Bill Feig/AP/Press Association Images Michael Crabtree makes the game-winning catch.
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The Redzone: The 'just win, baby' mantra lives on in Oakland
Steve O’Rourke doesn’t want to get too carried away with the Raiders’ late heroics last night. But will anyway.


With 47 seconds remaining last night, and his team trailing 34-33 to New Orleans, Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio took the decision to go for the two-point conversion — and the win — rather than take the safe bet and kick the game-tying extra point.

Statistically, ESPN’s win probability model gave Oakland a 44% chance of winning if they went for two, while kicking the XP gave the Silver and Black a 51% chance of leaving the Superdome with the win.

As Del Rio himself put it after the game:

The thing about win probability is that it doesn’t consider just how awful both the Saints and Raiders defences were in this game.

It doesn’t factor in the fact that New Orleans had already given up over 300 yards through the air.

And it couldn’t possibly factor in that, after Delvin Breaux left the game with a broken fibula, Derek Carr almost always had an open receiver or, at the very least, a favourable one-on-one match up on every passing play.

So, while statistics and probabilities are great, so too is the late Al Davis’s motto of “Just win, baby.”

There was, of course, method to Del Rio’s madness. He was coaching his team to win the game, not to avoid losing it.

In the end, the Saints made the decision easy.

The Raiders immediately signalled they were going for two after Seth Roberts scored the touchdown to bring them within one. They lined up with fullback Jamize Olawale out to the left to ascertain if the Saints were in zone or man coverage.


As Olawale moved back into the traditional fullback position, he was tracked by Saints linebacker Michael Mauti which tipped the Raiders and Carr to the fact that New Orleans were in man-on-man coverage — specifically a single high safety formation known as man-free.

Del Rio then confused matters even more by calling a timeout before putting the offence back on the field in the exact same formation. The Saints answered with the same look on defence so Carr knew exactly what he had to do and Michael Crabtree — isolated with Ken Crawley, playing his first ever NFL game — finished the job:

Sleeper picks

2016 marks my 20th year as a Raiders fan. In that time they have, for the most part, been awful. Indeed, just three times have they posted winning records, the last of which came in 2002 when they lost the Super Bowl to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

So this guy right here, he ain’t no bandwagoner.

However, there is plenty of hype around Oakland as the sexy playoff sleeper pick and that will only grow when people log into NFL Network or Sky Sports News this morning and watch the offensive highlights.

What should not be ignored though is is just how porous the Raiders defence was, giving up over 500 yards to Drew Brees with both Brandin Cooks ( six catches, 143 yards and two touchdowns) and Willie Snead (nine catches, 172 yards and a score) putting up the kind of numbers that saw expensive free-agent signing Sean Smith benched in the third quarter.

That said, Brees did lead the league in passing yards last year so Oakland’s defence won’t be the only ones giving up big numbers like this as the season goes on. More worrying is the fact the Raiders much vaunted front seven — including the likes of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin — put pressure on Brees but only took him to the ground once, a play that resulted in a turnover.

Reasons to be cheerful

Raiders Saints Football Bill Feig / AP/Press Association Images Jack Del Rio was delighted with himself last night. Bill Feig / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

But look. A win’s a win and this is exactly the sort of game the Raiders would have lost over any of the previous 14 seasons.

The NFL season is short, and the Raiders — as week one has proven — are in the most competitive division in football with three of the four teams winning (and the Chargers lost to the Chiefs) so every single win is important.

Next up for Jack Del Rio and crew are the Atlanta Falcons, a team that last night showed they had a secondary that could be even worse than theirs and the Saints.

Expect more fireworks from Del Rio and big numbers from the Silver and Black when they make their home debut.

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