In 10 tries victory Monday has only come three times for the Las Vegas Raiders. The rarity of such occasions meant a pretty jubilated Silver & Black locker room after the team’s 22-16 overtime win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
It’s been exactly 29 days from the last time Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels stepped up to the podium in a day-after press conference on victory Monday. That was when his squad topped the Houston Texans 38-20 back on October 23.
Yes, the victory may have come against a Broncos team that is in the cellar of the AFC West. And yes, the Raiders at 3-7 have the identical record for said horsemen. But it’s a win nonetheless in a season devoid of them.
“Again, like I said after the game, proud of the effort of our team,” McDaniels said during his intro at Monday’s presser. “Obviously had to play four quarters and then some to get it done. Anytime you win on the road in your division, it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a good team and they do a lot of things to make things difficult on you.”
Victory Monday calls for a celebration pic.twitter.com/QIxlG6ax3G— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 21, 2022
For the first time in a long time, Las Vegas played the kind of football McDaniels harps about constantly: Complementary and each group feeding off one another and creating balance. There was innuendo his act of the long grind and attention to detail was wearing thin in the Raiders locker room. After all, the team was 2-7 and floundering after a horrid outing against the Indianapolis Colts the week before the AFC West rivalry game with the Broncos.
It certainly didn’t start out well for the Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. And in the end, it took nearly 63 minutes of football for Las Vegas to show the worst team in football moniker belonged to the other sideline. But a celebratory locker room — no matter how fleeting — is always better than a melancholy one.
“I think it was just really good for our players because they’ve put themselves in positions to have chances and so to be able to come through in the clutch, and it was really all three phases,” McDaniels said. “It was special teams; it was the defense making a critical stop. It was the offense maybe having an opportunity in the two-minute to help us tie the game and then eventually score, and kickoff return starting the whole thing. So, all three phases contributed to it, and they’ve earned the right to feel good.
“It was great for our team I think to feel that feeling and now you know you can do it. You know you can win one at the end, when it’s tight and close and you need some people to step up and really do their job, and I think that’s what our team did.”
McDaniels was asked about the performances of wide receiver Davante Adams (seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns) and pass rusher Maxx Crosby (six total tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one blocked field goal) and, unsurprisingly, the coach intimated the two elite Raiders set the tone for everyone else. From Adams’ ability to set up defenders from Crosby’s relentless nature, the two players give McDaniels the perfect duo to highlight as “follow their lead”.
“If he wasn’t playing his butt off on every single snap, those things wouldn’t happen,” McDaniels began when speaking of Crosby. “And he’s blocked sometimes and then gets off the block and chases the play down. I think he doesn’t get enough credit. Everyone sees him play hard, but that’s why he’s around so many plays and has a chance to make them is because he just plays at an elite level relative to his effort on every snap.”
On back-to-back plays, Crosby’s brilliance and doggedness was on full display when he punched the ball out of Denver running back Melvin Gordon’s hands to force a field goal. Crosby then blocked said boot.
“When you block a punt, when you block a field goal, I mean, it’s like a complete shift in the momentum. And we know how big of a play it is, and if you actually get a punt block, that’s a huge one because now you have a chance to score,” McDaniels said. “So, I think our team has completely bought into the effort that we need on those plays because it’s not easy to get them. It isn’t, I mean, there’s not that many blocked every week in the National Football League. But if you can get one, man, does it change the game.”