With an afternoon kickoff against the New York Giants the Raiders already were fully aware of what was at stake in this game, 1st place in the AFC West. The 1st place Kansas City Chiefs lost to the New York Jets 31-38, with a win the Raiders could take 1st. After a disastrous start to the season the Raiders were right where they wanted to be, in control of their own destiny.
All the Raiders had to do was beat the Giants and they would be tied with the Chiefs with that same Chiefs team their next opponent. Khalil Mack and Derek Carr would not be denied as they put the team on their backs minus both starting WR’s Amari Cooper (Concussion/Ankle) and Michael Crabtree (Suspension). The end result was a 24-17 win over the Giants and a three way tie for 1st place in the AFC West, with a chance to take a 1-game lead next weekend.
The passing offense was not lethal or even stellar but it got the job done when it needed to. That’s a summation of every Raiders win since week 2 and this game was no difference. In this game Derek Carr did it all with very little help, he even had to overcome a couple drops and fumbles from backup WR’s.
Oakland was without the services of both Cooper and Crabtree and the receiving unit as expected struggled a bit. Cordarelle Patterson was not a part of any of those struggles as he was an absolute monster in this game, providing much needed sparks to the offense. Patterson was fantastic in this game finishing with 4 catches for 97 yards, none bigger than the tunnel screen he took 59 yards in the closing minutes allowing Oakland to score to put the game away.
A couple turnovers and drops hurt the grade a little but that is to be expected when both stud receivers are out. The backups struggled but shined when it mattered, Johnny Holton had a mixed day and has to do better with his ball security. Overall this was a decent effort by Derek Carr to carry the passing offense, he was stellar.
The rushing offense led by Marshawn Lynch was outstanding at times and horrendous at others as has been the case this season. When running power the Raiders looked dominant, when they ran stretch plays with Lynch they looked awful. Lynch opened the games first drive with a spectacular 51-yard TD run and the Raiders never looked back.
Raiders run old-school power like God intended. K.O. knocks back MLB (47) and Lynch does the rest. pic.twitter.com/1A2IvbFdz2— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) December 3, 2017
Unfortunately Lynch appeared to tweak something on that run and took a bit of time before he could come back into the game. When he returned he continued to pick up tough yards and break tackles, that’s just what Beast Mode does. Lynch appears to be getting stronger as the season goes on and that bodes well for a struggling Raiders offense as he tallied 17 carries for 101 yards his first 100-yard game since 2015.
Lynch was the only back to consistently pick up yards as the Giants stuffed DeAndre Washington regularly holding him to only 16 yards on 6 carries, although he did have a beautiful 9 yard score. The final line for the RB’s in Oakland was 29 carries for 119 yards and 2 TD’s. Averaging 4.1 yards per carry is a nice way to help out a struggling passing offense missing it’s top weapons.
The passing defense was a mixed bag of terrible coverage and fantastic coverage, but the pass rush was consistent and that was the difference. The Raiders were able to pressure QB Geno Smith a season high 24 times in this game, leading to 3 sacks and 2 QB hits. The pass rush was fierce and played fast, Mack and Irvin both had strip sacks on Smith.
Mack’s strip sack was the stuff of legends, with the Giants at the Raiders 11 yard line about to score Mack just took the ball from Smith. Sounds basic but it was anything but basic, Mack beat his man and just took the ball out of Smiths hand when it appeared the Giants would surely score. Oakland was up 10-7 at the time of the strip by Mack with only 36 seconds left in the half, this was the clearest turning point in the game as Oakland never looked back.
Giants TE Evan Engram had himself a game but it was mostly just his ability as he made some amazing plays in tight coverage. The Raiders did not allow any other Giants WR’s to gain more than 56 yards and in total only gave up 212 yards. Oakland’s defense under Pagano looks vastly improved over the KNJ version but appears to get too safe when holding a lead at the end of games.
The rushing defense led by Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack, Justin Ellis, Navarro Bowman, Treyvon Hester and Denico Autry was outstanding with all notching a tackle for loss. Irvin was the most impressive out of this bunch as he has really started to come on late in the season as he posted 3 TFL’s in this game and was a complete monster. The Raiders allowed only 65 yards on 24 carries but did yield a TD to Orleans Darkwa, however 13 of those yards were Geno Smith scrambles.
Despite the TD the Raiders run defense was outstanding and shut down the Giants run game from the outset. This allowed the Raiders to make the Giants 1 dimensional and fueled a fierce pass rush. Justin Ellis has been outstanding this season for Oakland in the middle and has fueled a resurgent run defense with the help of Bowman.
Holding any team to 65 yards or less with an average of 2.7 yards per carry is phenomenal. Oakland’s run defense has been generally good all year but this game in particular they were spectacular. John Pagano has really done an amazing job with this defense since taking over the past couple weeks when Ken Norton Jr. was relieved of duties.
The Oakland Raiders have been solid to good all year on special teams, this game was not an indication of that at all. The special teams units were awful in this game, and that’s being generous as they bumbled their way through this game. Punt Returner Jalen Richard had the kind of game that gets guys cut when he fumbled 3 times in a must win game.
In addition to that the punt team decided to give Marquette King the Willie Beamen treatment at his own 11, luckily Mack was able to strip Smith 2 plays later. Giorgio Tavecchio was his usual consistent self, he is not the big leg Sebastian Janikowski is but he just consistently hits field goals and XP’s, Raiders couldn’t ask for more. Tavecchio and King played well but the rest of their units were a hot mess and almost cost the team the game.
Marquette and Giorgio are the only reason this grade isn’t an F, the rest of the special teams blunders were enough to lose a must win game for the Raiders. That is simply not acceptable on any level to lose a game because of special teams play. This unit is usually fantastic so this game was a huge shocker but one that needs to be addressed and cleaned up as the Raiders close out the final weeks of the season hunting for a playoff spot.
Jack Del Rio, OC Todd Downing, and DC John Pagano did a good job of getting the team ready for a must win game. The miscues and struggles were largely on offense again but were to be expected with the Raiders playing without both star WR’s. Still the offense managed 24 points, despite drops and turnovers.
Oakland had to win this game and Jack made sure they won, despite a couple questionable decisions to go for it on 4th down with a lead. The short yardage decisions were terrible play calls and very predictable, the defense knew it was coming and Oakland’s line just didn’t win their matchups. Oakland has to do a better job with their scheme and play calling over the next few weeks as the schedule gets much more difficult.
Pagano called a great game and Downing did enough to win without his 2 star WR’s. The coaches were lucky to match-up with Ben McAdoo who has since been fired. This was the epitome of “Just Win, Baby” as the Raiders didn’t win pretty but they did manage to win and that’s all that matters.
Their next game is against one of the teams they are tied for 1st in the Kansas City Chiefs. Oakland will have every opportunity to take sole possession of 1st place in the West next weekend but they will have to play much better than they did against the Giants to do it. They aren’t winning pretty but hey a win is a win.