The cliché that circles around a locker room after a loss like last week’s 24-23 heartbreaker is that one play didn’t decide the outcome.
I say, Hogwash. Of course one play doesn’t win or lose a game. There are hundreds of plays in each game, many of them having an impact on the outcome. But the Raiders would have won last week if Sebastian Janikowski could have made a kick that was short enough–a slob from Wichita Falls with a million dollars’ worth of Dr. Pepper’s money riding on it could have split the uprights. This was an easy kick. A gimme. And Seabass shanked it.
I like Janikowski. I’ve defended the Raiders’ selection of him in the first round many times since being taken in the first round back in 2000. Those Raider teams were Super Bowl contenders, and one of the pieces of the puzzle they needed was a kicker. Unfortunately, Janikowski hasn’t been called upon to make important kicks in his Raiders career. Not until this past Sunday. And he shanked it.
Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler are two of the game’s best at what they do, but both have done it for the longest time in anonymity. Kickers are like umpires; you don’t really want to know their names until they mess up. Janikowski is best known for his strong leg, but for the most part, his leg strength has been neutralized by the Raiders’ ineffectiveness over the years. He has attempted a 76-yard field goal, and a 64-yarder as well. Neither were good. As a kicker, if your claim to fame is long kicks that you missed, that’s not good. The 64-yarder had the distance, but it hit the upright. A chance at NFL history, but he shanked it.
But on Sunday, after the Raiders had, for the most part, dominated the Cardinals for most of the game, they still found themselves down a point with time winding down. The defense did its part by stopping the Cards 3 and out after Janikowski had missed a 58-yard attempt with under five minutes to play.
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski led the offense the length of the field, helped by a 4th and 10 conversion to Derrius Hayward-Bey, and a 39-yard pass interference penalty that basically gave the Raiders a first down, and gave Seabass a chance to win it for the Raiders. An opportunity for him to win the game. But of course, one play doesn’t make the difference between winning and losing, unless you’re down a point and need a short field goal to win.
And you shank it.