Advertisement

This Elvis Alive and Well on Special Teams : Raiders: Patterson picks up blocked punt and scores and also has key block on Brown’s punt return for touchdown.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Special teams captain Elvis Patterson maintains that the Raiders have one of the NFL’s best special-teams units, but it’s gone unnoticed because of the dominance of the Raider defense.

“We’ve been in the closet,” Patterson said. “We’ve been having a great year. I think we’ve been more consistent than we were last year and we’ve improved tremendously.”

Raider special teams scored two touchdowns in Sunday’s 38-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Riverfront Stadium.

The Raiders broke the game open in the second quarter when Tim Brown returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and linebacker Aaron Wallace blocked a punt, which Elvis Patterson returned three yards for a touchdown.

Advertisement

With his performance Sunday, Patterson may have earned a spot as a special teams player in the Pro Bowl. In addition to his touchdown, he also threw a key block on Brown’s punt return.

“Elvis Patterson is playing better on special teams than anybody I’ve ever seen in the league in 11 years,” said Raider defensive end Howie Long. “Seriously, he’s having an incredible year. He’s a marked man and he’s still making great plays.”

Kicker Jeff Jaeger and punter Jeff Gossett continued to play well.

Jaeger kicked his 24th field goal of the season to break a team single-season field goal record set by George Blanda in 1973 and tied by Jaeger in 1989.

Advertisement

Gossett, the NFL’s leading punter, averaged 43 yards on four punts, including two inside the 20.

Brown jump-started the Raiders to their third victory in a row with his first punt-return touchdown since he entered the NFL in 1988.

The NFL’s leading kickoff and punt returner as a rookie, Brown made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player. However, he missed the 1989 season after sustaining a knee injury while returning a punt in the season opener.

Restricted to punt returns last season, Brown averaged 8.7 yards on 34 returns, fourth in the AFC.

Advertisement

“I’d returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but I’d never returned a punt for a touchdown that wasn’t called back,” Brown said. “I just wanted to get one under my belt so I could just go out and play. Now, I can just go out and relax and not press so much on punt returns, and maybe I can come up with a couple more (touchdowns).”

Fielding a punt at the 25, Brown made a move to the right, got behind the return wall and ran untouched into the end zone.

“It was supposed to be a return right,” Brown said. “It was my job to get the ball to the right wall. Once I got the ball over there it was just a matter of getting the ball upfield. Once I saw the hole I was really surprised when I looked up (and) I didn’t see one orange jersey in front of me. That’s the kind of thing you dream about.

“The first thing I thought about was looking back for a penalty. All the guys were coming at me, and I was dodging them trying to see if I could see a flag back there.”

Advertisement

Patterson threw a block on punter Lee Johnson, and although it appeared that that Patterson held Johnson, no penalty was called.

Patterson said it was a legal block.

“I was already into (Johnson), and once you’re already into a blocker anything is legal,” Patterson said. “Punters aren’t physical guys. You’ve got some that cover very well, but this guy was lollygagging. I thought that was a key block because (Johnson) could have made (Brown) cut back in where the pursuit was coming from. I was aware of that, so I screened him inside and let Tim take the sideline and outrun everybody else.”

A bad snap by Cincinnati punt center Ed Brady, a former Ram, helped set up Patterson’s touchdown. Johnson had trouble fielding the snap and Wallace made a jarring hit to knock the ball loose as Johnson was trying to punt it away.

Advertisement

“Wallace made a huge play on that play and Elvis cleaned it up,” Raider special teams coach Steve Ortmayer said. “There isn’t any question that Patterson is playing like a Pro Bowl player. He’s playing well week after week and play after play.”

After leading the Raider special teams in tackles last season, Patterson has tried to raise his game to another level.

“I led our special teams in every category last season, and I wanted to come back and prove to everyone in the league that it wasn’t a joke, that I can play special teams as consistently as anyone who ever played special teams throughout the league,” Patterson said.

Patterson says his reputation as an outstanding special teams player has forced teams to resort to holding him.

Advertisement

“I know they’re going to try to do anything they can do to keep me from making plays,” Patterson said. “But it gets me going, and it makes me want to play even harder. In order for them to do those types of things I know they respect me.”

However, Patterson felt the Bengals went too far in trying to stop him. He accused Cincinnati of illegally blocking him.

“It gets frustrating because some of those blows could have ended my career,” Patterson said. “On one kickoff return, two big linemen grabbed me around the neck and buckled me back, and they were still trying to block me.

“I was like, ‘Hey man, why are you trying to do this? You already got the block, lets just end it there.’ I knew after that play that I was going to be in for a long day, and I just had to watch myself and make sure nothing actually happened to me.”

Advertisement


Advertisement