Erik Harris

Clelin Ferrell arrives with statement game in Raiders' win vs. Chargers

Clelin Ferrell arrives with statement game in Raiders' win vs. Chargers

OAKLAND -- Clelin Ferrell's rookie season has had some growing pains. The No. 4 overall pick lost weight, has been forced to play all along the defensive line and hasn't been putting up the pressure numbers some want to see out of an edge rusher drafted highly. 

Jon Gruden and the Raiders have been confident in Ferrell, and rightfully so, touting his impact against the run and noting that not everything is about the sacks, pressures and hits. The game has layers, and Ferrell, who was a star at Clemson, is doing everything they asked. Those numbers would come. 

Come they did, and in a wave Thursday night. Down to seven healthy bodies on the defensive line, the Raiders needed big production out of Ferrell and fellow rookie Maxx Crosby in order to fluster Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

In his best NFL game to date, Ferrell racked up eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, five pressures, two other tackles for loss and a pass defensed in 56 snaps during the Raiders' 26-24 win over the Chargers.

"Sack totals are driving me nuts," Gruden said of Ferrell after the win. "He does a lot more than just rush the passer. He made some great plays against the run. It was a signature game for him obviously, but it's great for him to get some sacks. Maybe some of the people who are counting sacks out there will acknowledge this."

Raiders safety Erik Harris doesn't understand the pressure that comes with being the No. 4 overall pick. He went undrafted out of Division II California University of Pennsylvania, but he scratched and clawed to get his NFL opportunity. So before the Raiders' Week 8 loss to the Texans, Harris had a talk with Ferrell.

"Clelin and I, we had a talk in Houston about, just about life and in general," Harris said Thursday. "I'm so proud of him. I've never been drafted, especially that high and I couldn't imagine the pressure one would have to perform. I'm just really happy for him. I'm happy he's playing free and doing his job and getting after it. 

"I don't know if he was getting frustrated or not. I was just trying to instill confidence in him and just remind him why he was picked where he was picked. He's a great player and sometimes the pressure outside the locker room or even within the locker room that you have to perform and guys are looking at you to perform, it can be a lot of pressure. He's young and he's stepping up and that's why he was No. 4 overall.

"I'm really proud of him for stepping up and having confidence in himself and starting to find his groove within this league."

Despite the NFL learning curve, Ferrell has remained confident in himself, knowing he has the ability to be a difference-maker in this league.

"I feel like any player knows that to become a great player, you have to become it first, you know what I mean?" Ferrell told NBC Sports Bay Area. "You can't just be it. Some guys, they hit bigger jumps than others at times, but it's just going to take time. Trust me, ain't nobody have more confidence in myself than I do."

[RELATED: Raiders-Chargers Coliseum finale was fitting final chapter]

The confidence came through Thursday night early and often with Ferrell making life miserable for Rivers along with Crosby. On the Chargers' first drive, Ferrell used his strength to drive left tackle Russell Okung back and grab Rivers, allowing Crosby to finish him off.

Then, he whipped Trey Pipkins in the third quarter and hammered Rivers, mimicking reeling in a fish after the sack.

Ferrell had no desire to talk after the game. He let his play do that through four dominant quarters against a division rival.

The statement was clear: Clelin Ferrell has arrived.

Erik Harris' two-interception night sparks Raiders' win vs. Chargers

Erik Harris' two-interception night sparks Raiders' win vs. Chargers

OAKLAND -- Anyone who knows Erik Harris' story, knows he fits perfectly with this resilient Raiders team. 

Undrafted out of Division II California University of Pennsylvania, Harris worked at a potato chip factory and for UPS while figuring out his football career. He eventually caught on in the CFL, playing three years with the Hamilton Tiger Cats before getting a shot in the NFL with the Saints in 2016. 

After playing mostly special teams for the Raiders in 2017, Harris was supposed to be a depth piece for head coach Jon Gruden's young secondary. But after rookie safety Johnathan Abram tore his rotator cuff in Week 1, Harris was thrust into duty. 

Like most of the Raiders defense, Harris has mixed good performances with bad ones so far this season. But Thursday night was one the safety will remember for the rest of his life. 

On Thursday night, the Raiders welcomed the rival Chargers to the Coliseum for the final time. At 4-5, the Chargers were looking to ride the momentum of their Week 9 win over the Packers to finally get back to .500 and resurrect their season after a 2-5 start. 

On the first possession of the game, the Chargers marched down the field but quarterback Philip Rivers sailed a ball over the head of Keenan Allen and right into the arm of Harris, who took it back 59 yards to the Chargers' 31-yard line. 

The Raiders offense settled for a field goal and the Chargers were right back on the move, getting to midfield on three plays. But on first-and-10 from their own 46, Rivers threw a pass intended for tight end Hunter Henry. The star tight end fell down and the ball fluttered right to Harris, who picked it off and took it back 56 yards for a touchdown, sending the Coliseum into a frenzy. 

"I was really just doing my job," Harris said of the pick-six after the Raiders' thrilling 26-24 win. "I was messing around with Phil a little bit, showing him one thing and then came back down. Just kind of read off him and was where I'm supposed to be. The first pick he put a little too much air into it and kind of gifted it into my lap. I like gifts." 

In a primetime game against a division rival, the 10 points the Raiders got off Harris' interception injected some swagger into a defense down to just seven healthy defensive linemen.

"It gave us a lot of momentum, a lot of energy," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said of Harris' picks. "But going against a quarterback like Philip you see, even down to the wire, they were still in it. So you know, at the end of the day, that can give you energy but you got to keep playing because you know he's going to keep going out there, keep slinging it the exact way he did." 

Sure enough, there was no quit in the Chargers who took a 24-20 lead with 4:02 to play. The Raiders' offense answered with a long drive that was capped by a Josh Jacobs 18-yard touchdown run to put them up 26-24 with a minute to go. 

The Raiders defense, which came up with a game-winning stop in Week 9 against the Lions, had to play the role of hero again. They did just that as safety Karl Joseph picked off Rivers with 20 seconds to go to seal the win. 

"It feels great to be in that moment," Harris said of the defense getting the game-winning stop. "People will say it's pressure, but it's really not pressure when you are prepared. Just to get off the field and hear the crowd go crazy when that ball hits the field, it's pretty surreal." 

[RELATED: Raiders rookie class' dynastic vision might be ahead of schedule]

Despite the injuries, five-game road trip and early-season drama, the Raiders find themselves at 5-4 and firmly in the AFC playoff hunt, with a new hero emerging every week. 

In the final night game at the Coliseum, Harris picked off Rivers twice and had a third interception in the end zone nullified when defensive end Maxx Crosby was flagged for lining up in the neutral zone. He had 115 return yards and a touchdown that gave the Raiders some early-game juice to steady to the ship in the biggest game of their season. 

"It was pretty exciting and a special moment for this team, special moment for my teammates," Harris said. "It's a credit to them for just putting me in a position and trusting those guys." 

A team win it was, but Harris was the man of the hour. 

Watch Erik Harris' second interception result in pick-six for Raiders

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USATSI

Watch Erik Harris' second interception result in pick-six for Raiders

Have a first quarter, Erik Harris!

After intercepting Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on Los Angeles' opening drive Thursday night, the Raiders safety double-dipped, and made some history in the process.

On the Chargers' second offensive drive, Harris intercepted Rivers and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown to give Oakland a 10-0 lead.

With two picks, Harris became the 11th player in league history to intercept Rivers at least twice in a single game. Additionally, his 115 total interception return yards are the most by any player in a game this season.

With three quarters still left to play, perhaps Rivers would be wise to attack a different area of the field.