Al Davis’ spirit lives on in rookie head coach Hue Jackson. An owner with swagger, Davis demanded the same from his players and coaches, and there was no retreat in Jackson’s voice when asked for his thoughts about playing the undefeated Packers this Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“I think everybody is beatable. You just have to play your best game. You have to play probably as well as you’ve played all year in order to do it. Everybody is going to take their shot at them. It’s our opportunity now. We’re the next team up. We’re not coming there to lose, that’s for sure. We’re coming there with an attitude that we’re coming there to win a football game, and that’s what you have to do. If you don’t, you might as well not even make the trip,” Jackson told Packers media via conference call on Wednesday.
At 7-5, the Raiders are tied with Denver for the AFC West lead, but the Raiders are coming off a 34-14 loss in Miami that makes this the most challenging two weeks of the Raiders’ season: a team from California that played in Florida seven days before it has to play in Green Bay. Needless to say, the Raiders will find the weather conditions very different this Sunday.
“That’s the schedule we have and we have to play in an unbelievable stadium against a really good football team and we look forward to the challenge,” Jackson said.
Carson Palmer, the quarterback for whom Jackson traded at midseason, sounded almost giddy about the prospect of playing in Green Bay.
“It’s my favorite place to play. I love getting a chance to go out there and play and be in that atmosphere. It’s fun to be cold. We’ve got a chance to play against the champs and they’re undefeated. We’re in desperate need of a win,” Palmer said.
The Raiders need a win to keep pace with a red-hot Broncos team that hosts the Bears on Sunday.
“It’s a tight race for everyone in our division. It’s a race to the end but I kind of like where we are. We just have to finish well over these next four weeks,” Jackson said.
A win in Green Bay would do more than keep the Raiders in first place in the AFC West; it would be a game-changer, a coming out, so to speak, for a franchise that has spent a lot of years in hiding since it was last relevant. It’s a team that’s attempting to memorialize its patriarch with a season that would’ve made him proud.
“Al Davis is the Raiders. It was really tough when we lost him. He was somebody I could deal with all the time about things that went on with the team. We’ll always miss him but we also know we must continue to move forward. We’re doing everything we can to honor him the right way by winning this division and, hopefully, get into the playoffs and make a lot of noise and challenge for the Super Bowl,” Jackson said.
The plan for doing that hinges on the Raiders’ running game, ranked fourth in the league. Big back Michael Bush has replaced the injured Darren McFadden and has rushed for 686 yards and six touchdowns. He figures to get the ball early and often on Sunday, as the Raiders attempt to dominate time of possession and limit snaps for Aaron Rodgers and company.
“We need to get back to playing Raiders football, get back to doing what we do,” Jackson said. “We’re a big, physical football team and we need to play that way. We need to be able to stop the run and we need to be able to run the ball. That’s where it starts for us and that’s where it’s going to end. We need to be who we are and that’s what we plan on doing.”
“Control the clock,” Palmer said. “We weren’t successful the last two weeks running the ball, and it’s definitely on our minds, something we’re getting screamed at and ripped for, but something we’re working very hard on, because you have to keep the ball out of Aaron’s hands and keep those receivers off the field.”
No team has executed that strategy successfully against the Packers dating back to last season, and the Packers will attempt to make the Raiders consecutive victim number 19.
“It just goes to show you how good they are to stay undefeated that long, because everybody wants to be the team to knock them off and nobody has done it. We’re excited about the opportunity, but we just need to get a win, for our own record,” Palmer said. Additional coverage - Dec. 7