ALAMEDA (AP) — The most daring gambler on the NFL’s first weekend turns out not to be much of a betting man at all.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio isn’t a big fan of horse racing and probably won’t be seen at a poker or craps table any time soon.
“I’m not a gambler, but I do believe in having the courage to do what I think is best for this football team,” Del Rio said Monday, one day after the Raiders scored on a two-point conversion with 47 seconds left and held on to beat the New Orleans Saints 35-34.
“Good or bad, I’m willing to do that when I’m doing what in my gut I believe is the right thing. Part of that was showing the belief in our football team — showing the belief in Derek Carr, showing the belief in Michael Crabtree. Showing the belief in our group to go down and do the things we needed to do to win that game.”
The Raiders trailed 24-10 early in the second half before scoring 22 points over the last 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, including the final two on Oakland’s gutsy two-point conversion with the game on the line.
Carr had just thrown his only touchdown of the game, a 10-yarder to Seth Roberts, when Carr immediately signaled for the two-point try. In a stroke of confidence and pre-planning, Del Rio had informed his third-year quarterback the team would be going for the win rather than having Sebastian Janikowski attempt a game-tying extra point.
Following a quick timeout to discuss things, Carr found Crabtree with a perfectly placed fade pass that Crabtree caught despite tight coverage from Saints cornerback Ken Crawley. Crawley, an undrafted rookie, was in the game because starter Delvin Breaux was out with a broken leg suffered in the third quarter.
The Raiders had also successfully gone for two earlier in the game after whiffing on their first try.
Del Rio wouldn’t say what went into the decision to do it with the game on the line, only that it was not an off-the-cuff move.
“I prefer to keep strategy inside, in-house,” Del Rio said. “A lot of factors went into it. At the end of the day, you have to go with what you believe is right for your football team. I believed that we would come back and win that game. I believed that going for it was the right thing to do.”
Del Rio also stood by his decision to bench starting cornerback Sean Smith midway through the third quarter after the eighth-year veteran was repeatedly beaten by the Saints receivers, most notably on a 98-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks that was the longest in franchise history.
Del Rio said that Smith, one of Oakland’s top free agent acquisitions this offseason after signing a four-year contract worth nearly $40 million, will start again this week in the Raiders’ home opener against Atlanta.
The Raiders coach also emphasized that he expects much more from Smith and told him so after the game.
“I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to own up to that,’” Del Rio said. “’That certainly wasn’t anywhere near where it needed to be and I know you’ll bounce back. Be ready to face the music because they’re going to be coming at you.’ He’s a big boy. He’ll bounce back. He’s going to be a good player for us. It was not what we need and he knows that.”
Del Rio also praised Oakland’s running game after the Raiders rushed for 167 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown by undrafted rookie Jalen Richard.
Oakland also scored on two short touchdown runs, something Del Rio hinted might have factored into the decision to go for the game-winning two-point conversion.
“It’s going to create almost mandatory one-on-one situations,” Del Rio said. “And a guy like Michael one-on-one is a pretty good bet there.”