracy Porter — 1 (kind of) blocked FG