The rookie from Brownwood, Texas, proved Jon Gruden right Sunday afternoon.
After signing with the Oakland Raiders Wednesday, Gruden talked up Matt McCrane to the rest of the team, and while the rookie did finish his NFL debut three-of-five, he connected on the most-important kick of the day, a 29 yarder to seal a much-needed, overtime win for the Silver and Black.
"Coach [Gruden] was bragging on him in the meeting room, about his workout, and [said] he was 12 for 12," said Gabe Jackson postgame. "So, we felt like he was good, and he came through."
McCrane did indeed come through, putting the punctuation mark on a four-plus hour game that wasn't short on drama, particularly over the final two quarters, and then the subsequent overtime period.
"For him to go make that kick, and for us to be able to celebrate, he's the real man," Derek Carr said during his postgame remarks. "Our kicker, he's the hero. He battled, he fought through getting booed, battled through people looking at him funny as he came to the sidelines. All that stuff. He was nails force at the end."
After spending training camp and the preseason with the Arizona Cardinals, McCrane found himself a man without a football team for the first few weeks of the regular season, but after Mike Nugent suffered a hip injury last week in Miami, the Raiders found themselves in need of a kicker, and a mutually beneficial relationship was born.
So, worked out Tuesday, signed Wednesday, then connecting on a game-winning field goal Sunday; pretty wild week for Matt McCrane, right?
"It's been crazy," McCrane said. "I've been sitting on the couch for the last [three] [weeks] watching games. Just take it one kick at a time, as I told you guys before. You just reset after each kick, and that's something I learned, obviously, today. First game, but I have to get some things fixed. Our snaps and holds were perfect all day, I just have to work on some things, and come back next week."
While McCrane's night ultimately ended with a highlight, the former Kansas State Wildcat does have some stuff to clean up; his two misses – from 47 and 50 yards respectively – didn't come back to bite the Silver and Black but leaving points wide of the uprights is something that will likely not sit well with Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia.
One thing that probably will though? The way his young kicker responded with 1:50 left in overtime after having an up-and-down day at the office leading up to that point.
"Snap and clear," Jalen Richard said. "That's what he [McCrane] did tonight, and the kicker, that's what he showed, snap and clear, and kicked the game winner for us. Missed two but all of that was wiped clean because he just hit the game winner. I'm excited for him, happy for him, and I'm happy for the team to get this first win, now we can just focus on getting them in bunches."
"One kick at a time," McCrane added. "I just reset. No matter if I made the last kick, or missed the last kick, I go out and pretend that didn't even happen. My agent told me that, and [Baltimore Ravens kicker] Justin Tucker was saying that the other day, so that's something he's been preaching to me the whole time, is just reset. No matter what happens, just reset. No matter what happens previously, we just reset each time and go on to the next one."
Staring down at the very real possibility of starting the season 0-4 – or 0-3-1 at the very least – the Raiders, on their third kicker of the young season, called on Matt McCrane, and just days after being signed, and minutes after missing his second field goal of the day, No. 3 connected.
"I've been working hard," McCrane said. "It's something I wanted as a kid, to play in the National Football League, but the last three weeks I've been sitting at home. I've been working and my fiancée's been working, and bringing in the money while I've been kicking footballs. It's nice to get back out there and get on the field, and compete again."
And compete he did.
Now sitting at 1-3, McCrane and the Raiders will travel to Los Angeles next weekend to take on the division-rival Chargers.