After four long weeks and the team adopting the true mantra of the Oakland Raiders, “It’s us against the world,” the Raiders earned their first win of the season. It wasn’t just about winning their first game of the season, but how.
For the last four weeks pundits, experts, and prognosticators have been jumping down the throats of the quarterback Derek Carr, safety Reggie Nelson, head coach Jon Gruden, and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
Carr had been throwing interceptions in the red zone, missing open receivers (had Jordy Nelson open behind coverage), dinking and dunking without scoring, underthrowing and floating deep passes, and trying his best to get rid of the football in 1.9 seconds or less from the snap.
Nelson (Reggie) has been the guy in the unenviable position of being roasted, toasted, and burnt to a crisp as the safety with deep responsibilities. Gruden has had his team looking like world beaters for 30 minutes then couldn’t make an adjustment to save their lives, or so it would appear.
The man taking most of the heat has been Guenther. He’s had Gruden sit in on his meetings, been chastised for having Nelson’s back, fingers are being pointed at the defense’s 4th quarter collapse.
Finding their will to win
Raiders nearly tripled their average points per game total 17.8, 45 against a really good Cleveland defense. Kolton Miller once again held the blindside down without allowing a sack. And he had Myles Garrett all day. Beast mode had 130+ and that was after the ref blew a run dead— Phil Robinson III (@PhilRobinsonNFL) October 1, 2018
The Raiders had every opportunity to quit. The fans were booing Carr from the stands, recently signed Matt McCrane was missing field goals from the dirt, rookie running back Nick Chubb rushed for 105 yards and 2 TD’s on three carries. Down two scores with 7:26 in the third quarter and it was starting to look and sound like the same old song.
Carr and Marshawn Lynch took it upon themselves to re-write the ending.
Lynch ran hard like a man possessed all game long. The Browns couldn’t stop him, they could barely slow him down. Lynch ran through faces over and over and over again, and the Browns couldn’t take it. As a matter of fact, Lynch ran so hard the refs early whistle cost him what could have been his longest touchdown run of the season. Lynch would finish with 130 yards on 20 carries, averaging 6.5 yards per carry with a long run of 52 yards.
Marshawn Lynch ran for his 300th yard in Week 9 last season. Lynch ranks fourth in the NFL with 300 rushing yards through four weeks.— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) October 1, 2018
He also has more receiving yards through four games than in first 10 games last season.
The 32-year-old still has it.
The Gruden effect in plain sight
Coach Gruden has made his hay working with quarterbacks. Raider Nation can be a fickle bunch at times, but Carr is on pace to have his greatest season to date and it’s only his first with his new coach and coordinator. If history repeats itself, once Carr settles down in the red zone, and begins to utilize his legs as a means to extend plays he can be in the MVP conversation.
Carr’s efforts are largely going unappreciated due to the win-loss record (1-3) and his touchdown to interception ratio (6-7). Carr hasn’t been perfect and he himself has said multiple times that he has much to improve on. Carr has 16,063 passing yards as a Raider, which is good enough for 4th in franchise history. Daryle ‘The Mad Bomber’ LaMonica is next in Carr’s path at 16,655. Rich ‘Loose Canon’ Gannon had 17,585, and the great Kenny ‘The Snake’ Stabler leads with 19,078 passing yards.
With 1,373 passing yards, Derek Carr has the most yards in club history through the first four weeks of a season.— Evert Geerlings (@E_Geerlings) October 1, 2018
Currently on pace for an NFL-record 5,492 yards, Carr is averaging a career-high 8.1 yards/attempt and 343.3 yards per game, while completing 71.3% of his passes. pic.twitter.com/AkroBpiy5R
Defense finds the turnover booty
Greetings from Conley (Gareon Conley) Island. In the first quarter and first possession for the Browns, Conley did his best to welcome Baker Mayfield to the NFL with a pick-six. The first interception of Conley’s career and the first pick six for the Raiders dating back some time.
Free agent Jonathon Hankins recovered not one but two fumbles from his defensive interior position. Ever the Johnny-on-the-spot Hankins was the first defender to see Mayfield mishandle the snap exchange.
Rookie Maurice Hurst Jr. was a force and got multiple pressures including a strip sack, tying him for the team lead (2.0 sacks) with Bruce Irvin.
Last but not least I have been a vocal proponent for never ever letting Nelson be left alone or in any deep safety coverage responsibility, but at the most pivotal time in the game when the defense needed a stop, Nelson came through clutch, just like coach Guenther has been saying he would.
This was a gut check performance from the Raiders. The Browns are no slouches and they are a better team with Mayfield under center than Tyrod Taylor. Mayfield was on time with his throws, precise with his ball placement and consistently hit his wide receivers in the hands.
Many of the Raider Nation gave up on this team before the game was over. It was obvious in the amount of people trying to beat that Bay Area traffic in an effort to get home.
How do you give up on a team with a quarterback who is fourth in passing yards, completions and completion percentage, and fifth in passing attempts? Maybe because in taking the chances many were clamoring for, he’s thrown more interceptions than usual. Carr does have the most in the league with seven.
The fact is Carr and this offense are gelling now that they have a few games under their belts. This offense was largely absent during the preseason and it very well could have stunted their cohesion. In any case this offense is 2nd in the league in total yards, 15th in rushing, and 4th in passing yards and the team is miraculously tied for 14th with 29 total penalties.
The record 1-3 wasn’t the start they were looking for but with the next seven weeks against teams that are still struggling to find themselves, they can get right in a heartbeat. So for now RaiderNation victory is yours and now we’re on to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Follow Phil on twitter @PhilRobinsonNFL