Notes: Mack's hot streak continues with game-changing strip sack

Notes: Mack's hot streak continues with game-changing strip sack

OAKLAND – Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack entered Sunday night’s game on a tear. He had four sacks in three games heading into a huge AFC West showdown with Denver.

That roll continued with another dominant showing in a 30-20 victory over the Broncos at Oakland Coliseum. He added two more sacks to his tally, including one that turned this game on its ear midway through the fourth quarter.

The Raiders held a 10-point lead at the time, when Mack beat Denver left tackle Russell Okung off the edge with some technical savvy.

“I stabbed inside because I knew he was going to bite on it,” Mac said. “Then I came outside and tried to get the ball out.”

He was successful in that effort. Mack popped the ball free from Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian, and used brute strength to recover his own forced fumble at the bottom of the pile.

The Raiders turned that takeaway into seven points on a 1-yard touchdown run from Latavius Murray to go up 17 points. That was too high a mountain for Denver to climb, and put the Raiders on track to win a pivotal division game.

“You get guys that know how to make plays at the right time,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Khalil is top five pick for a reason. He’s the franchise for a reason. … He made a big play for us.”

That wasn’t the only one. Mack had another sack earlier for a 9-yard loss that slowed a third-quarter Broncos drive.

He now has seven sacks, including six in the previous four games, and is just 2.5 sacks behind league leader Von Miller.

King, Holmes play catch: Raiders punter Marquette King won the battle for field position on Sunday against Denver, including a pair of punts sent high that Andre Holmes downed inside the 5-yard line.

It was another banner day for King, celebrated good punts intimidating Von Miller’s dance from a “Madden 17” video game commercial. That’s typical King, as was his ability to pin ‘em deep time and again.

“I mean, this is what I do,” King said. “I practice hard every day, I got the best special teams coach in the league. One of the best long-snappers to make my job easy and this is something I got to do (well).”

New dances are also part of the package.

“I was just riding a bronco and having a little fun,” King said. “I don’t do it to taunt, I just do it out of fun. Everybody is having fun. Everybody is picking things up. It is a huge family and that is something I’ve noticed since I came in to the NFL in 2012. It has been pretty cool.”

Broncos upset with officiating: The Raiders were penalized an NFL record 23 times in last week’s win over Tampa Bay. They cut that sum by nearly two-thirds, with eight infractions costing 72 yards.

Denver had a tougher time with the officials, with 12 penalties for 104 yards. There were seven flags called on the Broncos pass defense, including a few pass interference calls in the end zone that put the Raiders at the Denver 1.

The Broncos weren’t thrilled with the outcome, and expressed their dissatisfaction in not-so-subtle ways.

“We’d make a big play and come back and get a penalty, they throw one on us, we get a stop, they give them the penalty,” Broncos safety T.J. Ward said. “It’s frustrating when you have to go against two teams.”

This ‘n that:The Raiders are 7-2, off to their best start since 2001. They beat the Broncos at home Sunday night for the first time since 2010 … The Raiders ran for 218 yards against Denver, the largest total allowed by the Broncos all year. … The Raiders started the game with four straight three-and-outs, and had seven on the night. … Reggie Nelson recorded his third interception to seal the Raiders victory, which was his fifth takeaway this season. That’s the second highest total in the NFL …Sebastian Janikowski hit three field goals in the victory, including the 400th of his career.

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.

Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'


Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden needed specific tools to run his running game. He wanted blocking tight ends and a bruising fullback, relics of a bygone offensive era.

“If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it’d be nice if we serviced him with a fullback,” Gruden said at the combine. … You need a blocking tight end if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast. So, those are two things that I’m looking for.”

Gruden said he wanted to import some old-school elements to help run with brute force.

Enter free-agent fullback Kyle Smith and tight end Derek Carrier. Welcome back, Lee Smith.

Then, on Sunday, Raiders made another vital move in this old school effort. They cut Marshawn Lynch a $1 million check.

The Oakland native’s roster bonus came due and the Raiders had no problem paying it, the clearest sign Lynch will be the Raiders feature back in 2018.

He’ll have a great chance to thrive in that role. The Raiders have a hulking, expensive offensive line (that still needs a right tackle). They have new ancillary blocking elements, and the centerpiece remains in place.

That last part was expected in recent weeks. The coaching staff, offensive line coach Tom Cable especially, wanted Lynch back. NFL Network confirmed those facts, stating Lynch will be around in 2018.

That was the case, even with Doug Martin’s addition. The former Tampa Bay back is expected to be a backup bruiser, someone who might put DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard’s job in jeopardy.

The Raiders can cut Lynch without a cap hit. Lynch is scheduled to make $6 million in salary and bonuses, with another $2 million available in incentives. The Raiders should hope to pay those; it would mean Lynch is running well.

The Raiders have given him a great opportunity to do so. They have solid blocking and a coach in Cable who helped him succeed during dominant days in Seattle.

Lynch proved he’s still got it in 2017’s second half, with 70 percent of his 891 rushing yards in the final eight games. He struggled early on, and upset some fans by helping the opposition during a scuffle with Kansas City. That mitigated a PR bump the Raiders looked for when signing a popular Oakland native just months after committing to Las Vegas long-term.

Jack Del Rio and staff grew tired of what they perceived as leeway given to Lynch unavailable to others, and probably wouldn’t have kept him on if still gainfully employed.

Gruden seems committed to Lynch this season, though nothing is ever 100 percent with an enigmatic rusher who doesn’t make private thoughts public.

His elusive, rough-and-tumble rushing style fits well with what Gruden wants, though he demands commitment to the team and sport. Sports Illustrated relayed a story of Gruden saying he needed a “full-time Lynch.”

If he gets that, the Raiders run game should thrive.