Raiders demand, earn respect with 'statement wins' over Bears, Colts

Raiders demand, earn respect with 'statement wins' over Bears, Colts

LONDON – The Raiders spent their week in London hearing all about the greatness of Khalil Mack. They heard all about how the Chicago Bears defense was borderline invincible. They heard all about how their beloved teammate Vontaze Burfict was a dirty player who earned a 12-game suspension for an illegal hit.

That didn’t fracture or distract.

It pissed the Raiders off.

As we’re learning, angry Raiders are good Raiders. Angry Raiders are fun to watch.

Head coach Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther concocted excellent game plans while holed up in a tony golf resort just north of London. Their players executed them well in front of a massive crowd at the shiny, new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

It wasn’t pretty at every step, but it was never dull. In the end, the Raiders did what was required to win. They jumped out to a 17-point halftime lead, weather Chicago’s third-quarter storm and then sealed a 24-21 victory with a 97-yard comeback drive in the fourth.

“We could’ve folded up right there after the third, and taken an ‘L’ back to California,” left guard Richie Incognito said. “We were resilient and came away with the win.”

That sums it up well. The Raiders hung tough in an awful third quarter where most everything went against them and found a way to thrive when it mattered most.

Anger may have fueled them at the start, but that dissipates some as fatigue sets in. Their resolve never waned. All the early-season adversity, from Antonio Brown’s exit to Burfict’s suspension to injuries at key positions to an insane five-game road trip, has galvanized this unit into something better than the sum of its parts.

Past Raiders squad would wilt under such stress. In this instance, intense pressure’s producing diamonds.

“We’re learning a lot about each other, and how hard we play for one another,” Incognito said. “There are a bunch of new guys and we’re really coming together. These are statement wins. When you get further down the line, these are the victories you hang your hat on.”

The Raiders will hang helmets up for the bye. Gruden gave them the whole week off after an improbable 3-2 start to the season that includes two straight wins away from home, against solid Colts and Bears clubs.

They have transitioned well from an offense built around Antonio Brown to one focused on Josh Jacobs and a powerful run game. The No. 24 overall draft pick has been awesome thus far, and was his best Sunday, racking up 26 carries for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

The Raiders got what they needed from quarterback Derek Carr, who played mistake-free football, was pinpoint accurate and gave players room to turn short passes into longer gains in the 17th fourth-quarter comeback of his NFL career. He did all that with rookies and reserve receivers operating without Tyrell Williams. Impressive stuff, to be sure. 

“He did a great job,” Gruden said. “I thought we had a couple of special plays and short-yardage that were very effective. Probably the biggest plays of the game. It takes a quality quarterback to pull some of those off. He made great some pinpoint throws.”

And, right near the goal line, he let Jacobs soar up and over the Bears defense for the game-winning score. The Raiders were raucous in celebration, making a strong statement about a group overcoming so much to secure seemingly unlikely wins.

This team’s bond was strengthened during this week spent together in London, hearing all about what they were working against.

“The relationships that this team has, it really shows me what kind of team that Mr. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have tried to build,” Carr said. “We’re super close, we’re getting super results and we’re super tough. I knew we had a close team, but we have been a close team because of our [extended] road trip.”

[RELATED: Grading Raiders offense, defense in win over Bears]

The Raiders have dealt with a ton and handled it well. They stood tall, played well and demanded your respect.

“This was good,” Gruden said. “We got a key road win against a good football team. It was in the playoffs last year. So we're making progress. We've got some injuries to deal with. And really, really proud of our coaches and players and everybody affiliated with us right now. We're working hard.”

Derek Carr praises Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock for Raiders' rookie class

Derek Carr praises Jon Gruden, Mike Mayock for Raiders' rookie class

One week after the Raiders announced Mike Mayock as their general manager, the former longtime NFL draft analyst found his first assignment: The College Football Playoff National Championship. 

Clearly, he liked what he saw at Levi's Stadium. The Raiders selected four players -- defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs, cornerback Trayvon Mullen and receiver Hunter Renfrow -- from the national championship. These players came from winning college programs in Clemson and Alabama, and it showing on and off the field.

Quarterback Derek Carr has taken notice to the maturity of the Raiders' rookie class, giving a round of applause to Mayock and coach Jon Gruden.

"They already understand what it means to be a top-level pro, and their effort and determination is there. The only thing that's gonna stop them is circumstance. These guys are completely understanding of what it means to be a professional at this league, and you have to give a lot of credit to Mr. Mayock and coach Gruden," Carr said on the Raider Cody Podcast.

"They sought these guys out. They interviewed them. They obviously went through that rigorous process with the draft and things like that." 

Mayock and Gruden's draft picks are panning out so far for the 3-2 Raiders.

Jacobs looks like a future star and already has 430 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He also has added another 77 yards receiving. Renfrow ranks third on the team in receptions (12) and receiving yards (101). Ferrell missed last game with a concussion. He has 10 tackles, one sack and three tackles for a loss. 

Even late-round draft picks like defensive end Maxx Crosby and tight end Foster Moreau look like contributors for years to come. 

[RELATED: Raiders mailbag: Crosby is high among standout rookies]

Carr and the Raiders are enjoying their bye week after a big Week 5 win over the Bears in London. The QB is staying in shape, though, and had tight end Derek Carrier over for a home workout this week. One of the first subjects they brought up was the team's rookies. 

"They're all professionals. You don't look at these guys as rookies, they're just pros," Carr said. "They get it. They're able to contribute, they know their weaknesses, they know their flaws, they're OK admitting their flaws." 

Through the early portion of the season, the Raiders have surprised many with a winning record after an offseason full of drama and headaches. And their rookies are a big reason why.

NFL rumors: Raiders' Richie Incognito fined for penalties in London


NFL rumors: Raiders' Richie Incognito fined for penalties in London

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock knew the Raiders weren't signing a "Boy Scout" when they brought in offensive lineman Richie Incogntio this offseason, and Incognito reportedly picked up his first two fines in Silver and Black this weekend. 

The NFL reportedly fined Incognito $21,054 for a chop block and unnecessary roughness in the Raiders' Week 5 win over the Chicago Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, according to NFL Media's Tom Pelissero. 

The offensive lineman served a two-game suspension earlier this season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after threatening to shoot people and punching a hole in the wall at the Arizona funeral home where his father's body was kept. Incognito pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemanors from the incident, and he pleaded guilty to another misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge from a separate incident at his grandmother's home two days later. 

[RELATED: Why Raiders' Crosby ranks high among team's standout rookies]

Including suspensions, Incognito now has forfeited $716,953 in salary in his NFL career, according to Spotrac data. 

The Raiders signed Incognito to a one-year contract this offseason, and he has become a key part of the Raiders' newfound run-based identity. Since Incognito's Week 3 debut, the Raiders ranked sixth in the league in rushing yards (445) entering Sunday.