All wins are important in a 16-game NFL season. But one could argue last Sunday was the Raiders biggest win of the season thus far. The odds were stacked against them, along with the Vegas odds which had them as 3.5-point dogs -- their largest underdog spread this season.
There were a lot of things favoring the Ravens. They had a better record, the Raiders traveled from the West coast to the East Coast, playing at 10am Pacific, against a top five defense as well as a top flight quarterback, with one of the best and deepest receiving corps in the league.
And they pulled out a 1-point, come-from-behind win. This wasn’t like the opener in New Orleans because the Saints have the worst defense in the league. And yet the Raiders were clutch just the same, finding a way to pull it out.
There is a lot of credit to hand out, so let’s get to it.
Crabtree was a monster in this one. Double coverage, single coverage, zone, man; it didn’t matter. When Derek Carr needed him, he came through big time.
His first catch came midway the second quarter. On 3rd and 5, Carr threw the ball for Crabtree, hoping he would go up and get it and he did just that; pulling it down for a 16-yard gain. It kept the drive going which was capped by Carr going for Crabtree on a 5-yard fade in the right corner of the end zone for the touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
He picked back up with the heroics to begin the fourth quarter. With the Ravens within two points at 14-12, the Raiders were driving. In 3rd and 8 from the Baltimore 13-yard-line, Crabtree found a soft spot in the zone in the end zone, Carr put it there, and Crabtree wisely caught the ball in his midsection to brace for impact with safety Eric Weddle.
The score put the Raiders up 21-12, but the Ravens would come back quickly, scoring two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to take the lead back at 21-27. Crabtree had to go back to work.
He caught the first pass on the following drive over the middle for 15 yards. Then the next pass for 11 yards on an out route along the right sideline. Four plays later, he put a move on Shareece Wright, who bit just enough, and Crabtree went on a go route, catching the Carr pass in the back of the end zone, dragging his feet inbounds for the touchdown from 23-yard out. With the 28-27 lead, and just over two minutes remaining, that proved to be the game-winner.
Crabtree finished with a team leading 7 catches for 88 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Crabtree was at the receiving end of some phenomenal Carr passes, as were a few other Raiders receivers. As in previous weeks, things got started off pretty slowly. But the first opportunity to score, Carr wasted no time in putting the Raiders in the end zone.
A 47-yard punt return by Jalen Richard set the Raiders up at the 6-yard-line. It took just one play. Carr rolled out right and threw a ball where only Seth Roberts could get it, who dove for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
A couple drives later, Carr got the Raiders moving again. He converted the 16-yard pass to Crabtree on 3rd and 5, followed by a 7-yard pass to Roberts for another first down and then an 11-yard pass to Amari Cooper that put them in scoring position at the 33-yard-line. Two plays later, he dropped in a perfect fade pass to Crabtree for his second passing TD of the day.
The third quarter saw the Raiders back to sluggish football, but once the fourth quarter began, Carr got revved up again. Taking possession at the Baltimore 29-yard-line after a turnover, Carr went 4 for 4 on the drive for 44 yards and a touchdown to take a 21-12 lead.
Once again, however, Carr found himself behind and in need of a game-winning drive. It took him all of 1:24 and six plays to go 66 yards and what would be the game-winning touchdown on an absolutely gorgeous 23-yard strike to Crabtree in the back of the end zone.
This is probably the best game Hayden has ever had as a Raider. Even without an interception. As deep as the Ravens’ receiving corps is both at wide receiver and at tight end, Hayden was lights out in his duties.
In 3rd and 18 on the Ravens’ first drive, his coverage forced Kamar Aiken to commit offensive pass interference and they couldn’t pick up the 3rd and 28 from farther back than their drive began. He ended their second series with a tackle on a 2-yard catch on third and 4. Then he ended their third possession with a pass defended.
The Ravens’ final possession of the first quarter, Hayden kept containment to help stop an end around for a short gain. That drive resulted in a field goal. Hayden then ended the next drive with a coverage incompletion on 3rd and 14. He added a tackle on a short catch on the final drive of the half, although he gave up his one big completion of 20 yards as well, which helped put them in position to add a field goal before halftime.
Early in the fourth quarter, he teamed up to make a tackle on an 8-yard catch on 3rd and 23. He finished the game tied for third on the team with 6 tackles (4 solo) and a pass defended.
In just his second NFL start, James was absolutely everywhere, showing rare skills for a rookie, let alone a rookie sixth round pick. He had two tackles on the Ravens’ first possession; one for no gain and the other to stop the third down catch short of the sticks to force the punt.
He added two more run stuffs in the first half – one for one yard to start a three-and-out and another for a loss. He also had a pressure for an incompletion.
To begin the second half, he stopped a catch for five yards on third and 15. The next drive, he punched the ball out of the hands of Terrance West to force a fumble. The Ravens would recover the fumble to keep the drive going. Later in the drive, he stopped a catch for one yard on 3rd and goal from the two. Unfortunately, the Ravens would go for it on 4th and goal and punch it in on a QB sneak.
