By Paul Deeds aka bobreaker50

As the 2011 season began the Oakland Raiders were confident that they were going to reward Al Davis with the team’s first playoff berth since 2002. Jason Campbell had a good command of the offense and Richard Seymour had the defensive troops playing with intensity and togetherness. Behind these two pillars were a plethora of emerging stars headlined by Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford. This team was sure to make Mr. Davis proud.  As the season began to unfold , surprises sprang up in numerous ways both positive and negative.

Game one was a classic AFC West rivalry won by Oakland on the back of Run DMC’ s legs and Campbell’s steady decision making. There were some tense moments, but overall it was a game that remained out of Denver’s reach from the get go and Oakland came through for win number one and the first step toward an AFC West crown. Next up was a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills. This one came down to a last second Hail Mary pass from Campbell that was nearly pulled in by rookie revelation Denarius Moore. With the team sitting at one and one,  they faced their first major challenge of the young season. The New York Jets came to O.co coliseum with all of their cockiness and the skill to back it up. Many experts predicted that Rex Ryan’s squad would be too much for the Silver and Black to handle. Instead McFadden and company overwhelmed the Jets as the ground attack rolled up 234 rushing yards in the ten point Raiders victory. Week four brought an even stiffer challenge as the New England Patriots overwhelmed the Raiders’ defence to the tune of 31 points as the Pats controlled this contest from the outset. Four games into the season,  Al Davis’ troops sat at a predictable two and two. Unfortunately,  as the team prepared to face the Houston Texans they heard the sad news that the greatest Raider of them all had passed away. Since that time the 2011 Oakland Raiders have become the biggest mystery in the NFL and it’s just the way Mr. Davis would want it to be.

Al Davis was unquestionably one of the most influential leaders in NFL history. He assisted Sid Gillman in San Diego, led the Oakland Raiders as both head coach and owner, and fuelled the AFL’s merger with the NFL as its commissioner. No one else in football history can boast a resume of that level.  A key element to this legacy was the mysterious aura that surrounded Davis and his team. Never has there been as much mystery around the franchise as there was during week five of the 2011 season. Would the team be too emotional to handle playing one day after losing their unquestioned leader? Who will lead the team in the absence of the man that has been at the helm since 1963? Would the team “Just Win Baby?”

This game was filled with as much emotion as the prior day had been. The Raiders and Texans locked into an offensive battle that came down to the game’s final play. In fitting tribute to their owner,  the Silver and Black ended the game with an interception while fielding only ten visible players on defence. Did Al Davis have a divine hand in Michael Huff’s game saver? That will forever remain a part of Silver and Black lore and the surprising 2011 season. Each week following the passing of Mr. Davis has brought its’ own surprise.

Week six saw the Raiders trade for Aaron Curry and immediately insert him into the line-up, Jason Campbell go down with a broken clavicle, and the Raiders special teams pull off a fake field goal for a touchdown along with a kickoff return. In week seven the Raiders paid a steep price to acquire Carson Palmer from the Bengals and then let him play on three days practice while surprising their fans in a negative way by losing to an inferior Kansas City squad while watching Darren McFadden sprain his foot. After a bye week more surprises came in the form of one of the most perplexing losses in team history as Tim Tebow managed to trick the Oakland defence with some fancy option runs…

Now the Oakland Raiders are a .500 ball club with eight weeks to go… The only certainty is that there will be more surprises to come and Al Davis wouldn’t have it any other way.