Normally after each Raiders game I run a game review series entitled "The Morning After". However, due to being in transit from Nashville to my home 11 hours away I was unable to do my normal commentary on the game. With it no longer being the morning after the game was played, we felt it wasn't appropriate to do my normal article.
Instead, I am doing this article providing my view on 5 pivotal plays in the Raiders victory over the Tennessee Titans this weekend. My normal column of "The Morning After" will return next week after the Raiders play the Baltimore Ravens.
1. Latavius Murray 22 yard touchdown run
Make no mistake about it, Murray's touchdown run in the first quarter set the tone for the enite game. The offensive line dominated on that play and opened up such an amazing hole for Murray that the TD run was like taking candy from a baby. I was located at the top of the stadium and still watched the entire defensive line open up like a flower ready to be picked.
The defense proceeded to play great the bulk of the rest of the game, especially the secondary. They enforced their will just like the offensive line did on the TD run, emulating that same tone that the offense started right away for the Raiders. Without that early touchdown, I don't know if the Raiders come away victorious.
2. Bruce Irvin forced fumble on Marcus Mariota scramble
Khalil Mack has been quiet through the first 3 games, but Bruce Irvin has been making noise instead. His awareness to force the fumble from a careless Marcus Mariota in the second quarter directly contributed to points on the board when Janikowski kicked his record breaking 52 yard field goal a few plays later.
Again, the early lead was integral to the victory so those points were absolutely huge. The Oakland offense wasn't spectacular this game and they needed that excellent field position badly. The offense actually had a net -9 yards on the drive after that fumble so had Irvin not managed to force the fumble where he did the Raiders probably do not add to their lead at that moment of the game.
3. Reggie Nelson interception to close first half
Talk about a bizarre moment, the refs totally screwed the Raiders on this one. Reggie Nelson intercepted Marcus Mariota on the final play of the half and had some day light for possibly returning it for a touchdown. The refs incorrectly called him out of bounds and then punished the Raiders afterward for the late clock start by the Titans home field clock operators.
With the refs incorrectly calling Nelson out and it being difficult to say whether the clock would have been run out completely had the timer started on time, it was completely unfair to call the half over. The Raiders should have been rewarded another play and that play would have been a huge field goal attempt.
Scoring there would have gave Oakland a huge boost going into the half. Instead, the Titans got a huge break and the momentum was on their side for the 2nd half. Had the Raiders ended up losing, this play would have been the most pivotal in the entire game. Luckily, Oakland won anyway so it didn't effect the outcome of the game but it very easily could have.
4. Taylor Lewan Unnecessary Roughness penalty at OAK 3 on final Titans Drive
Thank you Mr. Lewan! This was one of the worst timed penalties you will ever see a player commit and probably sealed the game for the Raiders. The Titans had just gotten down to the Oakland 3 yard line with what would have been a back breaking 19 yard play, but then Taylor Lewan jumped on the pile of players late leading to a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty.
The Titans had been running all over the Raiders in the 2nd half with a suddenly resurgent DeMarco Murray looking damn near unstoppable. There is little doubt that he, or their other bruising running back Derrick Henry, would have been able to pound his way into the end zone from the 3.
Instead, the Titans were pushed back to the 18 yard line and had to rely on their passing attack. It looked like they got a touchdown right after that to Andre Johnson but he was penalized too for pass interference because he pushed T.J. Carrie to the ground on the way to the end zone. If not for the sloppy penalties from the Titans this game likely would have gone to overtime and who knows who would have won then.
5. T.J. Carrie coverage on final drive 4th down play for Titans
Carrie's blanket coverage on the final play for the Titans offense sealed the victory for the Raiders. It was extremely close to being defensive pass interference on that play and trust me the Titans fans firmly believe that it was. However, it wasn't egregious enough to call on the final play of the game no matter how badly Tennessee fans wanted them to.
T.J. Carrie did have his hand on the back of Harry Douglas on the play though so it was a little surprising to see the refs show restraint in not calling a penalty on that play. Corners are allowed to have their hand on the back of the receiver as long as they do not turn the receiver with that hand though so Carrie seemed to play the rules perfectly. At a different point in the game maybe they call PI, but not at the end of the game when a call there could change the outcome of the game.
You can't really get more pivotal than to force the incompletion on the final play for the Titans. It literally sealed the victory and was quite the play to get to see live. Raiders fans hearts were pumping hard when they saw the blanket coverage from Carrie that seemed sure to draw a flag, but the Raiders chants afterwards showed the utter joy Raider Nation felt when the flag never came. Just Win Baby!