Take your hand away from the panic button! In Oakland’s 26-16 victory against Tennessee on Sunday, Raider fans saw something many thought was going to be non-existent for Oakland in 2017. That something was a defense that stood its ground and bent but didn’t break.
Oakland’s defense only surrendered 95 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground to the Titans, an impressive feat considering in 2016 the Raiders gave up nearly double that number to Tennessee. This stingy run defense was largely in part due to the wall Murray and Henry had to break through in Oakland’s front four. Mack, Vanderdoes, Mario Edwards, and Irvin held the Titans ground attack in check for most of the game. Demarco Murray had 12 rushing attempts for 44 yards, while nearly half of those yards came on one play, and Derrick Henry had 6 attempts for 25 yards. Mariota was the leading rusher for the Titans most of the afternoon with three carries for 26 yards and a score. However, Mariota’s stats only came in the first half of the game as Oakland was able to make the necessary adjustments at the half and bottled him up for the rest of the afternoon.
Raider’s defense really battened down the hatches in the second half, allowing only a single first down in the Titans first 2 drives to start the second half. Mack, who remained quiet most of the day, had two nice tackles for a loss in the two opening drives for Tennessee and with the help of rookie Eddie Vanderdoes, forced Mariota into the open arms of Ellis and Edwards for the only sack of the game for the Raiders.
Oakland’s secondary allowed 256 yards through the air with no picks but seemed to tighten the noose when it was most crucial, allowing zero touchdowns through the air.
Linebacker play was good enough to get the job done Sunday and not as dismal as some feared it would be. Cory James had a nice pass defended over the middle in the first quarter, which drew boos from the Nashville crowd as they seemed to deem it a pass interference. Nicholas Morrow also brought the lumber on a third down run by Murray at Oakland’s eight-yard line which forced Tennessee to settle for a field goal.
For a Titans Rushing attack that ranked 9th in the league according to NFL.com and an offensive line that ranked 4th heading into the season according to Pro Football Focus, I was more than satisfied with how well the Raiders’ defense handled themselves on Sunday! Was it perfect? No. But there is no reason to think this defense can’t be top 20 or even 15 in the league by December, which would be a major upgrade from their 2016 ranking at 26th. Tip my cap to Tennessee’s play callers for the Mariota scamper that led to the only TD that Oakland surrendered the entire game. But If you would have told Raider Nation that Oakland was going to only give up one touchdown the entire game in their season opener, how many would have believed you? Give this unit a B+ for Sunday’s efforts!