Oakland Raiders: Penalties a Key to Sunday's Win over Pittsburgh

Jeff Spiegel@jeffspiegelContributor IISeptember 24, 2012

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Getty Images

For years, the Oakland Raiders have been the laughingstock of the penalty category in the NFL, and to be honest, it was always for good reason.

The Raiders were the king not only of the undisciplined penalty, but also the dumb ones, such as after-the-play personal fouls and the like.

As coach after coach came to town in the past, each one said they would emphasize the need to limit the penalties. And then coach after coach was fired after not changing anything.

So when new head coach Dennis Allen came to town and said he wanted to limit the penalties, the Oakland fans who have been around for a few years smiled, nodded their heads, folded their arms and thought, "we'll see about that."

After Week 1, things weren't exactly swinging in Allen's favor.

Sure, he had limited the number of penalties to just six (only a success if you're a Raider fan), but a pair of stupid offside penalties remained in the forefront of everyone's mind.

As Week 2 came to be, many, like myself, decided to give the penalty game one more shot to see if Allen had cracked down at all during practice.

Five penalties for 42 yards; not bad.

Suddenly, the Raiders were moving towards the league average in penalties.

And then, Week 3 happened.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town, a physical team that has incited some extracurricular activity from the Raiders in recent years, expectations were low for how well the Raiders would do in the penalty department.

Turns out Allen must have a better grasp on this team than we thought.

The Raiders committed just three penalties for 25 yards on Sunday, and not coincidentally, earned their first win of the season.

In a game that came down to a last-second field goal, the Raiders needed every yard they could muster to beat the Steelers, and their ability to refrain from shooting themselves in the foot was critical.

As it stands, Oakland is an astonishing third in the league in penalty yards per game and fourth in the league in penalties per game. Take one player, Tommy Kelly, out of the equation, and they might be even higher.

Regardless of wins and losses, however, something needs to be said about Allen and the impact he has had on the organization already. I would have been content with a move into the top 20 for penalty yards, but Allen clearly had his sights set higher.

Whether Oakland is playoff-bound or top-10-draft-pick bound remains to be seen this season, but honestly, if we can stay in the top 10 in penalties, I think Allen deserves a big round of applause.

As a Raider fan who has suffered through dumb penalties for years and years, it's nice to finally see that brand of football disappear.

Now, if we could only find a couple cornerbacks in the mean time....