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Quick hits: Notes, analysis of Raiders week 4 win over Ravens

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My quick thoughts on the week 4 win over Baltimore

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

"When you're trying to build a program, you go through four stages: You lose big, you lose close, you win close, and finally you start winning big. And that, is how you build a program." - Bobby Bowden

In the four games, the Raiders are 3-1 with a point differential of +2 (W+1, L-7, W+7, W+1). It's too early to say for sure, but the team looks like it may be in Phase 3 of the Bowden Process.

Never underestimate the importance of playing a physical team. The Ravens are a very physical team and it was tremendous experience for the younger players.


Run D
  • 26 rush attempts, 130 yards, 5.0 avg, 2 TDs
  • Allowed 4 runs of 10+ yards (21, 18, 12, 10)
  • Had 12 runs of 2 yards or less
  • Few "tricky" runs with misdirection or strange line reads, unlike Atlanta and Tennessee.
  • The run defense is coming along and making improvements in some areas, but it's still a work in progress with many young players.
  • Lots of snaps on Defense and they looked tired near the end
  • Coverage was always going to take some time.
  • 3 new players in the secondary getting to know each other.
  • It's starting to happen and I'm a bit surprised it's coming together so quickly.
  • They are starting to play together and faster
  • I consider them ahead of schedule and that's a credit both to the players and the coaching
Mack made a big showing.
  • Showed off variety of moves, Outside Dip, Inside Club, Inside Swim, and Tornado Spin.
  • and then this move to break thru a Tackle/Guard Double Team, like Hercules tearing down the pillars of a temple
  • First sack was on a brutal club. Want to call him "One Punch Mack" for that
  • Was causing havoc and getting holding calls all day.
Bruce Irvin was on Fire also.
The "Tinkerbell Syndrome"
  • In the book Peter Pan, author J.M. Barrie describes Tinkerbell as being so small that she can only experience one emotion at a time, thus she is either happy, sad, angry, or jealous, but there is never any combination or texture to how she feels or reacts.
  • Rookie and young players are like this. It is very difficult for them to keep everything in their heads and so they will often fail at a few aspects of their performance in favor of the "one thing" that they are focused on.
  • Vs TEN, Shilique was often flattened to the line of scrimmage and lost contain. This week, it appeared that he focused on making sure he kept contain (like in Top Gun when Maverick says, "I will NOT leave my wingman"), but in doing so, he was not able to fall inside to help. It's progress.

I'm calling big Reggie Nelson hits "Reggie-Cide" , which means "Kingslayer" :

Jihad improving noticeably
  • Still plays a bit high and can get moved
  • But he's starting to figure things out a bit
  • Showing more aggression and fight
  • Small things that will show up later
  • This is great experience for him
  • He's shooting his hands better and quicker

Good Denico / Bad Denico both showed up again.

  • He has some great quickness and slashing-type moves like when he used the swim to flush Flacco
  • But lost his gap a few times. On a key run play, the jumped the gap in the opposite direction of the run. Reminds me of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles ("You're running the wrong way!")
DJ Hayden played well again

  • Not panicking as much as last year and getting his head turned around. This started to show up in pre-season, but it's nice to see in games that matter
  • On the Final play, DJ actually broke up the pass just before Reggie made the hit. Give DJ the credit for the Pass Breakup and Nelson credit for cleaning it up and keeping it that way.
  • Is a totally different player when the play is in front of him; his burst and attack are great
  • Challenging plays even when completed
  • Dances a lot. Love your dancing, DJ, but just wait until the ref signals Turnover first.
Cory James looked much improved from 1st to 2nd start
  • Noticeable improvement from last week.
  • 15 tackles and a forced fumble. And is always hustling around the ball.
  • BAL Center, Jeremy Zuttah was sometimes getting on top of him quite quickly and James was engulfed and could not escape
  • Generally seems to play bigger than 230 lbs. From his play, I'd guess 240+
  • More good than bad.
  • James-Love and Heeney-Hate are both a bit exaggerated at this point
  • Needle is definitely pointed Up for him.
  • He was reading and finding the ball quickly and aggressively ...
  • ... but also got out of position sometimes

Biggest (general) diff between James and Heeney :

  • James attacks what he sees
  • Heeney waits to make sure what he sees
  • IMO, it's easier to correct a mistake of action rather than a mistake of inaction.
Karl was playing very fast
  • Has very natural sense of the game
  • Plays team defense / field leverage
  • Hits big and wraps up.
  • Accelerates like a madman on the blitz
  • High speed mobility is impressive; ie., is not just a straight-line runner

The Final Play zoomed and slow :


  • 3 Times in the Redzone, 3 TDs. Take a rest, Seabass.
  • Baltimore D Line is very physical and powerful.
    • Jernigan gave Gabe some trouble and the others were also tough inside
    • And those LBs were really running to the ball.
    • You don't see Gabe done like this very often :

  • Running game stats 19 rushes, 62 yards, 3.3 avg. looks better than it was. Outside of Washington's big 28 yard run, it was
    • 18 rushes, 34 yards, 1.9 avg
    • Last 7 rushes were for a total of 1 yard. (We miss you, Lee Smith)
  • DeAndre Washington's big run and Lats' 3rd-and-1 failed run were both on the same Bunch Sprint G play.
  • Derek Carr looks more in command of Musgrave's offense
    • Carr was a little excited/hyper/fast early in the game, but settled down quick
  • Seth's TD rec was just beautiful. That chemistry between the rec and Derek keeps improving
  • How important was John Harbaugh accepting the penalty to give the Raiders' offense another 3rd down try?
    • 3rd-and-16 and Amari gets 15 1/2 to set up that 4th-and-short.
    • The 4th-and-1 had 3 big bodies squeezing the A-gaps. Thanks for the offsides b/c I'm not sure DC could have sneaked it.
  • Are we seeing a young team coming of age? Overcoming mistakes and winning close games can indicate a team turning the corner.
  • What can we say about Michael Crabtree?
    • He's become the key clutch player and now he commands the respect of the entire team
    • Call him "Avid" because he's now an anti-diva.
      • Now, instead of Crabtree having to say "Give me the damn ball", everyone else is saying, "Get Crab the ball!"
    • Here's a close up of his Stutter-Go for the Game Winner :

Marquette is a stud
  • 2 early punts to the 8 and then to the 5 helped set field position.
  • Bombing punts all day. 415 total punt yards on 8 punts.
  • Punter Swag All Day Long

Team Building

I don't want to overstate these seemingly esoteric aspects, but this team feels like it realizes that it is building something special. There is a bonding and genuine investment in each other that seems apparent on the field. These players celebrate each other's successes so much.

Everyone knows that Sean Smith has struggled this season, that DJ has been criticized, that Reggie Nelson has been a bit disappointing so far, and that people were starting to whisper about Khalil Mack's lack of sacks. So when Sean Smith makes a big play, there's an almost palpable relief and excitement not just from Smith, but from everyone around him.

Players genuinely caring for each other is not something you can teach or force; it's a culture that you build. Part of Reggie McKenzie's approach has been to bring in character-players that help foster this Team First attitude and it's going to pay off.

* * *

1. Remember in 2014 when Derek Carr was injured and everyone just ignored him? In 2016, the blocking Tight End goes down and he's helped to the sideline by the starting RB and the starting QB.

2. Sean Smith makes a key pass breakup and the team rallies around him like it was a Game Winner.

3. DJ gives some love to Sean Smith after the interception of the 2 Point Conversion.

4. This sums up the QB / Coach relationship in Oakland