MEANWHILE, on the field, the Raiders today get back to football. No wondering if the coach will be arrested, no concerns about the investigation by the Napa police and no questions to players about an issue unrelated to a game.

No outside distractions.

Just football against the New York Jets, the resumption of the quest to prove New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce is full of snot, and the next chapter of a season Richard Seymour flippantly said is destined for an appearance in the playoffs.

Seymour's words were spoken not under oath but during a jocular radio interview, a session during which the defensive lineman played along. It's pointless to hold him accountable for this "guarantee."

What's worthy of closer scrutiny is the way the Raiders played at the Coliseum last week against Philadelphia. They were passionate and cohesive and effective — certainly on defense — in a 13-9 win over the favored Eagles.

An aggressive defensive game plan, with blitzes from every sphere between heaven and hell, surely played a big role in the victory. From this we may reach several conclusions, including a coaching staff willing to go off script.

This is all well and good for the Raiders. Speaks well of their possibilities.

Yet it's at least a bit troubling that the Raiders seem to have been at least partially motivated by Pierce and his scathing review — "it felt like a scrimmage" — delivered in the wake of a 44-7 New York win two weeks ago at Giants Stadium.

He actually said much more than that.

"I do not like knocking teams, but right now they're struggling," Pierce said, referring to the Raiders, on a Sirius radio show. "We're playing that game the other day and, honestly, it felt like a scrimmage, like a practice. It felt like we were going against our offense (during practice) as far as the tempo.

"There was no vibe of trying or effort from the Raiders at all, from a defensive standpoint, against their offense," he continued. "We're getting three-and-outs, you don't hear nobody (saying) 'Hey, let's go!' or trying to pick the guys up, rallying them, getting guys fired up. There was nothing. It was quiet. A guy gets sacked or somebody gets beat, they just get up. It's not like there's yelling or no kind of (emotion) about the way they were playing.

"It was shocking to be out there in that game and get that kind of feeling."

Who could rationally argue that? As the final score indicates, the Raiders stunk. They seemed sluggish and sloppy, 45 backsides ready to be kicked.

Yet after Pierce's comments were posted conspicuously in the locker room of Oakland's practice facility in the days leading up to the game against Philly, a different group of Raiders showed up to greet Donovan McNabb and the Eagles.

Different enough — and inspired enough — for Seymour to mention playoffs.

Connecting the dots, it seems Pierce may have reached the Raiders in ways nobody else has in years. He questioned their heart and their professionalism, slapped them upside the pride. He went on record with opinions other NFL players were whispering.

Seymour implies the Raiders have been awakened by this midseason insult, received second-hand. Furthermore, he responded to Pierce and his teammates — after beating Philly and learning the Giants had absorbed their first loss, a 48-27 shellacking in New Orleans.

Seymour said the Giants "got what they deserved" and that Pierce now has "enough to chew on with that." Which is to say Seymour stood behind Drew Brees and taunted Pierce and the Giants, something I thought Seymour was above.

Can a reeling team really find its mojo through outside influences? Can it really develop swagger only after seeing its bully conquered by a bigger bully?

The work of the Raiders last week suggests they now want to be taken seriously. They'll have another opportunity today at home against the New York Jets, a second chance to get a piece of the Big Apple.

There will be nine more chances, beginning next Sunday at San Diego, to get back to .500 and enter the playoff picture.

If the Raiders succeed, they can thank Pierce for providing motivation beyond a single game.

Otherwise, it's back to blaming the usual suspects: media, anti-Raider conspiracies, injuries, youth, TV blackouts, JaMarcus Russell — and, of course, all the outside distractions.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com

  • tODAY'S GAME: vs. Jets, 1:05 p.m. Radio: 560-AM
  • page 6: Raiders receiver Heyward-Bey not concerned with Crabtree comparisons.