Safeties Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff get to the quarterback in the Raiders 2010 match up with the Dolphins. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium in Week 13 action. After a rough start to the season, the 3-8 Dolphins have won three of their last four. The Raiders believe the Miami team is much better than their record indicates and are preparing for a tough match up.
"This is a team with a lot of talent," said CB Stanford Routt. "Everybody from Reggie Bush to Brandon Marshall to Matt Moore to [Brian] Hartline to Cameron Wake to Vontae Davis, Sean Smith and Jason Taylor – man, those guys can play. No matter what, aside from the record, it's going to be a game. Their record is what it is, you can make whatever inferences you want to make about it, but it's going to be a hard fought game no matter what."
Offensive coordinator Al Saunders made the same assessment as Routt. "You would never think this team is a 3-8 team – not from a defensive perspective," said Coach Saunders. "This is a very, very, very sound defense and they play very well. I don't know if their record has created a kind of perception of them doing more. I think they're just finding themselves as a young defense and they're playing better, and they're playing very, very hard and they're playing very physical."
Raiders captain RB Rock Cartwright thinks Miami has finally found their identity, which has helped them turn their season around. "I mean that defense is playing exceptionally well," said Cartwright. "They haven't given up but two 20-plus yard rushes in 12 games, so that's outstanding. But they've got a great defensive front, they've got a great offense that's playing good ball so collectively, they're playing good as a team so we know we're going to have our work cut out for us."
RB Michael Bush also doesn't buy into the Dolphins record. "Just because they're 3-8 doesn't mean anything," said Michael Bush. "As you can tell when we played the Vikings – same thing; they were like 2-8 or 2-7. They were still a hard, stopping the run team and Chicago was the same way, so we just kept grinding and found other ways to win the game."
The Dolphins have a talented team with offensive weapons QB Matt Moore, RB Reggie Bush, WR Brandon Marshall and on defense LBs Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby, CB Vontae Davis and SS Yeremiah Bell. "You just put on the film and there is no other team that you can think about. You see Cameron Wake in your sleep at night. Yeremiah Bell is playing as good as safety as anybody in the league. Both their corners are good, very good. Karlos Dansby's been a great linebacker since his first year in the league. It's a good group and on the other side of the ball they're finding ways to score points. So, [the Raiders are] not looking at any other game."
Palmer and his offensive unit know they will be facing a very capable defense. "They're doing everything well right now," said Palmer. "They had a hot streak going; they won three in a row and played Dallas really good all the way up until the very end of the game. But they do everything well - they can rush the passer, they force turnovers, they play a ton of different coverages, they bring pressure, they draw back and sit in zone, they read eyes with the quarterback and stop the run and limit big plays in the running game. So it's a very good defense and a very underrated defense and it's going to take our best effort in Miami."
Coach Saunders has been preparing the offense for a defense that found success in the month of November. "I know they're playing well," said Coach Saunders. "They've only given up two touchdowns in the last four games and two to Dallas, one which started on the five-yard line. They've been very, very impressive on defense. They play well up front, they're well coordinated, their front seven is outstanding, and I think they're secondary is playing better and better and better. They're young guys, but they're the group that's probably playing more aggressively in creating some turnovers and doing some things that give you problems because they play with such spirit, with such intensity back there."
The Raiders have done well on the road this season, going 4-1 in their first five games. They hope to continue the winning trend in Florida, but will first have to deal with Wake and the Dolphins defensive unit. "They have a good defense, they have great linebackers, they have great backs, some juice off the edge in Cameron Wake," said T Khalif Barnes. "Jason Taylor is 37 years old, but he can put his head down and still rush if he has to. I think their secondary plays well. Yeremiah Bell back there stirs that group together, they have a big nose guard; you can't sleep on this group at all. They lost by one point to a good Dallas team. We're going down there for a 60-minute fight. This is a stingy defense. I think they're seventh in the NFL against the run in allowing touchdowns so we've got our work cut out for us on offense."
Head Coach Hue Jackson understands the type of players the Raiders offense will be dealing with on defense. "He's really good," said Coach Jackson on Wake. "I mean the guy knows how to go get the quarterback. He's relentless, he's another one of the pass rushers in this league that you can't take a rest on. He's relentless, he doesn't stop, he has a high motor, he has a burning desire to get to the quarterback and he plays the game that way. He's a sparkplug for that defensive football team but they have several. It's not just him; Yeremiah Bell – to me, people don't talk about him enough. I think the guy's a tremendous football player. I've competed against him before and this guy's always around the ball. [Karlos] Dansby; I mean they have so many other players on that football team. Vontae Davis, they're a good defensive football team. It's another tremendous challenge for our team."
Playing the Dolphins may be a challenge, but Coach Jackson knows his team will be ready. "We've got to pack a good team, just like I always say," said Coach Jackson. "We've got to pack our best football team, go down there with the right focus, with the right thought process and go play a big time football game, and that's what we intend to do."
The Raiders believe that if they want to be the best, they have to beat the best. "If we're going to be the type of team we want to be and what we're trying to become, these are the teams we've got to play," said Coach Jackson. "Irregardless of records or anything like that, irregardless of travel, irregardless of it being South Beach, any of that – we have to line up and keep our focus one game at a time, put our head down and grind and play like we know we can."
The Raiders defense, which has accumulated 32 sacks and 14 interceptions through 12 weeks, will have to contend with a mobile quarterback in Moore and a resurgent running back in Reggie Bush. "Reggie Bush has gone there and helped rejuvenate the offense," said Coach Jackson. "Brandon Marshall is who he is. He's been a good player where he's been, whether it's Denver or Miami. He knows how to catch the ball and get open, create separation and the young quarterback is playing good. I mean, obviously, we've watched his growth over the weeks and again and again, Tony Sparano does a good job so our defense knows that this is a very talented offensive football team. They have good blockers; I mean the left tackle is one of the best linemen in football, so this is a good football team. It's a tremendous challenge."
Veteran DT Richard Seymour believes the Raiders defense will be lining up across from one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. "In terms of Jake [Long], I think that he's the best left tackle in football," said Seymour. "You know he's big, he's athletic, he's strong and physical and he can handle speed rushers and also power ends as well. So he does it all and he'll be all pro for many years as long as he stays healthy."
The Raiders defense remains committed to stopping the run. "He's a quick, elusive downhill cut-back runner," said S Mike Mitchell on Reggie Bush. "He runs tougher than what you would think for a guy his size. It's a unique challenge. We've played a lot of good backs already this year so he's just going to be another good back that we have to make sure that we're ready to contain and hopefully take him out the game. It definitely poses some interesting problems because of how they use him at receiver and he can run reverses, and a lot of bubble screens, tunnel screens, things like that, but we'll just have to find a way to contain him."
The Silver and Black head to Florida ready for their next challenge and look to stay atop the AFC West. "We're going in there with the mindset that this is the next game on our schedule," said TE Kevin Boss. "We've been talking all year how we just want to keep stacking wins. Put together a string of three in a row and looking to get four now."