This was an ugly game in many aspects. Jon Gruden was seen arguing with his quarterback Derek Carr after failed drives. Carr and the passing game struggled for much of the game. The defense played great in most stretches but were gifted a holding call on a huge run from David Johnson that called back a touchdown that would have ended the game.
The Raiders however were able to make enough plays to secure a victory, albeit against the hapless Arizona Cardinals. The defense made momentum changing plays against rookie QB Josh Rosen. The run game gained traction with a 3 headed attack. And Carr did have moments of brilliance that overshadowed an otherwise mediocre QB performance.
Defense makes big plays
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther hasn’t been the savior on that side of the ball many had hoped. Much of that has been his fault due to questionable personnel decisions and tired play calling. On Sunday defense still gave up a few huge plays but were able to make a few of their own in return to even things out.
Gareon Conley’s playing time is one of Guenther’s questionable personnel decisions. Conley is a talented cover man who according to Pro Football Focus hasn’t given up a catch on 3rd down all year. Even with stats like that Conley and a play like the one above Guenther still sat Conley out in favor of Rashaan Melvin or Daryl Worley for multiple series in this game. Both of those other cornerbacks gave up touchdown passes against the Cardinals.
On this play Conley comes off his primary coverage responsibility when he sees the ball in the air and makes a spectacular interception. Even though Rosen is a rookie you can’t take anything away from Conley. The 2nd year cover man shows great awareness to anticipate the flag route from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and great athleticism to change directions and make a leaping grab. Karl Joseph also hauled in an interception after a tipped pass. Both turnovers led to the only offensive touchdowns from the Raiders.
Maybe Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks wasn’t fibbing when he said he was impressed with the Raiders pass rush. The Raiders didn’t always get home but almost every defensive lineman made an impact play against the Cardinal’s struggling offensive line.
Maurice Hurst logged his fourth sack of the season on this play. As far as sacks go in the NFL, they don’t come much easier than this. The Cardinals miscommunicate on their protection call this play and allow Hurst to rush untouched toward their Quarterback. Hurst has already matched Khalil Mack’s rookie sack total and there are still 7 games left to play.
Three-headed running attack
Sometimes a 3 man running-back by committee is referred to as a 3 headed monster. Given the diminutive size of the Raiders backs however, monster isn’t quite the right word. If the 5’9 Doug Martin is Muscle Hamster, then 5’8 Jalen Richard is Speedy Gonzalez, and 5’8 DeAndre Washington is Mighty Mouse. The trio combined for 33 rushes and 152 yards on the ground helping power an otherwise inconsistent Raiders offense to victory.
Doug Martin had a very good start to the game and was reeling off runs with quickness and power at the point of contact. On this play Raiders run an inside zone play and Martin shows off his quick feet and low center of gravity for a first down into Cardinals territory.
Jalen Richard had the Raiders longest run from scrimmage on a similar play above. Richard is more known for his speed and his ability as a receiver out of the backfield than a guy who can effectively run between the tackles. Richard bounces this inside zone to the left and is able to beat the Cardinals defense to edge before turning upfield for 25 yards.
Washington was able to get his carries as well once Martin was banged up in the 3rd quarter. Washington is more of an inside runner and the gap scheme called here has the offensive line firing out and getting upfield as opposed to moving laterally like the two plays above. Washington employs a smooth jump cut to make the first defender miss before climbing to the 2nd level.
Clutch plays from Carr
Carr did not have a good game. In fact there were more poor passes than we’ve seen all year from the Raiders signal caller and that’s really saying something. It has been well documented that Gruden and Carr have become increasingly at odds throughout the course of this season, even getting into multiple animated sideline discussions after failed drives. Read my analysis of those intense conversations here.
But when it mattered most Carr made some solid throws that propelled the Raiders to a win.
The prettiest pass play of the day. Jared Cook is lined up wide at the bottom of the screen. Cook runs a the “sluggo” route which is a double move that sells the slant before the receiver breaks it off to a fade.
Cook is the best receiver on this team by a wide margin and an incredible playmaker. Tight ends don’t usually run these routes and if they do they aren’t able to turn the corner on an NFL defensive back and get wide open for a score.
Later in the first half, after the Karl Joseph interception, Carr is running a “sprint out” play where the pocket moves and Carr immediately rolls to his right. Lafell does a solid job of selling fade before breaking it off and running a quick comeback route to the near pylon for an easy pitch and catch.
Notice not only Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson slip but also Seth Roberts running his route from the slot falls to the ground. It’s likely the field condition helped the Raiders score on this play.
Carr was having trouble with his audibles all game. The two sideline arguments between Gruden and Carr caught on camera during the game came after Carr audibled to a different pass play.
This time however the audible actually worked. Carr recognized the slot corner showing blitz and checked into the perfect play to take advantage of the defense’s call. Robert’s runs the arrow route and his wide receivers immediately block the two defenders left in coverage. This play moved the Raiders into field goal territory where Daniel Carlson kicked the game winning score.
- If you count the 4th quarter David Johnson run that was called back due to penalty, the Raiders gave up 169 yards on 3 plays. The unit has struggled to stay disciplined all year and if they didn’t have key turnovers and help from the referees, this would have been another loss.
- Carr had 12 incompletions (at least two clanged off an open receiver’s hands), many were just plain terrible passes. The pass offense can’t be relied on with yet another injury at WR with Brandon LaFell being placed on injured reserve with an achilles tear. Hang on to your seats Raider Nation, it can get worse.
- The run blocking was hugely improved this week and the offensive line made a big stride in the right direction opening up holes for the running backs. Seth Roberts and Marcell Ateman also laid key blocks 2nd level blocks on important runs which was a boon for this team.
- Jacquies Smith came in this week at defensive end. He has been a journey man so far in his 4 year NFL career but played well and should have been credited with a sack after Rosen fumbled and picked up the ball in the backfield. The refs blew the play dead however and Smith was robbed in the official box score.
- The three games the Raiders have had a chance to win this season (Broncos, Brown, and Cardinals) came against either a soon to be fired head coach or a rookie QB. The Raiders have lost by atleast two touchdowns against all other opponents so it will be interesting to see how that stat holds up this coming week against rookie QB Lamar Jackson and Super Bowl winning coach John Harbaugh.