James had a couple of missed plays late which resulted in a 3-yard touchdown run and later on an 18-yard run on the final drive. But he made the tackle in the next two plays – a run stuff for one yard and a catch for five yards – and the Ravens’ drive and their hopes ended at midfield.
James finished leading the team with 15 tackles (12 solo) with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. His solo tackles were at least twice as many as any other Raiders player in the game.
King had his cleat print all over the Raiders’ first touchdown. After pinning the Ravens at the 8-yard-line with his second punt, he put them against their own goal line at the 5-yard-line with a 55-yard punt.
The Ravens were unable to move the ball, leading to a punt out of their own end zone. Due to the close quarters, the punt was partially blocked. This helped give Jalen Richard some open field to get up the speed and he returned it almost right back to wear King’s punt originally landed and the Raiders scored the touchdown on one play.
In total, King had 8 punts in the game, averaging 51.8 yards per punt with a net of 46.5. Half of his punts were stopped inside the 20-yard-line and half of those were inside the 10 (8, 5).
All of his four punts that weren’t downed inside the 20 traveled over 50 yards in the air, with one traveling 62 yards. Only one Ravens drive following a punt began outside of the 30-yard-line. It was a 20-yard return off a 53-yard King punt. Weapon.
Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Denico Autry
It felt weird writing up a blurb about Mack as a Baller the first three weeks. Some were even calling for him to be a Buster, but his play didn’t quite warrant that. He was just meh. Which is not like him. He joins Irvin and Autry who had played well over the first three weeks.
The Raiders smelled blood in the water with the Ravens missing starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Whomever was put on that side of the line was eating. This trio was terrorizing Flacco all game long.
Early in the second quarter, the Ravens would mount their first drive. But it would end with Mack getting pressure on third down. He was held, but still got after Flacco who threw the ball quickly to avoid being clobbered. The ball fell incomplete and the Raiders declined the holding penalty to end the drive with a field goal.
The next series, Mack wasn’t fooled by the flea flicker and got pressure to force another poor pass from Flacco. Irvin and Autry joined the party with each getting a pressure on Flacco.
The third quarter began with Irvin stuffing a run for one yard. Mack’s man was flagged for holding him again and Autry added a pressure incompletion. The drive went nowhere.
The next drive Autry started by chasing down Flacco who threw the ball away. A bit later he teamed up with Mack on a run stuff. Then Autry added another run stuff for no gain which was followed by a Mack pressure for an incompletion.
Soon all those pressures finally resulted in sacks. First it was Irvin who got in the backfield for a strip sack which Autry recovered to give the Raiders the ball at the Baltimore 29-yard-line. They would take the short field and score their third TD of the game to take a 21-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.
A Ravens comeback attempt would have to wait until Mack finally broke through for his first sack of the season. The loss of seven put the Ravens in 3rd and 23 which they couldn’t pick up and were forced to punt.
Mack would tie for third on the team with 6 tackles (4 solo) along with a sack and 3 hurries. Irvin had two QB hurries and the strip sack. Autry’s day didn’t show up in the box score, but he was a major factor.
Kelechi Osemele, Donald Penn
Carr was not sacked. Neither of them had any penalties. Osemele added a couple run blocks. Solid day for these two gentlemen.
Karl Joseph, Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this Raiders’ secondary began playing great football the moment Joseph was inserted in to the lineup. And their issues with the tight end seem to have evaporated as well. But he was just the final piece to a good looking secondary.
Joseph’s first tackle of the game was stopping the tight end on a 2-yard catch to help end the Ravens’ second series. In the final seconds of the first half, the Ravens took a shot at the end zone, but Joseph got a step on the receiver and very nearly intercepted it in the end zone. They would settle for a field goal two plays later.
In the third quarter, Joseph made the tackle on a run play that led to Cory James knocking the ball out (the Ravens recovered it). He added a tackle short of the first down on 3rd down and got pressure on a blitz to force an incompletion on the Ravens’ final drive. He finished second on the team with 8 tackles (5 solo) and a pass defended.
To be honest, Sean Smith had an up and down day. He gave up a couple intermediate catches (17, 15) – both for third down conversions on drives that resulted in field goals – and had a couple of holding penalties. But he also had a lot of great defensive plays including two passes defended which were a greater impact on the game. Ultimately it was his interception on the 2-point conversion attempt that was the major difference. It kept the Ravens from tying up the game with the Raiders ultimately winning by one point.
Nelson had a good game overall, but he is a Baller for making the hit to knock the ball out on the final play of the game (that mattered) and seal the victory for the Raiders.
Brynden Trawick – He partially blocked the punt that led to the Jalen Richard return to the 6-yard-line that set up the Raiders’ first touchdown. He also made the tackle on the Raiders’ final kickoff to have the Ravens’ final drive attempt start at their own 21-yard-line. It was his second special teams tackle of the day.