Iron Will: Raiders Show Grit In Win

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch raiders.com
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The Oakland Raiders persevered, ending up with a 24-17 victory over the New York Giants.  Consequently, they now find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West along with the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers. The score of the game does not tell the full story. This could have been a perfect trap game for the Raiders. They could have easily looked beyond the 2-9 Giants, thinking they were not much competition.

This was the first time in 210 games that Eli Manning, 3-0 lifetime versus the Raiders, was not at the offensive helm for the Giants. Surprisingly, New York opted to start Geno Smith, 2-1 lifetime versus the Raiders, at quarterback. The Giants did not have D.J. Fluker starting at guard. They did not have wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr. or Brandon Marshall as targets for Smith. This would seem to make the job of the Raiders defense a lot easier.

In some ways, it was. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged a 110 quarterback rating against the Raiders defense. Smith lost two fumbles, suffered three sacks, and completed 21 of 34 passes for a rating of 89.3. The defense held the Giants to only one touchdown for three quarters. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Giants had only 136 yards in offense. By the end of the game, the Giants almost doubled that, putting up 129 yards of offense, scoring 10 points on consecutive drives

Additionally, this is the second game in a row where the defense appeared to start playing soft and giving up not only big plays, but also crucial points. The Raiders endured their own struggles on offense. Michael Crabtree served a suspension. Moreover, Amari Cooper could not take the field due to a sprained ankle and being in the NFL’s concussion protocol after being knocked unconscious while playing against the Denver Broncos.

Two key factors tipped the scales in the Raiders favor. The first one was the number of explosive plays. On offense the Raiders had four plays over 20 yards, including two over 50 yards. One of those plays was a 51-yard ramble by Marshawn Lynch for the Raiders first touchdown. With just over five minutes left in the game, Derek Carr connected with Cordarrelle Patterson for a 59-yard pass, leading to a fourth quarter touchdown. At the same time, the Giants had only two explosive plays. One was a 29-yard catch and run from Smith to rookie tight end Evan Engram. Their other big play was a 47-yard Sterling Shepherd reception. Subsequently, both of these plays led to scores.

All things considered, even though Raiders fumbled the ball four times, they only gave it up once. The Giants fumbled away twice. They were both strip sacks of Geno Smith. The strip sack by Khalil Mack was a momentum changer. Previously, the Raiders  turned the ball over on downs when  Marquette King failed to get off a punt,. As a result, the Giants were on the Raiders nine-yard line. Instead of leading to a quick score for the Giants, the Raiders were able to safely, if conservatively, end the first half without the Giants taking the lead.

In reality, this game should not have been as close as it was.  However,  with the fumbles, the two near interceptions thrown by Carr, Oakland should be satisfied with this win. They need to win out, one game at time, to take the AFC West.

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