Not going to lie.
Attaining victory is the thing that stood out the most for the Oakland Raiders in Week 9. It wasn’t pretty. You even had to turn your eyes away from the horror over the course of the grueling Sunday night clash.
But in the end, the Raiders got by the Miami Dolphins and improved to 4-5. While it is debatable whether or not Oakland is truly in desperation/panic mode. What is not up for discussion is how vital the win was. The Raiders are afforded the opportunity to enter a much-needed bye week with some good mojo and not the bad “juju” that’s been monopolized by the Dolphins.
Here are five things that stood out in Miami:
The tall and supremely athletic tight end has become a warming safety blanket for quarterback Derek Carr. The rapport between the two is undeniable. Cook was the target on the first deep ball of the game and hauled in a pass that made an all-important field goal before halftime possible. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark before halftime and totaled 126 yards on eight grabs.
“It’s the way he works during the week. On a Friday – usually Fridays are slowed down tempo – if Jared is on one of those routes where he needs to get it again, he’s almost full speed,” Carr said of his trusted tight end. “Just the way he prepares, the way he practices, I love talking to him, I love picking his brain.
Too many examples to lay out here, but there was one particular play that exhibited the Raiders’ lack of proper tackling to a T: Damian Williams 10-yard score where he bounced off a kill shot hit and dove in the end zone for the touchdown.
Tackling at the line of scrimmage and just beyond it has been adequate for Oakland. Run stops have come at a decent clip. But it’s what happens behind the front seven that is concerning.
“To me, what it comes down to is the tackling on the back-end that has really been poor,” Raiders head honcho Jack Del Rio said. “You can’t play great defense without being great tacklers. That’s probably the biggest area for us.”
Veteran safety Reggie Nelson remarked he was “going through withdrawals” as the Raiders languish as the only squad in the NFL without a pick through nine games. And guess which defender has the best shot at coming up with interception No. 1? None other than repeat burn victim Sean Smith. Against interception-prone Jay Cutler, who has no qualms heaving up prayer balls, Oakland had a golden chance to snag a throw. No dice. Due to a number of factors, according to coach Del Rio.
“We definitely didn’t want them to go over the top of us. He was patient. We didn’t hit him as much as I would like to have seen,” Del Rio began, “Part of that is he had some throws available and he was taking them. The bottom line was to keep the point total down, and I think we did that for the most part tonight.”
Only One Sack
Cutler wasn’t under constant duress until the waning moments of the contest. That was great at that particular juncture, but unacceptable when looking at the whole. Again, there is a myriad of other components that go into making the quarterback hit the turf hard, but the lack of takedowns is alarming, nonetheless. Armed with the relentless Khalil Mack, Oakland needs much more out of Bruce Irvin, Mario Edwards Jr., and Eddie Vanderdoes in the pass rush department.
“I am a little surprised we haven’t been a little more effective with it,” Del Rio noted. “We’ve got good pass rushers, we need to have a little tighter coverage so that the quarterback has to hold the ball. If he’s able to get it out on time and comfortably, throw it in front of us and then make guys miss and get big plays, then why would they hold onto it to look down the field? That’s where I say leverage and tackling is huge for our defense.”
Too Many Open Receivers
It was maddening to see Dolphins pass catchers haul in a pass with a defender nary in sight. Whether it was the outside or slot receiver or the tight end and running backs, Cutler was not only given a Grand Canyon-sized window to throw but his options were scampering along while Raiders defenders seemed to be slogging in quicksand. Just like Del Rio mentioned above, a lot of things must work in unison. Oakland’s zone defense is based on keeping plays in front of you and making the tackle before any Yards After Catch (YAC) can be gained. One missed tackle can break the levy — One that is intended to bend and not break.