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Raiders’ quick slants: Patriots edition

Defense scores to push Las Vegas past 20-point barrier in 21-17 win over visiting New England

NFL: New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby, left, and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, right, combine for the sack and safety of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in the waning moments of the fourth quarter on Sunday.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders finally scored more than 20 points. And it was Patrick Graham’s defense that got the Silver & Black over that dubious hump.

What a turn of events, eh?

When the Raiders needed it most, Graham’s defense slammed the door on the visiting New England Patriots in a game that wasn’t a paragon of sound football — not by a longshot. But in the end, Las Vegas made the play and walks away 21-17 victors and improves to .500 on the season (3-3 overall) and trending in the right direction.

It didn’t appear it would end up that way, however.

Trailing 19-17, the Patriots got the ball back on their own nine-yard line after a booming punt from the Raiders’ AJ Cole III. In need of just a field goal to win the game and a slice of momentum on their side, the Patriots instead decided to stack the deck against themselves on their final drive. After a huge drop by wide receiver DaVante Parker on a perfectly placed deep pass from quarterback Mac Jones, a delay of game penalty gave the visitors a 3rd-and-15 play from their own four-yard line.

That’s when the Raiders defense decided to have a meeting at the quarterback. And not even the shotgun formation bought New England enough time. Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby came screaming off the edge while defensive tackle Bilal Nichols burst up the middle and Las Vegas got a long-absent rush from inside out as the two defenders smashed Jones for the safety.

“There’s no better feeling, closing the game out,” Crosby said in the media scrum after the win. “We talked about it last week and the week before, our defense is improving and I think we’re seeing that every single week. ... It was an out of body experience, it was incredible. Every time I go out on the field, I want to be at the best I can possibly be at it. I was battling some things, banged up, but it doesn’t matter. My guys stuck next to me. We fought through it. We found a way.”

Back-to-back games ending with game-saving defensive plays for the Raiders. Yes, it was against two suspect teams in the Green Bay Packers last Monday and the Patriots on Sunday, but the standings hold little regard to quality of competition as it’s merely wins, losses, and ties. Las Vegas didn’t trail at any point in the game and while it could’ve or should’ve been a runaway victory, it’s a win nonetheless.

Am I impressed with how Raiders have won? Hardly. But I’m impressed the team is 3-3 when it could easily be 0-6 — beating bad teams or not.

In a game where both New England and Las Vegas struggled, it was truly a “who wants it more” clash and the Raiders triumphed. They did so while losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was reportedly sent to a local hospital for what was described as a back injury and trying to fend off a MASH-unit style Patriots team that has key contributors on the shelf, too.

“We have a lot of guys playing and they’re scrapping and clawing,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said in the postgame press conference. “We gave some things up today, more in the middle of the game, I think. But we battled. You want to go ahead and close the game if you can and I thought they did a great job of executing at the end.”

Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the heart beats per minute rose during the tense final quarter:

—Both the Patriots and Raiders played undisciplined football. The two squads traded some bad mental miscues with New England having 10 infractions for 79 yards and Las Vegas with six for 42 yards. The lapses in discipline are indicative how both squads have struggled at times, the Patriots more so, hence their 1-5 overall record.

—Las Vegas’ defense racked up four sacks in the win. Crosby and Nichols combined for one while defensive tackle Adam Butler had one and cornerback Amik Robertson had the other. Butler burst through the line similar to Nichols on the safety while Robertson dropped New England quarterback Malik Cunningham on a failed trick play.

—Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams didn’t appear to be a happy camper during the game. He saw five targets and finished with two catches for 29 yards — a long of 21 yards on a dart from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Adams expressed confusion on why he wasn’t target in the red zone when he drew one-on-one coverage, so much Tony Romo of the CBS TV crew called it out.

—Hoyer took over the Raiders offense with Garoppolo out. The veteran exhibited a much stronger arm and tendency to go deep — as evidenced by the 48-yard long ball to rookie wideout Tre Tucker. Hoyer finished 6 of 10 for 102 yards. Garoppolo went 14 of 22 for 162 yards with a touchdown pass and interception.

—Rookie tight end Michael Mayer was involved early in the Raiders passing attack and finished with five catches a team-leading 75 yards. He also drew the second-most targets with six. But it seems when Las Vegas’ offense features someone, it gets tunnel vision and doesn’t have the entire offense in full scope.

—Jakobi Myers drew the most targets in the Raiders passing game with seven. He finished with five catches for 51 yards and the lone touchdown pass from Garoppolo. Myers leads Las Vegas with four touchdown grabs this season.

—Running back Josh Jacobs got 25 carries and churned out 77 yards. His longest run was an 18-yard gallop and he could’ve had even more long runs but was caught by the foot on those carries.

—Safety Tre’Von Moehrig came away with Las Vegas’ lone interception. Moehrig was in the right place, at the right time to haul in the errant throw from Jones. The pick gives him two interceptions on the season.

Quote of Note:

“Our chemistry and that bond is tighter than ever. As the games go by, we learn a little bit more about each other. Obviously we’re a brand new group. We understand where different people are going to be in certain times. And I feel the very last play of the game showed that.” —Raiders defensive tackle Adam Butler

Goin’ Deep

This play below is the missing element of the Raiders offense, thus it was good to see a long ball connection: