The Las Vegas Raiders managed to pull out a win in a defensive struggle against the New York Jets on Sunday Night Football as the Raiders managed to keep the Jets from scoring a touchdown and to just 12 points. Linebacker Robert Spillane was a big reason why as he put together an elite performance.
Spillane tied for the team lead with seven total tackles and sits as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded linebacker (90.8) for the week, ahead of Monday Night Football. Most notably, Spillane recorded three defensive stops, zero missed tackles, a sack and a late interception to help put the game on ice.
So, let’s dive into the tape and break down the linebacker’s strong outing.
It’s second and 12 with the Jets threatening to score inside the red zone here. They run a crack toss or pin-and-pull concept for a perimeter run, which is a good play-call seeing as the Raiders have eight defenders in the box and Nate Hobbs is playing with inside leverage on the slot receiver. Also, Las Vegas slants the defensive line to the short side of the field and away from the run action.
That puts the right guard one-on-one with Spillane in space, and the linebacker does an excellent job of reading the play and using his speed and a forearm chop to defeat the block across the guard’s face. From there, the running back is forced to cut up the field and into the Raiders' other pursuing defenders as Spillane, Maxx Crosby and Hobbs all combine for a tackle right at the line of scrimmage.
That’s a beautiful job of reading the play and using his athleticism to get a defensive stop by Spillane.
In this clip, it’s third and two and the Raiders could use a stop as they’re down by six in the second quarter.
The Jets run duo which puts the left tackle and left guard on a combo block against Jerry Tillery where the tackle is going to be responsible for picking up Spillane. However, Tillery slants into the A-gap and that gets the tackle to come too far inside on the first level of the combo block.
As soon as Spillane sees the opening in the C-gap, he crashes hard downhill and puts a nice move on the tackle to avoid contact. That allows him to meet the running back in the hole and go get an unblocked tackle right at the line of scrimmage for the third down stop.
One area where New York’s offense did have success on Sunday night was when Zach Wilson scrambled. However, not on this rep as this is where Spillane’s sack came from.
Las Vegas runs Cover 1 where Spillane is the low-hole defender and spying Wilson on second and two. Wilson immediately looks to his right to try and hit his favorite target, wide receiver Garrett Wilson, on a short in route against off-coverage from Marcus Peters. But Spillane reads the quarterback’s eyes and gets on his horse to help Peters take away the wideout.
The quarterback then has to scramble and the linebacker stays locked onto him to force the QB out of bounds about a yard behind the line of scrimmage, setting up a third-down situation. Wilson would throw an incompletion on the next play, leading to another Jets punt and the Raiders would go on to add a field goal before halftime to cut the deficit to three points.
In a way, the play Spillane makes here ends up being a six-point swing since New York stays out of field goal range and Las Vegas had enough time to down the field and score on the next possession.
This play is late in the fourth quarter with the Raiders up by a touchdown. They’re running Cover 2 with Spillane as the Tampa dropper in the middle of the field.
Since the passing strength is to the wide side of the field, he opens his hips toward the two-receiver side of the formation but quickly realizes that there are no threats coming into his area from that side. So, he spins around and finds the tight end on the drag route to take that option away from Wilson.
Unfortunately, Divine Deablo comes too far downhill against the play-action fake and Wilson makes a nice off-platform throw for a completion. But at least Spillane is still aware enough to come off of his man and make the tackle in the middle of the field.
Had he not made that tackle, this could have been a momentum-changing play as the receiver had plenty of green grass in front of him.
We’ll end with the pick that pretty much sealed the win for the Silver and Black.
The Raiders are running Cover 4 and Spillane is the middle hook defender. Similar to one of the clips above, he reads Wilson’s eyes and does an excellent job of breaking on the route to help Peters cover the curl route, only this time the linebacker makes a beautiful grab for an interception.
Even more impressively, Spillane is playing with a broken hand right now, but as he told The Athletic’s Vic Tafur: “The hand is a long way from the heart.”