The Las Vegas Raiders have made history in back-to-back games, just on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. A week after losing the lowest-scoring played indoors in league history, the Raiders managed to set a franchise record with 63 points in their dominant Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football.
Las Vegas had control of the game right as soon as Daniel Carlson’s foot touched the ball on the opening kickoff, jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter only to double that margin before halftime. So, there are no losers for this week’s column as just about everyone on the Raiders’ sideline was a winner on Thursday night.
WINNER: Malcolm Koonce
Malcolm Koonce might be the hottest player on the Raiders’ roster right now. In his last five games, he’s earned three elite grades from Pro Football Focus and has logged at least four pressures. This week, he earned a career-high 91.6 mark and had four pressures, including two strip sacks, which led to touchdowns for the Silver and Black.
During that same time frame, Koonce has graded out as PFF’s third-best edge defender (91.0), three spots and about a point and a half higher than Maxx Crosby. The third-year pro has had an excellent second half of the season and has proven that he can serve as the team’s second rusher behind Crosby.
WINNER: Jack Jones
Thursday night had to feel pretty good for Jack Jones as this has been a tough season for him. He was waived by the New England Patriots earlier this year and didn’t have a great showing last week in what was his first major opportunity to prove himself with the Raiders after Marcus Peters’ release.
However, Jones had an impressive bounce-back performance by allowing one catch on three targets for just two yards and a passer rating of 2.8, per PFF. On one of those two incompletions, he made an excellent read against a screen, jumped it, snagged a one-handed interception and took it back to the house for a pick-six.
He also picked up two defensive stops and all of that culminated in an elite 94.2 PFF grade which is exactly what the 2022 fourth-round pick needed to do to build some momentum heading into next season.
WINNER: Zamir White
With Josh Jacobs out, Zamir White had an opportunity to make a name for himself on a national stage and he certainly made the most of it. White finished with 69 rushing yards—4.1 yards per carry—which not only is a career-high but is just one yard fewer than he had all of last season. He also scored his first NFL touchdown and looked more explosive than he has in the past as this performance was a step in the right direction for his growth.
WINNER: Tre Tucker
Speaking of Raiders who picked up their first career touchdowns against the Chargers, Tre Tucker managed to find the endzone not once but twice. That’s especially huge for Tucker who has struggled to finish throughout the year, notably bobbling a pass near the sideline last Sunday. Granted, he had a close call on his first score, but he did secure the catch this time around and, as is the common theme with this week’s column, this was a performance the rookie can build on as he also turned in a season-high with 59 yards.
WINNER: Divine Deablo
Divine Deablo has struggled for the majority of the season but he was all over the field on Thursday night. He led the team with 12 total tackles and a lot of them were high-quality tackles as PFF credited him with six defensive stops. Deablo was most impressive against the run, earning an elite 90.5 grade from PFF in that department, but he also yielded just 27 yards on seven targets to turn in one of the most well-rounded performances of his career.
WINNER: Aidan O’Connell
It’s no secret that being a rookie quarterback in the NFL is a tough job and Aidan O’Connell has been riding the roller coaster this season, bouncing back and forth between good and bad outings. But this week was arguably O’Connell’s best game as he went 20/34 with 248 passing yards and four touchdowns. The latter was not only a career/season-high but his first multi-touchdown game, and he also set a personal best with three ‘big-time throws’, per PFF.
Again hopefully, this is a performance the rookie can build on and leads to more consistency moving forward.
WINNER: Thayer Munford Jr. and Jermaine Eluemunor
Thayer Munford Jr. and Jermaine Eluemunor are listed together because they’re winners for the same reason; they kept Khalil Mack quiet. Mack dominated and nearly single-handily took over the game in Week 4 with a career-high six sacks. However, he wasn’t able to hit home this time around and wasn’t much of a factor in the contest thanks to Munford Jr. and Eluemunor. The two tackles combined to allow just five pressures and both earned good grades as run-blockers as well—two and 67.8 for Eluemunor while Munford ended with three and a 73.4 mark.
WINNER: Antonio Pierce
It’s well-known that Antonio Pierce is auditioning for the full-time head coach gig and a 42-point win certainly helps his odds. Pierce still needs to win a few more games to earn the job, but he made a resounding statement on Thursday and clearly has gotten the locker room to buy in.