To an outsider, the Las Vegas Raiders’ 16-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns may seem like the greatest defensive battle in the franchise’s recent history. Yes, Baker Mayfield struggled to complete 12 passes for 122 yards on 25 attempts. However, due to 40+ mile per hour winds, one cannot completely credit Paul Guenther’s defensive scheming. Not to mention, that the Raiders failed against the Buccaneers last week.
The positive takeaway from the game comes from the team’s run defense. Although an excessive amount of running plays could have been expected, the Raiders slowed Kareem Hunt and the Browns rushing attack. Hunt rushed 14 times for 66 yards, with a game-high 18-yard rush, boosting his average. While allowing an average of four yards per attempt is right on par for Las Vegas, Hunt earned those yards.
On the pass prevention side of the defense, the Browns may have stopped themselves more than the Raiders did. Mayfield’s accuracy struggled, mostly due to wind, but still had some incredibly questionable throws, while Jarvis Landry and David Njoku looked more like defenders for the Raiders, batting down and dropping an impressive amount of passes thrown their way, including a beautiful touchdown pass to Landry and a crucial third-down can of corn that fell out of Njoku’s hands. But, Lamarcus Joyner came through huge as well, leaping to break up a guaranteed touchdown pass to Landry late in the game in addition to a bonecrushing hit on Landry, again robbing him of a touchdown.
Heart of the Defense
Johnathan Abram also deserves a hearty bowl of respect for flying to the ball carrier at potentially literal breakneck speed. Abram not only brings the effort and intensity the Raiders need, but the rest of the defense catches fire with him. If Abram is buzzing, the defense is buzzing.
Once again, the Raiders at times showed a haunting inability to tackle, or even lay a hand on the ballcarrier. Many Browns players were able to extend plays far beyond initial contact. I know teams are supposed to be keeping their distance. Someone must tell the defense that does not apply during games.
Lack of Discipline
In the first half, the Raiders also were drawn offsides by Mayfield’s hard counts which, due to the lack of fans, were heard incredibly clearly. If this had been the first week of the season, a couple of encroachments could be excused but in the team’s seventh game of the year, it looked incredibly amateur.
A weather-controlled win over the formerly 5-2 Browns is nothing to look past. For some, the game was not as impressive as it may seem. The Raiders have a lot of work to do on defense. While the offense hums, the defense attempts to fight through scratched disks. Las Vegas developed Super Bowl dreams at the start of the season. However, if Guenther cannot smooth things out, a Wild Card Weekend exit appears to be the ceiling for the Raiders. Vegas needs to duplicate strong defense performance more consistently. It can’t be a surprise when they shut someone down, needs to be a regular occurrence.