WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is the Raiders leading receiver with 43 catches for 620 yards. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
The Oakland Raiders host the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum in 2011 Week 15 action and look to turn things around as the regular season winds down. Heading into the game with a 7-6 record and pushing to win the AFC West, the Raiders will face an 8-5 Lions team looking to secure the NFC Wild Card spot. "Here comes the Lions and they're really, really good," said Head Coach Hue Jackson. "But we're the Raiders, and we are where we are right now, and we've earned what we've gotten, and we don't have a record as good as them. But we're coming to play this weekend; I promise you that."
Traveling to Oakland for the first time since 2007, the Lions are packing a team ranked fourth in the league in scoring and second in the league in interceptions with 18. "This team is a really good football team," said Coach Jackson. "I see a team that is competing in their division."
The Raiders offense will be challenged by DT Ndamukong Suh, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, leading tacklers LBs DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch, and CB Chris Houston who is tied for the team lead with four interceptions with two returns for touchdowns. "It's no secret they've got a very physical front four," said FB Manase Tonga. "So, our focus is going to be on neutralizing the front four. I know they've got a great pass rush, their interior linemen are physical. They get after the quarterback from the interior and also Vanden Bosch and Avril – they're like spinners on that outside. They get to the ball real well and cause a lot of problems on the outside. First and foremost, that's where it starts and they've got a great secondary. They get after the ball and they create turnovers and get their interceptions. So as a unit, they've got a lot of great players on that defense."
The Silver and Black know they'll be facing a tough Lions defensive line. "They have a good rotation and they're very strong, very athletic and I haven't seen any other team that we've faced that has that kind of talent throughout their front four," said Coach Jackson. "When they bring one guy in, they put in another guy. There's not much drop-off. Those guys – they play hard, they play fast, they have a good front so again, it's a challenge but it's a challenge we're looking forward to."
Suh, who is returning from a two-game suspension, is one of the many playmakers on the Detroit defensive front. "He's good. He's really good," said Coach Jackson. "Great respect for the player, he knows how to play the game and he's very strong, very athletic, makes some incredible plays."
QB Carson Palmer understands that his offense will have to watch out for Suh throughout the game. "The position he plays allows for some double team because he's kind of in the middle there. He splits double teams; he pushes double teams out of the way. He's a guy that we're very focused on and we're going to understand where he is at all times and you have to he's that type of player."
The Raiders offense, particularly the offensive line, is excited to take on the Lions defense. "It's going to be a big challenge," said T Khalif Barnes. "They're all good individually, so that's makes them hard. Suh and interior guys are good and can get a push inside, and Cliff Avril and Vanden Bosch line up wide and bring a lot of pressure. So once again, it's going to be a good challenge for our offensive line. We like that and we're right where we need to be, so we're looking forward to it and hope we have fun with it."
Meanwhile, the Raiders defense will try to rebound when they face QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, rookie WR Titus Young, RB Maurice Morris, and TE Brandon Pettigrew. "This is the highest pass percentage team in the NFL, so they do like to throw the football but they are still very dangerous in the run," said defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. "So they're going to mix in their run, they're going to mix in their screen-game. Very good screen team, they'll run screens to the backs, they'll run screens to the tight ends, to the wide receivers, so you've got your hands full. Then of course, they want to go down field. They're going to throw it to big number 81 and little number 16 down the field, so you've got to be ready at all times."
The Raiders are preparing to slow down the Lions high-ranked offense. "We're going against a very potent offense," said safety Matt Giordano. "I mean they've got a very athletic, very talented group that can run the football, that can throw the football. So, we have got to be ready."
Johnson is the Lions leading receiver with 72 catches for 1,121 yards and 12 touchdowns and is a big concern for the Raiders defense. "I mean, the guy is one of the better players in the league," said Coach Jackson. "Calvin Johnson's as good as there is. The guy has unbelievable athleticism, he can catch it, he can run, he's tall, he's big, he's long, he's all those things. So, we'll pay special attention to him."
The cornerbacks will be tested by the talented wide receiver in his fifth year out of Georgia Tech. "I think it's probably his speed, obviously his height, and when you combined those together, it's a tough match-up for most corners," said CB Stanford Routt.
Getting Johnson the ball is Stafford who has thrown 29 touchdowns so far this season. "I've played against him before and he's a good quarterback and he makes good decisions," said LB Kamerion Wimbley. "He's got some experience under his belt now, so we definitely have to keep an eye on him."
"What I've noticed is he's very confident in his arm and his abilities," said Giordano. "As a quarterback, that's what you want and he has a lot of great weapons to go to. So, you could sense the trust was there amongst that corps of receivers and Stafford."
As the Raiders defense prepares for the Lions offense, they are also spending time focusing on correcting their own mistakes and improving from the past weeks. "We really just got back to the basics – running and tackling," said safety Mike Mitchell. "They're a very good screen team, and obviously, they've got Calvin Johnson who is a great deep threat. But actually, most of Stafford's throws are coming in the shorter throwing areas. But, we're basically getting back to the basics. Running our coverages and making sure we're doing all of the little things right."
Coach Jackson and his squad are eager to play at home in front of another sold out crowd at O.co Coliseum. "That's going to be a huge boost," said Coach Jackson. "We've been on the road with angry people screaming at us, yelling at us for the last couple of weeks and giving it to us, and we've had to take it. Now we're at home and our crowd will be there for us, and they'll be there yelling, screaming for us. They bring a certain energy to the 'O' for us. They'll be there in force screaming for us and what we need to do is give them something to scream about. We're looking forward to it."
The Raiders host the Lions at O.co Coliseum at 1:05 p.m. PT and will be broadcast on FOX and in the Bay Area on KTVU Channel 2. Follow along on Raiders.com, the Raiders official Facebook page, and Twitter.