Oakland Raiders coach Norv Turner is known as an offensive guru. That doesn’t mean he isn’t enjoying the progress his defense has made this season.
“I think defensively we’ve gotten better all year,” said Turner. “I can’t say enough about the way our defense … and the way they’re growing as a unit.”
The Raiders will try to build on their most emotional win of the season when they host the struggling Miami Dolphins.
Turner, who spent two seasons as the Dolphins offensive coordinator from 2002-03, developed his reputation in the league by helping build the Dallas offenses that won three Super Bowls in the 1990s. He also spent six seasons as the Washington Redskins’ coach from 1994-2000 before being fired by hard-to-please owner Daniel Snyder.
Turner got a measure of revenge against his former boss Sunday as the Raiders allowed a season-low point total in a dramatic 16-13 victory at Washington.
Kerry Collins threw for 289 yards and a touchdown, Sebastian Janikowski kicked three field goals, including the game-winner, and defensive end Derrick Burgess sealed the win in the final minute by stripping Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell. The Raiders handed Turner the game ball after the victory.
“I coached in a lot of games here where if we could’ve got a sack on the last play like that before they had a chance to throw the ball, we would’ve won a lot more games. That’s how you win and lose,” said Turner, who has also seen his Raiders lose three games decided in the final minute this season.
“I had seven great years here,” Turner said. “So, yeah, it’s great to come back. It was important for our team to get a win.”
Turner doesn’t expect his knowledge of the Dolphins’ offense to be much help this weekend.
“There have been so many changes down there, that’s been the good thing about it,” Turner said. “We’ll just zero in on what they do and how they’re playing. I know they’re a talented group … I think it helps that I have a pretty good feel for their talent level.”
The Raiders haven’t won a regular season game against the Dolphins since Dec. 1, 1996, when they scored 17 first-half points and held on for 17-7 win in Los Angeles. Oakland beat Miami 27-0 in the AFC divisional playoffs on Jan. 6, 2001.
Miami has lost three straight and six of its last seven, including last Sunday’s embarrassing 22-0 loss in Cleveland. The Dolphins managed only 194 yards of total offense, and converted two of 12 third downs en route to a season-low 55 passing yards. Defensively, Miami gave up 376 yards, 19 first downs and failed to record a sack.
“We got our butts kicked,” Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said. “We got pushed around.”
Dolphins coach Nick Saban called the result “the most disappointing game in terms of how we competed” of the season.
“We want to see guys compete so we can know whether they need to be here, we want them to be here and if they are the kind of people we want” Saban said. “The record doesn’t really matter, the result doesn’t really matter and the score in the game doesn’t really matter.”
The Dolphins will play without middle linebacker and leading tackler Zach Thomas, who separated his right shoulder late in the first half last week.
Thomas, a five-time Pro Bowler who has led the Dolphins in tackles eight of the past nine seasons, had an MRI on Monday and is expected to miss at least two games.
“Zach’s leadership out there, the way he comes at the game and plays, it’s going to be missed,” Dolphins offensive tackle Damion McIntosh said.
Backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels made his second career start last week and was benched in the second half after completing 5-of-10 passes for 14 yards and two interceptions. He was also sacked twice for a total loss of 12 yards.
Playing with a sprained right index finger, injured starter Gus Frerotte came in and was 4-of-18 for 53 yards.
“We didn’t have, maybe, the precision that we needed at times to get things executed,” Saban said.