For the first time in a long time, the Oakland Raiders did not simply sleep walk through the first half of a 10 am road game. Instead, the Raiders started strong for the second consecutive week, but this time it wasn’t just the offense who showed up ready to play. The defense played quite well — so well that the Browns had to completely abandon the run game and go pass-heavy.
That’s when things got close again.
The Raiders dominated the first half and went into halftime leading 17-3 but the second half was a different story. Relying on the passing game, the Browns were able to move the ball on a suspect Raiders secondary. Rather than finishing with a comfortable lead, the Raiders had to fight to the very end of the game before locking down their second win of the season.
The Raiders started to develop a pass rush in the second half behind Khalil Mack, who had two sacks and a forced fumble. But on the final drive, it was linebacker Neiron Ball who made the timely sack. On 2nd-and-8, Ball sacked Josh McCown for a six-yard loss. On the next play, McCown pushed the ball deep and Charles Woodson came up with an interception to seal the win.
The Raiders defense looked improved over last week, but it’s still a liability. What matters most is we’re seeing defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. make adjustments. The Raiders showed more 3-4 looks with their front seven to allow Aldon Smith and Khalil Mack to rush from the linebacker position. They also moved corner T.J. Carrie to safety and used newly-acquired corner David Amerson to play the nickel position. The changes didn’t create a good defense, but it moved the team one step closer.
Either way, the Raiders walked away with a win on a day when the play looked ugly late in the game. In years past, this was the kind of game the Raiders would give away. This time, you never saw the players hang their heads or give up. They kept fighting and, in the end, made just enough plays. They now have one more road game against a team that has some issues at quarterback (Chicago) before facing some very good signal callers. That means one more week to get better at defending the pass. In the meantime, they’ll be happy to take wins any way they can get them.