Raiders

Raiders' resilient attitude on display as surprising season continues

Raiders' resilient attitude on display as surprising season continues

OAKLAND – Quarterback Derek Carr entered the Raiders huddle with a simple message for his massive offensive line.

"Keep me upright and we’ll win this game."

The Raiders had four minutes to score a touchdown. Failure would mean losing to the Chargers on Thursday night. Protect the passer and win. Allow pressure, and lose. 

If the heat was on, these Raiders never felt it. Not even an offensive line Carr had charged with a massive responsibility.

“I said, ‘I got you,’ and gave him a little wink,” star right tackle Trent Brown said. “That was it.”

The Raiders were certain they’d score and win. After all, they beat Detroit five days ago the exact same way. They could certainly do it again. 

“It was fun,” Brown said. “We had to drive the ball and score. It was on us. The game was on our back. We had to come through.”

The Raiders marched 75 yards on 10 plays, cashing in on Josh Jacobs’ 18-yard touchdown run.

Carr was awesome.

The offensive line held strong.

Oakland's defense made a tenuous 26-24 lead stand by forcing seven straight Philip Rivers incompletions – a penalty extended the series – before Karl Joseph’s interception formally secured victory.

The Raiders jumped out to an early lead and held it until late in the fourth quarter before the Chargers surged ahead.

No matter. The Raiders didn’t blink.

“That’s resilience,” Brown said. “We don’t quit. I’m sure that, coming into this, everybody was counting us out like they always do. We rose above the noise and played our game. We played Raiders football.”

They certainly did. The Silver and Black were forged in fire, weathering countless setbacks due to injury, Antonio Brown’s implosion and Vontaze Burfict’s suspension. Now they’re galvanized, ready to take on anything.

That’s resilience. Brown’s term is this team’s defining characteristic, one that has it playing better than the sum of its parts. Let’s not forget this team remains in the midst of a rebuild, with another productive offseason at least away from fleshing out a depth chart deficient at certain positions.

Those in house aren’t always the best at their position, but they scratch and claw and never back down.

“We have more dogs on this team than any other year,” said running back Jalen Richard, who has seen good times and bad since joining the team in 2016. “We have the mentality that, if you hit me, I’m going to hit you harder. We have a lot of guys with that mindset. We are not going to lie down.”

That mindset comes from the veteran leadership core. It also comes from the coaching staff. Jon Gruden’s tireless work ethic and drive have rubbed off on this group, with a commitment to the process validated by positive results.

“I mean it’s a testament to our team and what we believe in,” Jacobs said. “We believe in this program. We believe in this program. We believe in the coaches.

“This team is a lot better than what we get credit for, and I think you see that now. I mean we’re just starting to put the pieces together. So, it’s going to be fun and interesting to see how we go on this little stretch and see how we do next week.”

These Raiders are in the playoff hunt after believing they were counted out early. That wasn’t the case, at least not in this sector of cyberspace. It was fair to question how the Raiders would fare due to so much adversity right out of the gate.

A never-say-die response to all that was impressive. They have shown resilience through individual setbacks, between games and within them.

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

The Raiders won’t win every game. They could struggle against the NFL’s best, but they can’t be counted out of anything. That’s a high compliment to Gruden, his staff and the players they coach.

“You may beat us, but we’re going to be a hard out to get,” Gruden said. “We’re going to battle. That’s all I can say about this team. We’re very happy with our foundation, our process.”

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

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USATSI

Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact on season

OAKLAND – Jon Gruden gets asked about the Raiders' rookie class almost every week.

Those questions don’t get old, and they’re always relevant.

This isn’t just the Josh Jacobs show. At least a few are making positive contributions each Sunday. That was the case again Sunday when rookie contributions were vital to a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Coliseum.

Fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby had four sacks, including a strip-sack where the Raiders recovered. Tight end Foster Moreau, also picked in that round, had a key touchdown catch. Second-round pick Trayvon Mullen had two pass breakups and his first NFL interception iced victory. Undrafted fullback Alec Ingold blocked well as always and converted a key fourth down set up to a field goal.

Oh, and Jacobs posted his fourth triple-digit rushing total in 10 tries.

All that comes two weeks after fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow caught the game-winning touchdown late to beat Detroit. It also came one week after first-round pick Clelin Ferrell’s breakout performance, where he had 2.5 sacks and six(!) run stops against the Chargers.

We could bloat the internet with this season’s Raiders rookie contributions, but you get the point. This year’s class has been awesome, truly making an instant impact.

Jacobs tweeted, ‘best rookie class since…” after Sunday’s game. The ellipsis is appropriate because you have to stop and ponder that one. That's a tough ranking in league history but it does seem appropriate to say this year’s crop is arguably the greatest collective effort by a group of rookies in franchise history.

Gruden isn’t into bold proclamations like that, but he loves what the young players have provided his ascending team.

“The poise and the production and the professionalism that they play with and come to work with,” Gruden said, “is something everybody would be impressed with.”

The stats have been impressive, to say the least. Some numbers for support, via ESPN:

The Raiders have the most rookie sacks (10), touchdowns from scrimmage (14), scrimmage yards (1,676), rushing yards (937) and receptions (73). They have the second-most receiving yards (739).

Per the AP, the Raiders are the first team to have 10-plus sacks and 10-plus touchdowns over the first 10 games of the season since the sack became a stat in 1982.

Odds are more superlatives will come next week and the week after that, with the Raiders so reliant on rookies who have grown up fast.

