Trying to render the league’s top sack artist ineffective whilst shuffling around the offensive line due to injury usually doesn’t portend to good things. Clearly, offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo and the Las Vegas Raiders are an exception to that.
Second-year offensive tackle Thayer Munford Jr. hopped over to the blindside while second-year guard Jordan Meredith joined him on the left side. And normal guard Dylan Parham took over at center alongside usual starters Greg Van Roten (guard) and Jermaine Eluemunor (tackle) on the right side and the shuffled Raiders’ offensive line powered the team’s 63-21 destruction of the visiting Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night. The play in the trenches zapped the Bolts and took NFL sack leader Khalil Mack (15 coming into the game) out of the equation for much of the ballgame.
Despite being without starters Kolton Miller and Andre James at left tackle and center, respectively, Munford and Parham exemplified the “next man up” mentality perfectly as both looked natural on the blindside and pivot.
“Yeah, I think it’s that exactly. I think we’ve been trying to do that all year and the coaches have done a great job. Coach Carm (Carmen Bricillo) has done a great job preparing those guys in practice and just throughout the week to be ready to go,” Raiders rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who threw four first-half touchdowns in the win, said of the offensive line. “And so, like you said, it’s next man up, guys have to step up when their number is called. And those guys didn’t blink, so super proud of those guys.”
.@Raiders @TMunford75 was excellent at LT. strong punch with his left hand…the foot were dancing. The QB was protected. Great evening for a rebuilt OL. #RaiderNation #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/i2Vd7YJfE8— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 15, 2023
Of the trio of lineman playing outside of their normal positions, Parham and Meredith played all 64 offensive snaps in the victory while Munford played 61. Eluemunor played the same amount while Van Roten had 49 snaps as Hroniss Grasu got 15 snaps at guard while Justin Herron and Brandon Parker got five and three snaps, respectively at tackle. But it’s the work of Munford and Eluemunor on the perimeters (along with timely help from the interior linemen, tight ends, and running backs) that kept Mack at bay and allowed O’Connell ample time to operate.
And the execution that interim head coach Antonio Pierce and his assistant coaches and players beckoned needed to happen, happened. And the results speak for themselves. Las Vegas has textbook film and teach tape on what happens when they execute: Complementary football. The Raiders defense and special teams unit forced five takeaways and the offense turned them into touchdowns. All three phases of the game working in unison and the result was the most points in a single game in franchise history and embarrassing a division rival so badly that the Chargers fired head coach Brandon Staley and general manage Tom Telesco the morning after the debacle.
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as Raiders cornerback Jack Jones’ sprinted into the backfield for a sensational fourth-quarter one-handed pick six:
—Jones’ interception return for a score was outstanding. You don’t even need to be a Raiders fan or a Chargers fan to appreciate how quickly he diagnosed the play, sprinted into the backfield, and reached back with one mitt to pick the screen pass off. Raiders owner Mark Davis and even Chargers quarterback Easton Stick’s faces said it all. It was an awe-inspiring defensive play that’s play of the year candidate.
—O’Connell was an efficient 20 of 34 for 248 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions, and absorbing one sack. The rookie was decisive and poised and looked particular comfortable operating off play action. With ample protection, we saw quick passes and long-developing dimes.
—Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who caught two passes for 32 yards and a touchdown, had the better passer rating for the Raiders going 2 of 2 for 12 yards and score (to Davante Adams). Meyers’ rating of 131.2 topped O’Connell’s 120.7.
—Raiders defensive end Malcolm Koonce outshined his much more heralded University of Buffalo alumni with two sacks (forced fumbles that the Raiders recovered both times), three quarterback hits and three total tackles. Mack, in comparison, had three total tackles, one stop for loss, and two pass deflections.
Like Trevor Scott and Khalil Mack before him, Malcolm Koonce making a difference as a #Raiders pass rusher out of Buffalo University.— Ray Leonard Aspuria (@AsukalAspuria) December 15, 2023
Koonce making rushing against Rashawn Slater look like child's play. #RaiderNation
—Adams paced the Raiders pass catchers with eight receptions for 101 yards and a score. Every other target finished with single-digit looks like Adams was the clear-cut favorite with 12 targets.
—Running back Zamir White got the start in place of the injured Josh Jacobs. The second-year tailback carried the ball 17 times for 69 yards with a touchdown. There’s still rough spots with his vision decision making, but the straight line speed and power was there.
—Big man touchdowns are a treat and seeing Raiders defensive tackle John Jenkins scoop up the fumble Koonce’s forced and rumble 44 yards for the score was as wild of a sequence as the 56-7 on the scoreboard.
Quote of Note
“First of all, I want to give it off to Coach PG [Patrick Graham]. He made a great call and just from my personal feelings, I’ve been feeling like the last two games he’d been calling great calls. I just gave kudos to him. What I saw as far as a player, four strong, running back at one, motion into a bunch, I have to go steal that because nine times out of ten, that’s a screen.” —Raiders cornerback Jack Jones when asked about his one-handed interception and what he saw on the play