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11:03AM

S.F. Examiner: Raiders continue to soar when they need to

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The decibels were building, 16, 17, 18, according to numbers on the scoreboard, the fans trying to emulate a jet engine, lifting off a runway, soaring.

The momentum was building, one touchdown, another touchdown, another touchdown, a ringing of the Raider bell — bong, bong — a football team lifting off, soaring.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

9:02PM

Like Kobe and Steph, Raiders find a way

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — He grew up a Kobe fan, and while that may not be what people in Northern California want to hear, the background is understood and acceptable. Derek Carr figures anything is possible in sports.

That the way Kobe Bryant brought the Lakers from behind, well, why couldn’t Carr and his teammates do the same?

Even after blowing a big lead. Even after Carr, the Raiders quarterback, the Raiders leader, injured his throwing hand and was unable to take snaps from the center in the old T-formation but had to play out of the shotgun.

Yes, the Raiders won another one on Sunday at the Coliseum, going way ahead, falling behind and then, just when you wondered if a season that so far has been magical and almost mythical was about to come apart, wondered if the Raiders were to revert to the bad old days, did their Kobe.

Or, making it more appealing, their Steph and Klay. Or more accurately, their Derek and Khalil Mack.

Oakland beat the Carolina Panthers, 35-32, a fifth straight win. They beat the Panthers after flying home Monday night from Mexico City, where Oakland defeated Houston. They beat the Panthers after building a 24-7 lead and then falling behind 32-24 — meaning Carolina scored 25 points in succession.

They beat the Panthers after proving that indeed the Raiders will offer no excuses, only persistence.

“What a great victory here at home against a really good football team,” said head coach Jack Del Rio, who sounded very much like one of the sellout crowd at the Coliseum. “Just proud of our guys for hanging in there and finding a way. That’s been a theme for us this year.”

A theme and a pattern. Five comeback victories. The team that once was unable to win, now, Kobe-like, Steph-like, Derek Carr-like, will not lose. The words of Al Davis float in the breeze, to wit, “Just win, baby.” And in nine of their 11 games this season, they’ve just won. Baby.

Such a bizarre game. Such a typical NFL game. Carolina couldn’t do anything in the first half, gaining just 89 yards total. Awful. Then the Raiders couldn’t do anything to stop Carolina.

“The third quarter was really tough,” agreed Del Rio, “and then we came back and finished.”

Carolina has been a mystery team. In the Super Bowl last season, a bust this season at 4-7, losing games but with Cam Newton at quarterback and other stars loaded with talent. The Panthers suddenly came together, with Newton throwing to Ted Ginn for a touchdown on an 88-yard play and to Kelvin Benjamin for a TD on a 44-yard play. Fortunately, the Raiders did not come apart.

“I thought there was a stretch where things were kind of unraveling a bit,” said Del Rio. “I actually tried to make sure to say, ‘Hey, let’s remember, if we keep fighting and keep believing, we’ll go from there. Then whatever happens, we can deal with it.’ I thought we snapped out of that and got our energy back.”

And got their quarterback back.

And never were without defensive end Khalil Mack, who had an interception and then a sack and recovered a fumble on the fourth-down play that, with a minute to go, would close it out for the Panthers — and thus for the Raiders.

Mack became the first player with a sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery and a touchdown since Charles Woodson in 2009. And digressing, the TD off the interception was oh-so-similar to that of Jack Squirek, picking Joe Theisman, in Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984.

Asked if he knew Mack was that agile, Del Rio insisted, “Yeah, he’s got good hands. He can throw it too. He can do just about anything he really wants.”

What Carr wanted was to get back in the game after the snap on the second play of the third quarter bruised the baby finger on his throwing hand and the subsequent fumble was recovered by the Panthers.

“A lot of pain,” said Carr. “Something happened with the snap. I don’t know what. I’ll have to see the replay. Something was different from normal.”

Carr put a glove on the hand, and the team doctors gave him the OK to replace Matt McGloin, who had replaced Carr. When Carr emerged from the tunnel, the crowd bellowed approval. Carr, although desperate to play, only wanted to bellow.

“Probably the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” he said.

He winced, he gritted, he and the Raiders triumphed. Oakland clinching its first winning season in 14 years.

“I’m happy for the fans,” said Carr, who as a Californian — he played at Fresno State — knows the team’s history. It’s been painful, if in a different way from that baby finger.

“We’re learning how to win. I really believe that our identity is just a team that works hard and believes in one another.”