"We just bought in,” Jacobs said. “Like I said when we came in, the rookie class came in together and we came to an agreement that we were going to do things the right way and build this program. We wanted to try and shape it back to the Raider culture and back to what we feel like dominating football is. Just to see how we are all coming in and trying to keep that promise and execute every week has been huge."

Jacobs is a frontrunner for Offensive Rookie of the Year and was one of three Raiders first-round draft picks. Ferrell just now is coming on, and Johnathan Abram is missing from the equation after being lost to injury in the season opener. The Silver and Black are receiving key contributions from mid-round picks and undrafted guys alike, with most everyone asked to step up and play.

[RELATED: Raiders protect Coliseum, chart course for playoff push]

This group’s confidence is growing by the game, which will help push for a playoff spot this season and set the Raiders up for sustained success when they move to Las Vegas in 2020.

“It comes down to preparation,” Mullen said. “All of us young guys put the time in and pay attention to details during the week. That allows us to come in on Sunday and play free.”

Raiders protect Coliseum, set playoff course after sweeping homestand

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Raiders protect Coliseum, set playoff course after sweeping homestand

OAKLAND -- The Raiders returned home at the beginning of November tired, frustrated and beaten up, but still with a pulse.

A whirlwind five-game road trip saw the Silver and Black go just about everywhere -- from Minnesota to London to Houston with a few stops in between. They survived the season-defining road trip, coming home at 3-4 and with just enough of a heartbeat to make the next three games the most important of the 2019 season. 

Three games in a row at the Coliseum. All winnable. Since it's the NFL, all losable.

Jon Gruden's gritty club opened the homestand with a thrilling Week 9 win over Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. Derek Carr engineered a game-winning drive, safety Karl Joseph broke up Stafford's last-second pass to tie the game and the Raiders were 4-4. 

The heartbeat grew stronger. The Coliseum grew louder.

Next, a Thursday night showdown against the rival Chargers, a team desperate to find a win. The final night game in Oakland saw the Coliseum roar and shake as it did during the glory years of the Silver and Black, with the crowd exploding when Joseph picked off Philip Rivers to seal another nail-biting victory

At 5-4, the heartbeat was steady and still growing stronger. The Raiders had one more game in front of them to win to complete a goal set when they disembarked the plane after a disappointing road loss to the Texans to cap their road trip. 

There the winless Bengals stood Sunday at the Coliseum, 0-9 but ready to scratch and claw for win No. 1. The Raiders left the door open, playing sloppy, uninspired ball at times. But the Bengals, without a threat at quarterback or a defense capable of making a timely stop, lacked the mobility to walk through it, and Trayvon Mullen's game-sealing interception of Ryan Finley gave the Raiders a 17-10 win and a 3-0 homestand. 

Giving the Coliseum crowd meaningful football to watch in the team's final season in Oakland has energized a home crowd frothing at the mouth for a playoff run. Their energy, in turn, has injected life into the Raiders as the team exited Sunday's win in a virtual tie for first place in the AFC West, with the Chiefs still to play Monday night.

Defending the Coliseum was of paramount importance to Carr and the Raiders. That came pouring out when the veteran signal-caller juked an oncoming defender Sunday and sprinted for the end zone, leaping across the goal line to give the Raiders a 14-7 lead over the Bengals.

Carr let out a primal scream toward the fans in the corner of the end zone, echoing Maximus Decimus Meridus' iconic scene from "Gladiator." Raiders Nation, going berserk as the Silver and Black crept toward a 3-0 homestand, was indeed entertained.

"When we were on that 11-month road trip across the globe," Carr said laughing, "we talked leading into the Lions at home, I said, 'We have set ourselves up to have a homestand at home with games that matter.' November is the games they remember, right? Every coach has said that I've ever been with. We asked our fans to be loud for us, they were loud for us. We demanded that we won every one of those games here at home. We protected this place because this is a special place. And we did that.

"Now we have to go on the road again. But when we get back home, hopefully, there's still some things that we need to be playing for. I hope that our fans are excited when we come back. But I hope they also make a couple trips with us and turn those stadiums into silver and black."

In the final season in Oakland, the Raiders now are 4-1 at home, with their only loss coming at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 2.

They've shown tremendous resolve, grit and toughness each week, doing what is necessary to force the Coliseum faithful to explode in celebration and send Gruden down to the Black Hole to be mobbed by those that have more silver and black than hemoglobin coursing through their bodies.

Protecting the Coliseum was necessary in order for Gruden and the Raiders to capitalize on surviving an unprecedented road trip against playoff-caliber teams.

"We came off one of the most incredible road trips ever in the history of the NFL," Gruden said after the win over the Bengals. "We played not only on the road, we played in foreign countries and across the world it seemed like every week. We came back and did what we had to do if we wanted to get in this thing."

[RELATED: Crosby-Mullen bond creates winning plays for Raiders]

With just December home games against the Titans and Jaguars remaining, Gruden is relishing each win he can celebrate with the Raiders fans that closely resemble their head coach.

"I can say I've been fortunate to be in some great places, great traditional places," Gruden said Sunday. "Notre Dame, I grew up in South Bend, Had the opportunity to coach the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, 49ers, they all have great fans. Something about these people. They are nuts. They are the closest thing to me that I've ever seen."

Road dates with the Jets and Chiefs await the Raiders over the next two weeks. Both games are losable, and both winnable, as has been the case with the 2019 Raiders.

Returning to the hallowed ground in Oakland with the playoffs in sight will have the Coliseum primed to ratchet it up to 11 as their final mosh in silver and black comes in December games to remember. A fitting parting gift to those who have made the Coliseum so special.

Gruden and the Raiders plan to give it to them.