ALAMEDA — If the Raiders are as superior to the New York Jets as the masses suggest, then Seth Roberts can expect a quiet day.
On the other hand, Roberts could be in the middle of things Sunday should the Jets make things interesting.
Raiders fans already know it, and national stat geeks are catching on to the fact that the Raiders are 10-0 since the start of the 2015 season when Roberts catches a touchdown pass.
Given the win-loss finality of the nugget, Roberts doesn’t sell it short.
“It matters, but we’re just playing ball, man, making it happen,” Roberts said Thursday. “I don’t think we really think about that, being 10-0. We just go out and play.”
But here’s the deal on Roberts and his statistical run — there hasn’t been a cheap one in the bunch.
When Roberts caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to put the Raiders up 23-13 against the Titans, a game they eventually won 26-16, it was the first time during the streak he had scored in a touchdown in a game decided by 10 points.
The touchdown was big, to be sure, but no bigger than the rest. Roberts’ 41-yard touchdown catch against Tampa Bay was his signature score, given that it came as a walk-off win in overtime.
But every other game was a taut struggle as well, with the Raiders possibly losing had it not been for a Roberts touchdown.
There have been no instances of a late-inning bunt single to keep a hit streak going in a loss, or a last-second three-pointer forced at the buzzer for the sake of statistical accomplishment.
When Roberts scores, it matters. His touchdown against the Titans with 11:58 to play was fairly typical.
“My read is to stay in my lane up the seam,” Roberts said. “There was one high safety, and I know Derek can punch the ball in. I just had to stay in my lane.”
Roberts, an undrafted free agent from West Alabama, showed a knack for getting open in the middle of the field upon arrival. It’s a skill borne of a combination of film study, instinct and bravery. It’s an area where the big hit is always in the mind of the receiver, whether he catches the ball or not.
At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Roberts is ideal for plays in the red zone, and indeed 10 of his 11 touchdown receptions in the 10-game streak have come from distances between 2 and 19 yards.
Only the walkoff against the Bucs, which Roberts spun out of a tackle on a medium depth throw and went the distance, was outside of 20 yards.
Roberts’ catch against the Titans Sunday was the only time he was targeted by Carr in 32 attempts. Carr threw to Amari Cooper 13 times and seven to Michael Crabtree.
Which bothers Roberts not in the least.
“Man, I was out there having fun, honestly,” Roberts said. “Obviously, you want to get more targets, but when it comes, just be ready.”
Roberts, 26, has had more fun this season simply because he’s physically capable of pushing the boundaries.
Last season, Roberts’ numbers dropped off considerably late in the season. He had nine catches for 61 yards and no touchdowns in his last five games and some conspicuous drops.
It turns out Roberts played with a double hernia which weakened his core as the season went on. Revealed during training camp, coach Jack Del Rio said it came as a surprise — which is just the way Roberts wanted it. He never missed a practice nor was listed on an injury report for a groin injury.
“Nobody knew. I was just going through it myself. I really didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Roberts said. “It was just my body aching and stuff. We’re past that, man. It’s 2017. We’re not even thinking about that.”
The Raiders were appreciative. Rest assured the three-year contract extension Roberts received with $6.45 million in guaranteed money had a lot to do with the credibility gained through playing without complaint while hurt
“Yeah, I was hurt, playing, but everything is fixed now,” Roberts said. “You know you can do everything.”
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