Oakland Raiders

Raiders defense looks improved despite injury issues

The Oakland Raiders traveled to New England to take on the Patriots and covered the 14-point spread. Sadly, that’s a huge accomplishment for the 2014 Raiders. After looking inept in a Week 1 loss to the New York Jets and getting blown out of the water at home by the Houston Texans, it seemed inevitable that things would only get worse against the Patriots.

Instead, the Raiders took the game down to the wire, eventually turning the ball over as they were in the red zone and in striking distance of tying the game. Just about every aspect of the Raiders’ game looked better on Sunday, but the defense’s play was especially noteworthy. After giving up over 400 yards on the ground in the first two weeks and allowing average quarterbacks to look special, Tom Brady and company looked particularly daunting.

Facing the Raiders defense presented what looked like the perfect opportunity for the Patriots to find the offensive rhythm they’d been missing in their first two games. But instead of rolling over, that beleaguered defense stood tall and held Brady and the Patriots running game mostly in check.

The Texans converted on third down 60% of the time in Oakland, so holding the Patriots to 50% was a small improvement. Even better, they held the Patriots to 76 yards rushing on just 2.4 yards per carry, and didn’t allow the Patriots to put up any passing yards in the first quarter. Oakland eventually lost the game, but only giving up 16 points to Tom Brady at home after allowing 30 to Ryan Fitzpatrick represents a big improvement.

What’s more impressive is the fact that the Raiders accomplished this without two of their three starting linebackers — arguably their best defensive player in Sio Moore and their defensive quarterback in middle linebacker Nick Roach. Plus, starting strong safety Tyvon Branch injured his foot and was unable to finish the game.

Far and away, the Raiders’ biggest failings in the first two weeks came on defense. With that unit showing improvement, there’s actually hope that this team could win some games this year. Just not too many.

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