OAKLAND — Rashad Jennings wasn't seen as a big offseason signing for the Raiders. To be honest, he is generally a bit player for the team. But he's a valuable one. He's had decent running numbers when filling in for Darren McFadden, and Sunday he was one of Oakland's standout special-teams players.
With the Raiders up 7-0 in the first quarter, Jennings broke through and got a finger on Zoltan Mesko's punt. He wasn't credited with a blocked punt because the ball traveled past the line of scrimmage, but it went just 3 yards downfield and was downed at the Pittsburgh 26. Five plays later, McFadden scored on a 7-yard run to give Oakland a 14-point lead.
And when the Steelers cut the score to 21-18 with less than a minute and a half left in the game, it was Jennings who recovered Shaun Suisham's onside kick to help seal the victory.
"That's what you expect out of a guy that's been around, been a pro," Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the fifth-year veteran. " .<TH>.<TH>. I thought he did a great job. He's been great for us in special teams."
DOES THIS FORD HAVE A WARRANTY?
<MC>There is no goat on a winning team. But if the Raiders had succumbed to the Steelers' comeback bid, Jacoby Ford would have been fitted with the horns.
Practically every kick was an adventure for Ford on Sunday. He fumbled one punt return, relying on teammate Taiwan Jones to recover it; let another punt bounce over his head, only to be downed at the 1; watched a kickoff come perilously close to not reaching the end zone; and stumbled under yet another punt that the Steelers were convinced had grazed his leg and turned into a live ball.
If all that weren't enough, he fumbled on a short reception in the fourth quarter and the ball was recovered by defensive end Brett Keisel at the Oakland 11, setting up a Steelers touchdown.
"We all feel good about winning a game, but what we have to understand is you put the ball on the ground in a game like that, you're giving them an opportunity to get back in the game, and you can't do that," Allen said. " .<TH>.<TH>. Jacoby's play on the punt return that could have been a huge play in the game, luckily we got the call in our favor."
SUISHAM MISSED 'EM
Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski has been in a bit of a slump this year, but it was the Steelers' Suisham who lost his touch on Sunday. He came into the game having connected on 16 consecutive field goals, but missed wide right from 34 and 32 yards — not exactly Janikowski-strength long balls.
In a three-point game — well, you do the math.
"Look, it's no secret, the impact my missed field goals had on the game," Suisham said. "We'd have won the game if I made those field goals. It's a tough one to swallow."
YET ANOTHER SPECIAL-TEAMS NOTE
The Raiders' one black eye in coverage was Antonio Brown's 44-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. The silver lining: punter Marquette King's emphatically physical tackle at the end of the play.
"Yeah, I'd rather it not get back to Marquette, but at least he got him down," Allen said.