What a win for the Raiders. Beating the Bears in London was a statement win in so many ways it’s hard to quantify. But let’s try.
Two weeks ago, the Raiders had come off a miserable loss to the Vikings. They were just 1-2 on the season, but that loss didn’t just take the wind out of the fans’ sails, it ripped those sails down and sent the boat adrift. In our FanPulse survey, confidence was as low as it had been since late in their lost 2018 season.
Last week’s win in Indianapolis was fantastic and there was so many good things to say about this team, including most importantly their ability to fight through adversity to beat a good team on the road – but it was one game. It was a big one because it felt like a season saver. But more proof was needed. At that point the fan confidence bumped up, but was still didn’t have majority of fans buying in at 49%.
The results for this week’s FanPulse survey aren’t in yet, but my guess is there will be a big jump. Fans always have hope in the offseason, but finding it midseason is special.
The fans were beginning to believe and so too were the players on the team. Wins like that cause things to click in players. If they didn’t believe they could do it before, even under difficult circumstances, they believe now.
“Momentum is a big thing in football, it really is. You can see how it works,” said tight end Foster Moreau. “I think we got it back really well. Derek made some huge plays, the line was phenomenal all day against this front seven. And we just stayed focused and did our job and came out with the win. That’s all we could ask for.”
Again, last week the Raiders suffered through adversity from injuries and the loss of Vontaze Burfict to suspension and came out with a big win. But whatever they did last week paled in comparison to what they had to battle this week.
First of all they were without top receiver Tyrell Williams. They leading scorer who had notched a touchdown in every game this season. Next man up JJ Nelson was again inactive as was the most Dwayne Harris, leaving them with a skeleton crew of receivers who had barely any experience between them to speak of.
They made several mistakes that appeared to be crucial, game killers, but didn’t let end them. After losing the lead in the third quarter, in part from a fumbled pitch play between Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs, they drove into scoring position only for Tyrell Williams’s replacement Trevor Davis have the ball stripped at the one-yard-line.
Other than Trevor Davis, the other two receivers Keelan Doss and Hunter Renfrow combined for 3 catches for 23 yards.
Smash mouth football
What the Raiders offense did instead was lean on running back Josh Jacobs who put up 123 yards on the ground against arguably the league’s top run defense.
“It’s awesome and he’s resilient,” Richie Incognito said of Jacobs. “He had the fumble early and that could’ve rattled him, but he just kept punching, the kid’s got a great head on his shoulders, he’s a great runner, and I’m glad he’s an Oakland Raider.”
Smash mouth football is what several of the Raiders offensive players are saying is what they want their identity to be and this game was pretty solid proof they are more than capable of accomplishing it.
Late game heroics
Against the Chiefs in week two the Raiders got out to a 10-0 lead heading into the 2nd quarter. Then they gave up four straight touchdowns before half time to go down 28-10 and never recovered.
In this game, they went up 17-0 heading into the third quarter. Then gave up three straight touchdowns to go down 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter. They looked to be ready to pull to within one or take the lead until the Davis fumble at the goal line. The defense didn’t keep the Bears in the shadow of their own end zone, so the Raiders lost field position.
The result was the Raiders went from the Chicago one-yard-line to their own 3-yard-line. With just under 8 minutes left in the game, they got the ball with 97 yards to go if they wanted the lead. It took them 13 plays and a successful fake punt from their own 27 to do it, but they traversed that 97 yards and punched it in with a Jacobs diving score from the 2-yard-line. They took a 24-21 lead and held onto it for the win.
It was the kind of game-winning drive we hadn’t seen from this Raiders team since their 2016 playoff season. Tackle Trent Brown was reminded of something much more than just a few regular season clutch drives.
“Honestly, I thought about the Super Bowl,” said Brown. “We had to go 95 yards to score to win the game. And we did it, what is it 97 yards, like five minutes, 13 plays, 97 yards? It was all about resiliency and not giving up. We had a couple bad turnovers or whatever in the second half that we all could’ve put our heads down and could’ve let them take the momentum and run with it, but we kept fighting and I’m proud of this team.”
Back-to-back road wins
And in two different time zones, both with 10 am Pacific start times no less. That’s big because these two wins comes just ahead of their bye week and after that they have two more road games with 10 am start times.
“It’s motivation for us just to go on the long road trip for seven weeks,” said Josh Jacobs. “The confidence that we can play with anybody. Especially as an offense going against the best defense I think in the league. Just to see how we did was a huge confidence boost.”
They now have two weeks to get some guys back from injury and prepare to head to Green Bay to face the 4-1 Packers. Then they head to Houston to face the 3-2 Texans.
There was Josh Jacobs, of course, and his 123 rushing yards and game-winning touchdown. But he was among a host of rookies who stepped up big time in this game.
Jacobs was led on the touchdown dive by a diving block by undrafted rookie fullback Alec Ingold. Ingold was doing work all game clearing potential tacklers out the way for Jacobs.
Foster Moreau had a couple of big time catches in the game including a 23-yard catch and run on the game-winning drive.
Hunter Renfrow had a huge first down catch on that drive as well. One in which he looked like he was just going to run out of bounds short of the sticks, but at the last instance bounced back in to avoid a tackler and pick up the first down.
Maxx Crosby got his first start and his first career sack. He led the defensive line in snaps and looked far more effective than top pick Clelin Ferrell who missed the game with a concussion.
That’s a first round rookie, two fourth rounders, a fifth rounder, and an undrafted free agent coming up big time. Plenty of credit to go around for these young phenoms.
“The fact that it was rookies was cool. It’s really cool,” said Moreau. “You don’t even realize it until you guys bring it up. But at the end of the day, we don’t develop if it isn’t for the guys around us. Hunter has Ty [Williams], Hunter has JJ [Nelson], Hunter has got some great guys in front of him, some experienced players who he’s able to see. I got Darren [Waller], I got [Derek] Carrier. . . Doug [Martin] is not with us anymore, but Doug was pivotal in Josh’s development.”
Gruden faced down the demons of the man he traded and won. He kept Khalil Mack from being a factor against the Raiders offense and he did it by running the ball with Josh Jacobs who the team took at pick 24 which they got from the Bears. He feels pretty good he can lift that dark cloud for a while. You can sense it in his postgame speech to the team.
“I don’t have a disco, but let’s all start dancing.” pic.twitter.com/E9A36DiICP— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) October 6, 2019
Congrats, coach. You schemed the perfect game against the toughest defense that featured the one guy you had to keep from beating you and you won.
Statement game? More like statements. A lot of them. And their importance can’t be overstated.