Raiders 4 & Out: Oakland jolts Jets with three-pronged effort
Oakland ran for 180 yards, with three different ball carriers getting 45 or more yards and a touchdown. The offense continued to protect the ball, refraining from giving away possession for the second time in two games, while the defense took it away twice. The special teams were perfect and the pass rush got home four times. It was a sound, three-faceted 45-20 thrashing of the New York Jets (0-2).
The Raiders (2-0) were so effective in all three phases, in fact, that a nearly perfect performance by Derek Carr was all but lost in the wash as the quarterback played second fiddle to Michael Crabtree‘s three-score day, two momentum-seizing takeaways and, of course, Marshawn Lynch.
Carr, though, currently sits at third in the league in passer rating (126.5) and completion percentage (75), tied for third with five scores, and tied for ninth with seven completions going for 20 yards or more.
But, as previously mentioned, his continued prosperity was relegated to background noise this week.
First down: Marshawn feeling right at home
By now, you’ve most certainly seen Lynch break into dance on the sideline early in the fourth quarter Sunday. So, was that normal? Is that something he did in Seattle, it just wasn’t ever caught on film? If you ask linebacker Bruce Irvin, his teammate with the Seahawks for four seasons, the answer is no:
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him dance like that, he didn’t dance like that in Seattle. I guess because he’s at home, it’s the moment. I’m glad to see him having fun, it was a cool moment.”
The fans loved it. The Raiders loved. The coach loved it. A crowd of 54,729 was chanting “Beast Mode” almost in unison, of course there were some green-clad holdouts — though many Jets fans may have joined in. Every player who spoke about it, including Carr, Donald Penn and Cordarrelle Patterson, said they wanted to join in — Penn deferred the dancing to his teammate, choosing instead to fan him off with a towel. Even head coach Jack Del Rio jested that he had a moment of toe-tapping desire before choosing to refrain.
Make no mistake, this moment wasn’t about his own success — he rushed for just 45 yards on 12 totes — it was about his team’s success and the fact that that success has been brought home to his beloved Oakland, which he blessed with five free Skittles vending machines in preparation for Sunday. This was true “Town Business.”
Second down: Using the four-headed running attack properly
Adding Lynch could have easily been a detriment for a Raiders team that was, perhaps, one Derek Carr right fibula from making a serious run at the Super Bowl a season ago.
It would have been easy for Oakland and offensive coordinator Todd Downing to force-feed Lynch, taking the ball out of Carr’s capable hands. Downing, however, has thus far used physical 31-year-old runner perfectly — to set up the passing game and Lynch’s lighting-quick backfield mates as a change of pace.
Giving Beast Mode the ball 20-25 times per game could serve as an effective choice, but that isn’t the strength of an offense containing Carr, Crabtree, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts, Jared Cook and Jalen Richard.
Fifteen carries is the sweet spot for Lynch, who has spent much of his career as a 20-carry guy. And he doesn’t mind this role — at least not outwardly. At the goal line for the first time Sunday, the first time for Lynch as a Raider in Oakland, late in the first quarter, Carr audibled out of a run, throwing a fade to Crabtree for six. Lynch flexed and bobbed his head his while trotting off the field following the touchdown. He is fully invested in winning as a team in Oakland, and that will allow Downing to continue splitting the carries between the All-Pro and his far less-established compadres — exactly what would work best within this offensive unit.
Third down: Conley gets on the NFL field
Due to physical and off-the-field issues, Gareon Conley, Oakland’s first-round selection in April, had his preseason stunted. He finally got on the NFL field Sunday and he looked good.
The 24th overall pick was on the field for 28 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and allowed just one catch for eight yards.
He was targeted just twice, but that was not the number that quarterback Josh McCown and the Jets wanted. They went after Conley early, in their first possession, testing the rookie waters for exposable faults, but were turned away. Conley was attacked by McCown and top target Jermaine Kearse, but the rookie corner was there, getting up with the former Seahawk wide out to deflect the pass.
He also appeared to bat the ball toward an onrushing safety Reggie Nelson as he tumbled toward the sideline, but Nelson wasn’t able to bring in the pick.
David Amerson could not provide the same coverage, beaten by McCown and Kearse twice for both New York touchdowns.
It’s early, but Conley may be emerging as the cover corner Oakland needs filling perhaps the only gap in an otherwise complete roster. Amerson has shown effectiveness but never extended signs that he can be the lockdown guy, and Sean Smith‘s physical style of play may be more fitting of a nickle corner. Only time will tell if Conley can fill the Nnamdi Asomugha–Charles Woodson role, a role this team has needed.
Fourth down: Special teams a silent hero through two weeks
Week 1 AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Giorgio Tavecchio was perfect once again, though not as heavily tested. The place kicker nailed a 29-yarder late in the fourth quarter, his only field goal attempt, and each of his six extra points. He also scored six touchbacks on eight kickoff attempts, limiting the chances of dangerous return man Kalif Raymond.
Punter Marquette King averaged 55.3 yards on his three kicks, including a booming 62-yarder that Raymond couldn’t handle muffing right back to the Raiders inside the 5 yard line.
The Oakland special teams unit capitalized on every opportunity, and the kick return team is on the cusp of creating a crease large enough for Patterson to crack one for six. It will always go unnoticed if each unit is doing its job, but special teams plays is often the difference between a playoff contender and a Super Bowl contender — the latter of which Oakland appears to be.
Chances were few and for between for the Raiders’ special teams, however, as the offense got very greedy in the second half, getting into the endzone on five of six possessions in the second half — settling for a field goal with 25 seconds left in the game.
That greediness is no doubt welcomed by both King and Tavecchio, as is the team’s league-leading plus-35 point differential through two weeks.
Likewise, this week’s defensive awakening is no doubt welcomed by the onlooking offense. Led by 1.5 from Mario Edwards Jr., the Raiders finally got to the quarterback, with Karl Joseph and Khalil Mack adding 1 apiece. Against the Jets, Oakland seem to have found production from each of its 53 men which spells worry for each and every NFL team but in particular Washington, who the Raiders play in a Week 3 Sunday Night Football showdown.