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Raiders week 13 report card vs Steelers: Trio of tight ends lead the offense

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

There have been noticeable signs of improvement from the Raiders in recent weeks, Sunday’s week 13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers was the culmination of that progress.

This game had a feel that Raiders fans haven’t felt in long time, it had the feel from the 2016 season. One of the trademarks of the 12-4, 2016 season was Derek Carr leading the team to heroic come from behind victories. And again today, Derek Carr put the team on his shoulders and led the Raiders to a 24-21 win.

Let’s take a look at the Raiders week 13 report card.

Aerial Attack: A

The passing game was on point today. Derek Carr delivered throws today that will go into his career highlight reel when he is no longer playing the game. Carr’s performance today reminds you of why the Raiders paid him franchise quarterback money.

It was hopefully a glimpse of what to expect going forward as Carr and Gruden continue to build chemistry. Carr finished the game 25-34, with 322 yards and two touchdowns.

Seth Roberts was on the receiving end of the games biggest play. Trailing 21-17, with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter. Out of the two minute warning timeout, Derek Carr found Seth Roberts down the middle of the field for a 39 yard gain, taking the Raiders to the Steelers 7 yard line.

Four plays later, with the game on the line, Derek Carr connected with tight end Derek Carrier for the go ahead score.

Jared Cook led the way for the Raiders pass catchers, with 7 receptions for 116 yards. Lee Smith has become a new favorite red zone target, catching his second touchdown in as many games.

Ground Game: D

Outside of Doug Martin’s one yard touchdown run, there wasn’t much to write home about for the running game.

Doug Martin ran hard but wasn’t able to find much room against the Steelers defense. Martin gained a measly 32 yards on 16 carries.

Offensive Line: B

It wasn’t a great performance by the offensive line but they got the job done. Jon Feliciano got the start at guard for Kelechi Osemele. How the Raiders line would hold up against the Steelers pass rush was a big story line heading into the game.

Although they did manage to get to Carr four times, it did not have a major impact on the game. What nearly had a bigger effect on the game was the penalties by the line. Numerous holding and false start calls derailed Raiders drives and put them in bad down and distances.

Defensive Line: B+

It was one of the defensive front’s better games of the year. They finally held a team to less than 100 yards, in fact the Steelers managed only 40 yards on 19 carries.

Clinton McDonald sacked Ben Roethlisberger, the play forced Roetlisberger to leave the game, which he later returned to on the Steelers final two drives of the game.

Arden Key just missed a game changing sack fumble on Josh Dobbs.

Despite not having much talent along the line, the group continues to play inspired football.

Linebackers: A

Like the defensive line, this may have been the linebackers best game of the year. Marquel Lee, Nicholas Morrow, and Tahir Whitehead all made plays. Whitehead has been a tackling machine all year long and again led the team with 10 total tackles.

Where Whitehead has been a liability this season is in coverage, that was not an issue today. Whitehead’s play of the day came in the third quarter on 4th and 1. Whitehead sniffed out tight end Vance McDonald for no gain.

In addition to 10 tackles, Whitehead also had two pass deflections and a interception.

Secondary: B+

Are you noticing a trend here? Yes, all three levels of the defense played exceptionally well. Sure JuJu Smith-Shuster went off with eight catches for 130 but future Hall of Famer Antonio Brown was held to five for 35, that’s impressive.

It’s not often you see those low numbers from Brown. It’s a testament to the game Gareon Conley played, although he didn’t travel with Brown exclusively he was great on him when given the task.

Tahir Whitehead’s interception came as a result of excellent coverage from Conley and a tipped ball that fell right into Whitehead’s hands.

Conley continues to get better and better each week, which is a very encouraging sign for the future.

Special Teams: B+

It was a good day for the special teams. Daniel Carlson continues to be mister dependable, making all three of his extra point opportunities and one field goal (44 yards).

Johnny Townsend even had a decent day with punts of 51, 54, and 57. The fourth Townsend punt was fair caught inside the 20 yard line, but a Nick Nelson fair catch interference penalty tacked on 15 yards.

Overall Grade: A-