In the same old stadium, with the same quirky owner, in the same black and silver uniforms, before many of the same fans who swore after Los Angeles and (soon) Las Vegas that they wouldn’t be fooled again, well, hit the pause button.
You swear Al Davis is speaking from the grave.
“Just win, baby.”
By routing the New York Jets 45-20 in the home opener Sunday before a packed, boisterous Coliseum crowd, the Raiders started the season 2-0 for the first time since 2002 and are threatening to make the case that winning cures everything. Anger, frustration, depression, disillusionment. Even if the panacea proves only temporary, coinciding with the duration of the Raiders’ stay in Oakland, the East Bay’s most exciting team in 15 years is making it hard to look away.
On a gorgeous afternoon against the worst of New York’s two NFL teams, the Raiders introduced their new star running back, Oakland’s own Marshawn Lynch, then opened up the playbook and put on a dazzling, curtain-to-curtain show.
Michael Crabtree caught touchdown passes of 2, 26 and 1 yards. Cordarrelle Patterson scooted over from wide receiver to tailback and burst through the defense for a 43-yard scoring scamper. Amari Cooper contributed four receptions and 33 yards. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio – also known as Sebastian Janikowski’s replacement – was perfect on all six PATs and had a 29-yard field goal. Jalen Richard bolted up the middle for a 52-yard TD. Quarterback Derek Carr threw darts, threw fades, threw deep, threw short and converted 23 of 28 passes for 230 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The maligned defense produced its own share of big plays, among them a nifty deflection in the end zone by rookie Gareon Conley and a fumble recovery by Karl Joseph after his blindside hit on Jets quarterback Josh McCown.
But about the home debut of the Beast Mode, and about that dance. These Raiders are led by Carr, but they are fueled by Lynch, the All-Pro back who ended his one-year sabbatical to sign with the NFL team from his neighborhood. While he punishes opponents with his bruising, relentless strides, around here, he pretty much walks on water, too.
Perhaps anticipating the fans’ lusty partisan reaction during pre-game introductions and not wanting to detract from his teammates, Lynch asked Richard and De’Andre Washington to accompany him onto the field.
“I was like, ‘It’s cool, if they (Raiders) say it’s cool,’ ” Richard related afterward. “He was like, ‘Man, it don’t matter what they say. You boys are coming out there with me.’ So that got me pumped, it just let you know how much he believes in us and has the confidence in us. It just makes us play harder.”
The priorities entering the game ranked accordingly: secure the victory, set up Lynch for his first touchdown and walk back into the locker room relatively healthy, meaning there were smiles all around afterward. The Oakland Tech and Cal product didn’t dominate, but he punished, he persisted. He powered up the middle on his longest run, a 13-yard gain, and carried 12 times for 45 yards. After a muffed punt return gave the Raiders the ball back on the 4-yard line, Lynch carried once and was stopped for no yardage. He took the ball again and and went the other way, to the left, this time for two yards.
Finally, on a third attempt, he punched through the middle and scored what proved to be the deciding touchdown late in the first half.
And that dance? That wild, loosey-goosey exhibition? After Richard stunned the Jets with his long scoring run early in the fourth quarter, Lynch engaged in a wild dance of sorts on the sideline, his arms, his legs, his 5-foot-11 frame moving in animated motion.
“I don’t know what that was,” Richard said later, laughing. “I’m from Louisiana. That must be an Oakland dance.” (He’s right. The song Lynch danced to is called “Oakland” by Vell, featuring DJ Mustard.)
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, an East Bay native himself, judged the dance “exceptional” and said he was tempted to join in.
“It got me fired up,” he said. “You can see the pure passion that he (Lynch) has. These are his people. These are my people. I know he was really happy to have his first game go like that. We got him in the end zone. He was rugged, and our team played really well. It was a great day for him.”
Early reviews on this Lynch-Raiders reunion are undeniably positive. As Carr reiterated Sunday, the pieces are plentiful and appear to fit.
“We have a lot of weapons,” the quarterback said, “a lot of guys that can play different and multiple positions. A guy like C.P. (Patterson) or even Marshawn. We put him at wide receiver sometimes. Being able to do all those things helps us as an offense.”
The depth also figures to limit the wear-and-tear on Lynch, who is 31 and was limited to seven games (hamstring, abdominal injuries) in the past two years. The longtime Seattle Seahawk is not inclined to elaborate on his health, of course – or anything else for that matter. But since he spoke very briefly when the locker room opened to the media, he gets the last word.
Q: Playing in Oakland as a Raider, what was that like for you?
Lynch: “I liked it.”
Q: What you guys did on offense, is that what you expected?
Lynch: “Yeah, we got some playmakers.”
Q: Why did you choose to run out with DeAndre and Jalen?
Lynch: “They’re my (expletive).”
Q: Did it get emotional for you today?
Lynch: “No, not really.”
Q: Did it feel good to electrify the crowd when you were dancing?
Lynch: “It felt good.”
Until he changes his habits, we’ll just let his feet do his talking.