No win in the NFL is given. All are earned. And the 0-10 Bengals made sure that a young Raider team knew this before Sunday’s 17-10 showing was over.
While the Raiders sat as the No. 6-seed in the AFC playoff picture prior to this week, they moved down to No. 7 on Sunday, even with a win. That’s because the Colts overtook the Texans for first place in the AFC South due to their head-to-head tiebreaker. This will be worth monitoring all season, as the Raiders have a tie-breaker over Indianapolis, but not over Houston.
But let’s dwell on that later. The playoffs are a long way away. And if Sunday’s showing tells us anything, it’s that the Raiders have a long way to go before becoming true contenders. Who went off, who is falling off and what’s to come? Here are this week’s Sensations, Frustrations and Declarations:
Is there really even another option for the sensation of the night? Maxx Crosby’s breakout, 4-sack performance just put the NFL on notice. Who says defensive end is a top priority in the draft? First, Clelin Ferrell grabbed 2.5 sacks last week. Now, Crosby one-ups him with a whopping 4. Is Benson Mayowa going sack Sam Darnold 8 time next week? Stay tuned.
Coming into the NFL, there were questions about Crosby’s lack of strength and limited weight. There were never questions about his motor, however. This kid is always humming. He finishes first in gassers after practice every time and his tenacious mentality is exactly what the Raiders need on defense.
After Oakland had only 13 sacks all of last year, Crosby’s 6.5 sacks through 10 games has him on pace to nearly duplicate 2018’s output himself.
Yeah, yeah, he had the one interception and the offense underwhelmed at times. Crucify him for it all you want, but Carr was a true leader of men on Sunday. He started the game off going 14-of-14 through the air before finishing at a tidy 25-of-29 with 292 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned pick.
To boot, he added a gritty rushing touchdown, plunging in from three yards out late in the second quarter to give the Raiders the lead.
Mobile Derek Carr is a thing. He’s been nails on the move over the past few weeks and is getting more comfortable keeping his eyes downfield while evading pressure. As he develops trust with a band of targets in their first year with the organization (Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Josh Jacobs and Tyrell Williams), Carr is figuring out the improvisational chemistry that can make all the difference.
Raiders secondary (I know, right?)
How did this happen? The Raiders much maligned secondary helping lead the team to victory? And without Lamarcus Joyner or Karl Joseph?
Well, that’s what happens when you face Ryan Finley, a second-year QB with a noodle arm. He finished just 13-of-31 through the air with 115 yards. Yikes.
Trayvon Mullen notched a game-sealing interception and nearly had pick-six earlier in the day. Daryl Worley was on point in coverage too, locking down underrated WR Tyler Boyd entirely. Boyd had just 1 catch for 0 yards, with that catch coming on a manufactured screen that went nowhere.
Erik Harris wasn’t the star of the game like in Week 10, but he continued his steady play at safety despite lining up next to Curtis Riley and D.J. Swearinger all game instead of Joseph. In his first week with the team, Swearinger led the Raiders in tackles and fit in nicely.
Coming out flat and not blowing this team out
This was supposed to be a runaway game where the Raiders showcased their firepower on offense and shut the Bengals down in turn. They made good on the latter and looked solid on offense statistically, but their inability to string positive drives together and put this one away was frustrating from start to finish.
Besides a two-drive stretch in the second half of the second quarter that gave the Raiders their only touchdowns, the offense played things far too conservatively.
When Cincinnati was spread out on defense and facing 11 personnel (one TE, one RB), they couldn’t defend any of the Raiders weapons. Carr was able to sit comfortably in the pocket (for the most part) and deliver strikes across the middle against a porous Bengals secondary. But when they tried to play bully ball with 22 personnel (two TEs, two RBs), they were stuffed more often than not.
Jacobs performed well on the ground with 112 yards on 23 carries, but the Raiders averaged only 3.3 yards per rush and couldn’t find play-to-play consistency.
This has been the elephant in the room for weeks, but it’s finally time to acknowledge it.
Gabe Jackson has been playing poorly. That was as evident as ever on Sunday when he was blown up by Geno Atkins on a third down sack during the first drive, and it remained evident as he accrued multiple holding calls and could have had more.
Jackson has been blowing several blocks over the past few weeks. It started when he looked particularly out of sorts against the Lions’ Damon Harrison and he hasn’t looked any better since.
Under contract for $9.35 million next year, Jackson is a potential cap casualty if his play doesn’t pick back up. That’s a bad sign for a team that will have to replace the 36-year-old Richie Incognito some time soon.
Team run defense
The script has been flipped defensively for the Raiders the past two weeks. While they were tough against the run and abysmal when defending the past through the first eight weeks of the year, things changed in primetime against the Chargers and that trend continued on Sunday.
Joe Mixon rushed 15 times for 86 yards and a score and Finley somehow managed to rush for 47 yards on three scrambles as the Raiders couldn’t keep contain or rush lane integrity all too often. As a team, the Bengals averaged 7.9 yards per rush.
I’m tired of watching Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow whiff on would-be tackles that end up going for big gains. They combined for just seven tackles in this one and looked incapable of manning their gap assignments far too frequently.