x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Oakland finds a silver-and-black lining

Oakland Raiders found inspiration for a last-stand play to defeat the Houston Texans and 'just win baby' for Al Davis, their late owner, who had died a few days earlier.

Hue Jackson was overcome with emotion when his Oakland Raiders managed to hold off the Houston Texans' finally drive.
Hue Jackson was overcome with emotion when his Oakland Raiders managed to hold off the Houston Texans' finally drive.

On the game's final play last Sunday, with Houston needing five yards for the go-ahead touchdown, the quarterback Matt Schaub rolled out. Staring at a vast expanse of green grass, he elected to pass instead of run it in.

The safety Michael Huff intercepted to preserve a 25-20 Oakland Raiders win, and moments later it became apparent why Schaub saw open spaces: Oakland had only 10 men on the field.

Observers attributed the improbable finish to the "Hand of Al".

Hue Jackson is a believer, sort of. The Oakland coach might not go so far to say Al Davis - the Raiders' gruff owner who died the day before at age 82 - mystically used the players as hand puppets.

He does contend that Davis's spirit lifted them, even if one neglected to report for duty on the last play.

For all of Davis's enemies - and there was no shortage - he inspired deep loyalty in some.

One was Jackson, whose instant reaction to the victory was dropping to his knees and weeping.

"Losing that man hurt me more than you know," Jackson told the team amid a muted celebration in the locker room.

"I know he loves you guys, just like he loves this coaching staff and this organisation."

As the Raiders bowed their heads, Jackson added: "Al, we love you. We know you're watching over this team."

What some coaches would consider meddling, Jackson regarded Davis's constant input as instructive. The boss would not just duck into his office unannounced but would phone him at any hour.

Some outsiders had long viewed Davis as a self-appointed super-head coach. It was no coincidence that Jackson and others addressed him as "coach". It is inarguable that the once-innovative man in black, who advanced the passing game, had let the game - at least the off-the-field aspects - pass him by.

His fondness for signing and drafting ne'er-do-wells who were asked to abide by one commandment - "Just win, baby" - had become an antiquated approach as other franchises thrived with high-character players.

Now it falls on Jackson, an unsung offensive coordinator until his promotion, to decide how much of his mentor's methods to carry over, and how often to evoke his memory.

Bruce Davis, a Raiders linebacker, will need no reminder. He met Al as a toddler when his father, also named Bruce Davis, was a Raider.

"He gave two generations of Davis men the opportunity to live out our dreams and play football," the young Davis said in tribute. "There's nothing like that silver-and-black jersey."

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

@ For more on the NFL 2011-12 season visit thenational.ae/topics