Whew! What a relief to see a game like this after last week's abomination against the Bengals. The difference was extraordinary this week as the Raiders beat the Ravens in a shootout game with a game winning drive from Derek Carr. This is the way that the Raiders need to play every week, offensively anyway.
The best part of this game was that game winning drive by Carr, just his 2nd such victory in his NFL career. Once the Raiders lost the lead in this game it was hard not to feel the doom and gloom kick in but the feeling of actually winning a close game at the end was just phenomenal. It was actually even better than a blow out victory for me, because it takes a lot more perseverance to get a game winning, final minute drive like this was.
In fact, watching that final drive was even more significant because of Derek Carr still being an unknown quantity. When he threw the interception on the drive before it felt like the game was lost, but then he got his chance at a reprisal and took it. This was the type of drive that he needed to complete to prove himself at the NFL level and he did it with flying colors.
Before the drive started I thought "Well, if Derek Carr is the franchise QB we hope he is then he will score on this drive". Sure enough, he went down the field like clockwork and scored the game winning touchdown. That isn't to say he definitely is a franchise QB, but these are the type of games he needs to win if he is going to prove that he is one.
It was especially great to see the coaching staff open up the offense in this game after the dismal performance last week. If the Raiders are going to do well offensively, they need to attack downfield and they did that against the Ravens from the very beginning. It had been so long since we saw Carr throw the deep ball regularly that I almost forgot how pretty he throws it.
What was better than Carr throwing the deep ball though was the receivers consistently making the plays when they needed to be made. Amari Cooper is as advertised and had a great game, but Michael Crabtree was the player that most stood out. Seth Roberts gets an honorable mention too for his game winning catch on a perfectly run route but some of the catches that Crabtree made were absolutely ridiculous.
Several of the catches that Crabtree pulled out were ones that took incredibly impressive hand strength to hold on to. He was plucking balls off the turf time and time again, one of which was on an important 3rd down play with the defender's arms draped all over him. This was the Crabtree that played at Texas Tech, not the one that San Francisco saw most recently.
It was also great to see Andre Holmes back as well. He might have some drops here and there but when he has a chance to make a leaping reception he can do it with the best of them. He was somebody who disappointed last year compared to what we hoped he would become, but this game gave us a little taste again of what his best is to offer.
Latavius Murray also had a very good game, despite not having a ton of yards. His 65 rushing yards on 15 carries was a 4.3 ypc average but they were more impressive than that. He earned every single yard he got, finishing off his runs with power and making people miss consistently. He also had 22 yards on 3 very important receptions as well.
The Raiders absolutely need to feed Murray more going forward. He is a bell cow, star running back in the making. When he gets his legs churning he is very hard to take down, he absolutely needs to get more than 18 touches moving forward. It seemed like every time his number was called he made some sort of play, even on the runs where he got hit right away.
As for the defense though, where in the world is the pass rush? It has been completely non-existent again this year. They haven't even gotten their first sack of the season yet going into Week 3, that is completely unacceptable. Joe Flacco had all day to throw and diced is way through the secondary accordingly.
The secondary didn't even play that bad, they just were asked to cover for way too long over and over again. Steve Smith Sr is a beast and feasted on the Raiders all day, but when a QB like Flacco has all day to throw that is to be expected. Without a pass rush the Raiders defense is going to get shredded all year long.
As bad as the defense was at times, they still made the most important stops of the day at the end of the game. When Carr threw the interception on their second to last drive, a touchdown from the Ravens would have been heartbreaking. They didn't get it though, despite moving the ball down to a goal to goal situation relatively easily.
That is the bend but don't break defense that is here, like it or not. The problem with the bend but don't break mentality is that if you do break it can get ugly (See Cincinnati Bengals, Week 1). However, this is how it is suppose to work when it's done correctly. They might get the yards, but you keep the points at a minimum and holding the Ravens to the field goal on that drive was as much a part of the win as the following Raiders drive.
The player that I was most happy with on defense was D.J. Hayden. He got burned a few times by Steve Smith, as did everyone else that attempted to cover Mighty Mouse, but all in all it was a better game from him. He was in position to make plays, had his head turned appropriately, and just played better in general than a lot of his games previously.
When the QB goes 32 of 45 for 384 yards you can't gush too much about what the secondary did, but a lot of that really was the lack of the pass rush. No matter how good the corners are, when they have to cover for that long it is going to be ugly. They played better than those stats suggest.
Specifically in that all important drive after the Ravens intercepted Carr was where it really was uplifting to see the secondary make plays. It looked like the Ravens couldn't be stopped but then D.J. and T.J. both made back to back plays in the end zone to force the field goal from the Ravens that allowed the Raiders the chance to win the game. Those two plays to stall that drive made up for everything else that happened in this game from the defense.
I will fully admit that I was extremely harsh going into this week from that Bengals massacre we all would like to pretend didn't happen. Seeing the Raiders come out calm, put that game behind them and play this well was really great to see. We still have no idea what team we will get the rest of this year, but at least they have shown what they can be when they play together.
Jack Del Rio got a lot of guff after last week, which he deserved, but this week he made up a lot of that lost ground. It was still just one game but it was a very good game, now he needs to not have a let up going into next week. They have a very winnable game against the Cleveland Browns, but they need to come in prepared for it too.
Specifically, they need to fix the pass rush. The Browns QB is Johnny "Football" Manziel and he is someone who can beat you with his legs. The Raiders are going to have to make sure to play disciplined football against him but they also need to hit him to rattle him or force him into gunslinger mistakes.
Enjoy this week coming off a good win, and hopefully they can finally put two wins together in a row when they play the Browns this Sunday. This was a great win for the Raiders when they desperately needed it, another blowout loss would have been devastating. We will see how it goes, this is just one win but it was certainly a very enjoyable one. Let's hope to see more of this team going forward, and less of last week's monstrosity.