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Raiders looking forward even with Tebow’s Broncos on heels

ALAMEDA, Calif. – And down the stretch run come the Oakland Raiders, absent from the NFL playoffs since 2002 but atop the AFC West at 7-4. Though Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos are in pursuit, Raiders Coach Hue Jackson says he’s not focused on out-of-town scores.”I have to worry about this football team. I think that’s the most important thing,” Jackson said Monday.”Do I know what’s going on around the league? Yes. But do I run in and check to see? No, I don’t want to play that game. … We need to continue to get healthier, we need to continue to get stronger and we’ve got finish strong down the stretch.”Denver, which beat Oakland 38-24 on Nov. 6 to split its season series with the Raiders, improved to 6-5 with its overtime win Sunday at the San Diego Chargers. Tebow and the Broncos have won five of their last six games.The Raiders stayed atop the division with their third win in a row, a 25-20 home victory over a Chicago Bears team that was without quarterback Jay Cutler (broken thumb). Next up: a road game Sunday at Miami.”It’s been a while since this team maybe has been in this position. … What we’re selling here is a tremendous opportunity here to do something special,” said Jackson, in his first season as Raiders coach.Said defensive end LaMarr Houston: “It’s a good feeling to control your own destiny and not have to depend on anybody else. … It’s something new around here, and we’re going to try and keep it that way.”The Raiders hope to get healthier in the coming weeks. That particularly involves the foot injuries that sidelined three key offensive players again Sunday. Tailback Darren McFadden missed his fourth consecutive start. He did a light workout on the practice field Monday. Wideout Jacoby Ford missed his second game in a row. Rookie receiver Denarius Moore was sidelined by a foot injury sustained the previous week.When they’ll be back is uncertain.”I’m not going to rush any of those guys back,” said Jackson.”(But) I think they’re closer to getting back than they are to not getting back.”In his fourth start as a Raider, quarterback Carson Palmer completed 21 of 37 passes for 301 yards. But on a day when Sebastian Janikowski kicked a team-record six field goals, the lone Raider TD came in the final minutes on a 3-yard run by Michael Bush.Palmer set up that score with a 47-yard pass to Louis Murphy on a third down play from midfield. Murphy saw that pass as a sign that Palmer has confidence in him.”You want your quarterback to be able to trust you. … That’s where that chemistry that’s developing comes in at,” said Murphy. “You’re constantly working that, and we’ve had a short time working and it only can get better. Each week, each practice, each rep with him, it makes you better.”Jackson on Palmer: “This guy is a proven passer. … He’ll be the first to tell you that there’s throws that normally are layups for him that he needs to get batter at, too. But at the end of the day, I think we’re growing all across this football team. What we need to do is still put a complete game together.”And when we do that, we’ve got a chance to be a scary group of players.”The Raiders still lead the NFL with 109 penalties for 936 yards. But they were penalized just six times for 44 yards with no personal fouls against Chicago.”It’s never fixed. What I think that was, was a start. It’s a start into the new Raiders,” said Jackson.”I think it’s important down the stretch that we play as a very intelligent football team. We have to take care of that issue. We know it’s an issue.”

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