After Sunday, it’s possible to believe the Raiders are an excellent team.

9:16AM

S.F. Examiner: Oakland Raiders submit vintage performance under Sunday night lights

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

“Raiddd-uhs, Raiddd-uhs.” The chant rolled through the Coliseum like it did in the in the days of Kenny Stabler, Gene Upshaw and Ted Hendricks, the days when the Raiders could roll through the NFL, irritating, intimidating, a silver and black version of the autumn wind that would knock opponents down just for fun.

The last few years haven’t been fun at all for the Raiders or their fans, the team tumbling from the upper levels of the game to places that were both embarrassing and tormenting. Then, Sunday night arrived with all its nationwide appeal, with Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth, with the opportunity to show once more this was a team, of pride, poise and most of all toughness.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

9:02AM

S.F. Examiner: Chargers replace Raiders as team that finds a way to lose

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The Raiders could have lost — they kept moving the ball but couldn’t get a touchdown — maybe should have lost. But not against the San Diego Chargers.

The Raiders used to be the Chargers, finding ways to lose. Now they find ways to win.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

10:11PM

One stadium, two problems for A’s, Raiders

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — On Wednesday they were holding a baseball game in a football stadium, the yard lines still chalked on the grass.  

On Sunday they were holding a football game in a ballpark. What else should you call a place with a dirt infield neatly, and nearly, filling the area that spreads out from home plate?

The MLB-NFL Oakland Coliseum is the last of its breed, a multipurpose facility where the Athletics have to chase fly balls across an outfield chunked up by the cleats of 300-pound linemen and the Raiders must survive being tackled on a packed dirt surface that extends from one 20-yard line to the other.

The A’s are almost done for the 2016 season. From the attendance Wednesday, apparently most individuals thought it ended a few months ago.

Only 11,197 were in the place for a game, which admittedly meant little and ended in a somewhat bizarre manner, Oakland pinch runner Arismendy Alcantara caught trying to steal with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Houston won, 6-5.

Yes, Babe Ruth made the final out the same way in the 1926 World Series, the Cardinals beating the Yankees, but Alcantara isn’t exactly the Sultan of Swat. His attempt — A’s manager Bob Melvin thought Alcantara “didn’t get the best jump” — of course has nothing to do with the facilities in Oakland, or lack of same.

You know the narrative. Both the A’s and Raiders are in need and deserving of new stadiums. One team, the A’s, seemingly was headed to San Jose before that plan fell through. The other team, the Raiders, has been guaranteed a $2 billion stadium in Las Vegas.

Apropos of nothing but possibly pertinent to everything, the one East Bay team that doesn’t really need a new arena, the Warriors, is prepared to build one in San Francisco. Money, ask for it by name.

An investment group, which claims it has money, instead has asked to purchase the land where the Coliseum stands along the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland with the intent of keeping the Raiders there and out of the clutches of the casino types.

That the group has ties with Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the 49ers and the Raiders, may be pertinent. Or it may not.

A month ago, the big cash guy behind the A’s, John Fisher, who with Lew Wolff is listed as co-owner, took an exploratory visit of the Howard Terminal, in the Oakland docks, which would be an absolutely perfect place for an A’s ballpark — something to rival AT&T Park across the Bay.

Just kicking the tires, so to speak. Still, a visible search for a ballpark site, on the water no less — the same as the other MLB team in Northern Calfornia (hint: it is in the midst of a late-season collapse) — and a new move to keep the Raiders from moving are more than acceptable.

You have to start someplace.

It’s an open secret that the NFL commish, Roger Goodell, does not want a team in Las Vegas for various reasons, mostly the perception of a sport that is as popular for action at the sports books as it is on the gridiron might be seen in a different light when one of the franchises is based in Sin City.

Also, bless his heart, Goodell has a special feeling about the Raiders, as much for the venom with which longtime owner Al Davis battled the league as for the historical lunacy and success over the seasons of the team and its fans. Any team that had John Madden and Ken Stabler, made a roundtrip to L.A. and back, and was the first to have a “nation” needs to stay where it is.

Goodell may be a pariah in Foxboro but, in concert with others, saving the Raiders for Oakland would make him beloved at Jack London Square. Crab cioppino, Roger?

But let us not be too optimistic. It takes time, money and intelligence to transform these hopes from fantasy to reality. A new Raiders stadium? A new A’s ballpark?

A skeptic would say they have as much chance as Arismendy Alcantara stealing second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday.