Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was team called the Oakland Raiders. They were a motley bunch, gutted of talent and cap space and struggling to field a competitive group. And then the rebuild began, but—as is true for most rebuilds—it was ugly.
The draft began to provide an influx of some nice talent, but it would take a while for them to grow up. In 2014, the Raiders were 0-10 in the midst of a 16-game losing streak while the Chiefs were 7-3, riding a 5-game winning streak that included beating the defending Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks.
There’s no way the Raiders should have won that game, but lightning struck and young Derek Carr made his first game-winning TD throw to #89 James Jones.
That game was made into a fantastic finish courtesy of the Raiders defense, particularly Sio Moore, Khalil Mack, and an angry Justin Tuck.
This is what it sounds like to get an 0-16 Gorilla of your back.
The team that started 0-10 would finish 3-3 and that would give the team and the players something to build on. The next two season, they went 19-13 which brings us to now.
The previous 3-game losing streak that culminated with that missed extra point loss to the Chargers had the fanbase’s morale at a 3-year low. Expectations were focused on a deep playoff run (‘Super Bowl or Bust’) and the fact that struggles were punctuated by an anemic offense had heads spinning.
Like 2014, many gave the Raiders little chance to win, but the team rallied around each other, fought and battled, and overcame the adversity.
So, on the 4th try at the TD, when Crabtree caught the ball, got both knees down just inside the front left pylon, the screams were of a huge catharsis; the gorilla was not as large as in 2014, but a big one nonetheless.
This was the game of the year so far for the Raiders and may well mark the turning point of the season. If the Raiders go deep the rest of the year, we will look back at this game (and ‘the drive’) as setting the stage, much like the 2-point conversion in New Orleans set the stage for the 2016 season.
Most everything has already been said about this game, so I’ll just try to focus on a few more interesting bits :
- I don’t believe this team ever doubted themselves. The attitude comes from the top and throughout the past 2+ years, they have always been mentally strong and focused. This team is made up of players that know how to grind and how to overcome. The fan base is far more fragile than this team is.
- I do wonder if this young team was a little over-confident early in the year and if it has taken being ‘punched in the mouth’ 4x in a row to get back to grinding like they did last year. For young teams dealing with success can be as difficult as dealing with adversity.
- Defensive frontline did a very good job overall. Limited Kareem Hunt to 19/93, 4.9 avg, but outside of one big run for 34 (more on that later), held him to 18/59, 3.3 avg. Lots of good fits, lots of good discipline, and great effort.
- Hunt is a definite talent. Powerfully built and low; when he tucks down, he has nearly no tackling surface and even guys like NaVorro Bowman bounce off because they have nothing to wrap.
- There has been obvious improvements on the defensive front week-to-week; if you study the video, you can see corrections being made and mistakes not being made twice. But still the main weakness is the DL recognizing draw plays; the young interior DL attack outside and upfield on pass sets and then leave huge holes inside. Hunt’s big run came on a draw.
- Bruce Irvin et al were banging on Travis Kelce much of the night to keep him from getting a clean release. That helped the coverage out and limited Kelce’s performance. One of the times that Bruce didn’t/couldn’t bump Kelce resulted in that 1st quarter touchdown.
- Ken Norton has been blitzing like crazy since week 1, notably being burnt by Kirk Cousins in Week 3 WAS game. Thursday, he showed blitz A LOT, but backed out almost every time. Two notable blitzes (both by Bowman), one was picked up and resulted in the Tyreek Hill TD, the other was not picked up and resulted in a key 3rd down incompletion.
- Many of the fake blitzes forced KC to adjust protection calls, so when they backed out of the blitz, it would result in a 3/4-man rush with Khalil Mack having a 1-on-1. GREAT design.
- Defense legitimately had 2 defensive stops on 3rd down that ended up otherwise. The strange Denico Autry personal foul (falling into Alex Smith’s legs) that extended a drive and the Keith McGill tipped ball to Albert Wilson TD. Point is that the defense is playing well enough to have held KC to ~16 pts. As they clean up more and more, we may see the defense improve, hopefully by end of year when it matters the most.
- I admit that I did not trust the defense to get a 3-and-out at the end when the team needed it. They proved me wrong and rose up like champions. It reminded me of the end of the Carolina game.
- Salute Vadal Alexander
- Jared Cook was signed specifically to help beat the Chiefs. In 2016, the Raiders were down 8 and had a chance to win it. They went with this play :
2017, similar situation and go with:
- It’s a great win, but it’s only one win. You don’t get extra points for beating a 5-1 team. So now take it in the cliche ‘one game at a time’-mode and focus on getting a win at Buffalo and getting to .500.