Maxx Crosby-Trayvon Mullen bond leads to big plays in Raiders victory

Maxx Crosby-Trayvon Mullen bond leads to big plays in Raiders victory

OAKLAND -- Trayvon Mullen and Maxx Crosby are always pumping each other up while trying to be the one who makes the next big play for this surging Raiders team. 

The Clemson cornerback and Eastern Michigan edge rusher are two pillars of Jon Gruden's close-knit rookie class that continue to come up big for the Silver and Black. 

Clelin Ferrell headlined the class in Week 10, racking up 2.5 sacks in the Raiders' win over the Chargers at the Coliseum. 

For most of Sunday's fight with the winless Bengals, it was Crosby who was doing the heavy lifting for the Raiders defense. He opened the game by sacking Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley and forcing a fumble the Raiders recovered.

Much like his friend Ferrell in Week 10, Crosby was everywhere the Bengals turned Sunday at the Coliseum. When all was said and done, Crosby sacked Finley four times, recorded three other tackles for loss and forced one fumble. 

Four-sack days are rare in the NFL. Even with the Coliseum bumping "Salt and Pepa" after each sack, Crosby ran out of celebrations by the fourth takedown. Still, Crosby was in the zone from the opening snap against the Bengals.

"It's like last week, [Clelin Ferrell] got his first one and it was over from then," Crosby said after the game. "He knew he could beat the guy all day. When you get in that rhythm you are just feeling it and the sacks start rolling in." 

While Crosby made life miserable for the Bengals all day, the game hung in the balance with under two minutes to go, as the Raiders clung to a 17-10 lead. Gruden elected to punt from the plus territory, putting the game in the hands of his defense for the third straight week. 

On second-and-19 from their own 11, Finley rolled right and threw deep for Alex Erickson. Mullen saw it all the way and snatched the pass out of the air to secure a 17-10 win for the Raiders, their third straight victory. 

Mullen, who had dropped a pick-six earlier in the game, made good on a message Crosby gave him earlier in the quarter. 

"Trayon's been jumping routes since he's been playing," Crosby said after the win. "I was talking to him with about five minutes left and I said, 'Trayvon, it's time.' He could have had two today. But it awesome to see. Trayvon's a great corner and he's just getting started." 

Crosby's talk with Mullen is part of a friendly competition the two rookies have with each other, trying to see who can make the next big play. 

"Me and Maxx got that little bond," Mullen said after the game. "Almost every other play, I'm like, 'Man, go get that sack. If you rush him, I'm going to get that pick. So, it be fun because we compete with each other." 

Crosby and Mullen's tag-team performance against the Bengals is the perfect illustration of how this Raiders team, now 6-4, has evolved since Week 1. Crosby wasn't expected to see a high number of snaps. The draft experts thought he needed to get stronger in order to make a big impact. Mullen, an uber-talented corner from Clemson, played sparingly through the first six games of the season before the Raiders handed him a starting role after trading Gareon Conley to the Texans. 

Both now are thriving and making winning plays for the Silver and Black.

This rookie class has been incredibly productive. They are playing fast, free and having a lot of fun as the Raiders play meaningful November games, something most didn't believe was possible for this young team. 

"The passion we have for the game, how much we love it, care about it," Mullen said when describing the rookie class. "Also care about our teammates. Want to show them we are going to show up, do our best and give our all." 

Effort isn't something the Raiders have ever had to worry about. "Mad Maxx" has been bringing it since he arrived in Oakland, impressing Gruden with his relentlessness. The sack numbers hadn't come for Crosby prior to his mauling of the Bengals. 

[RELATED: Carr's season beginning to look a lot like 2016 for Raiders QB]

They came in waves Sunday, with the four drops of Finley raising his season total to six. Fellow rookie Josh Jacobs believes Crosby should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. 

He and Ferrell quickly are becoming a dynamic duo. But did "Salt" feel a need to outdo "Pepa" after his breakout game in Week 10?

"No," Crosby said with a chuckle. "He had 2.5. I didn't think I would get four. I've never done that before. It was cool, but it's on to the next game." 

The Raiders head to New York to face the Jets in Week 12. Another opportunity for Crosby, Mullen or another rookie to save the day. 

Why Bill Belichick will miss Oakland Coliseum after Raiders' finale

Why Bill Belichick will miss Oakland Coliseum after Raiders' finale

It’s no secret that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t a man of many words.

When it comes to his press conferences, answers don’t tend to extend longer than a sentence or two.

But when the six-time Super Bowl champion coach was asked about the Raiders playing their final game at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday, the famously tight-lipped coach opined on the soon-to-be-former home of the Silver and Black.

“Pretty intense fans. It’s like Halloween every Sunday there,” Belichick said to reporters Friday. “So, yeah. I mean, it’s a great environment.

“When I was with the Broncos, of course we played out there, so that was – especially at that time in ’78, if I get that right – I’m pretty sure the Broncos won the division that year. We were right there with the Raiders. It was the Raiders-Broncos. It was a very intense rivalry, so there was a lot of – there was the game, and then there was all the other aspects of the game.

“But, yeah, the Oakland crowd was a lot more intense than the L.A. crowd, and we’ll miss it. We’ll miss it.”

One thing the legendary coach won’t miss is the iconic Black Hole.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Davis discusses end of Raiders' Oakland era]

“I think we kind of warmed up down there, so it’s not really where you want to be as a visiting coach,” Belichick said. “Tell the players not to stand too close to them in case they throw something and miss.”

The Raiders will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in their finale in front of the Oakland crowd on Sunday, as the team will officially move its operations to Las Vegas before the 2020 season.

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Five Raiders to watch in Week 15: Derek Carr must raise game vs. Jaguars

Five Raiders to watch in Week 15: Derek Carr must raise game vs. Jaguars

OAKLAND -- The Raiders will play their last game at Oakland Coliseum on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be an emotional day for everyone involved.

That includes Jon Gruden, as attached to this East Bay fan base as anyone. The Raiders coach has shut off his emotions all week, driving focus into preparation for this game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s the last Oakland moment he can control, and Gruden plans to take advantage.

Gruden desperately wants this win, and a victory might finally provide the opportunity to be emotional about the team’s scheduled move to Las Vegas.

“I wish I had time to stand up here and thank all the fans," Gruden said earlier this week. "I wish I had more time to really sit down and make that the big story here, and thank the fans for their support over the years, and what this franchise has accomplished, and what it means and what Oakland means to the Raiders. So, I’d like to thank everyone that welcomed us back when we came back and I know that they are going to stay with us when we go, but I appreciate all the fans and their loyalty and their support. We’ll try to give you one hell of a show.”

In order to put on a showstopper, the Raiders will need good performances from these five guys.

QB Derek Carr

I generally try to leave the franchise quarterback off these lists, but we’ll make an exception for the last Raiders game in Oakland. He got booed off the field after last week’s first half and again at the end, but this fan base still has a great affinity for the signal-caller who started virtually every game since 2014.

Carr owes them his best on Sunday, and odds are great he’ll put on a show for the faithful. He must improve upon recent performances to execute his plan. Carr will need help from a so-so receiver corps and an offensive line -- Trent Brown’s questionable with a pectoral strain -- that haven’t been at full strength all season.

Emotional Derek Carr is generally the best Derek Carr -- the season opener is a great example -- so we should anticipate him being on top of his game. The Jaguars have struggled mightily this season. but they’re sure to put up a fight during the final game in Oakland.

Carr is capable of putting a team on his shoulders, and he might have to with the Raiders defense playing as it is.

RB Josh Jacobs

The Raiders don’t have much to play for. Their playoff hopes are essentially dead, with the path to the postseason now complicated calculus when it was simple math not long ago. Jacobs is this team’s offensive engine, the player who matters most in what the Raiders do moving the football.

They know that. They believe his fractured shoulder can’t get worse and are hoping to trot him out there Sunday to help win the last game in Oakland. Jacobs' play exponentially increases their chances to win, and Jacobs knows that. He desperately wants to win this game.

The rookie is expected to be active, though it’s unclear exactly how much he will play. A 20-plus carry dose should do the Jaguars in. If he can provide that, the Raiders are in great shape if the defense holds up even a little bit. If not, Sunday could well be a struggle.

CB Isaiah Johnson

There’s no telling how much the fourth-round draft pick will play Sunday. Heck, he might not play at all.

Johnson hasn’t done much since returning off injured reserve, at times a healthy scratch since being activated around midseason. He has sat behind other guys during a playoff push and that made sense, but now it doesn’t. The Raiders are essentially out of the postseason running, with cornerback Daryl Worley either out with a neck injury or moving to strong safety in the base package.

That provides an opportunity to see what Johnson’s got. He won’t be his absolute best, not after missing most of training camp and half the regular season with a facial fracture suffered in the first regular-season game. Rookies can’t make up for that lost time until the following offseason, and Johnson clearly would’ve played earlier had he not been behind.

But it’s time to throw him out there as a test, to see what you’ve got in a talented young player. If he gives up a massive play, so what? The guy has to learn on the job. That’s how Trayvon Mullen has done it, and the Clemson product has thrived despite making some rookie mistakes. It’s time to let Johnson do the same.

DE Maxx Crosby

A devout Raiders follower made a flag to hang over the Oakland Coliseum railing -- enjoy that while you can Raider Nation, the tradition isn’t following you to Las Vegas -- to honor the departing club. He featured a skull and swords as crossbones, with a name filling out the remaining fabric. It said Mad Maxx.

That honors the rookie pass rusher who has already adhered himself to the fan base with one sack and pressure after another. He has proven a better run defender than people have expected. The Silver and Black need him to step up Sunday and generate heat largely missing from recent games.

Crosby currently has 7.5 sacks and would certainly like to reach 10 in his rookie year, needing at least a sack on Sunday to make that happen and give him a chance to compete for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

WR Tyrell Williams

The veteran receiver just isn’t right. Coaches volunteered that Williams' plantar fasciitis has plagued him all season despite it keeping him out just two games in the early going.

Williams simply hasn’t produced at a No. 1 receiver level, which has hurt the offense as a whole. Drops have been a real issue, and his lack of consistent separation can be attributed to his ailing foot.

He is not even on the injury report and is expected to play, and Williams has to produce if that’s the case. He remains the team’s best receiver and has to act like in the final game played in the spot where his grandparents live, in the town where he spent so much time as a kid.