Speaking The Truth: Raiders Win, Melifonwu sparkles in debut

A wet and rainy wild contest between the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins took place in Florida along with Obi Melifonwu’s debut, the site of last week’s edition of Sunday Night Football.

Pitting the Raiders against the Dolphins in a game that both teams needed to win in order to maintain their previously dwindling playoff hopes. In what was a truly difficult game to watch at times, the Raiders emerged victoriously and as coach Jack Del Rio will tell you, “Never apologize for a victory,” winning in the NFL is tough.

Is the Raiders offense coming back?

The Raiders offense continues to put the pieces together while attempting to regain its equilibrium. Quarterback Derek Carr put up an efficient stat line against a solid Miami defense completing 21/30 passes for 300 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Tight end Jared Cook is establishing a rapport with his quarterback while Cook broke the century mark for the second time in the last three weeks. Consequently, both games in which this occurred resulted in wins, a coincidence perhaps? Certainly, the new determining factor for victory is the effectiveness of Cook.

Marshawn Lynch, fresh off his one-week suspension for referee and appeal shenanigans, finally made his presence felt in a positive way producing his best runs of the season and scoring twice. Johnny Holton has recovered some of Seth Roberts touchdown magic, considering every time Holton scores and usually it’s off a play-action pass, the Raiders have won.

Raiders’ defense does “just enough”

The “bend but don’t break” philosophy had its breaking point recalibrated as the defensive effort was just good enough to get a win.

The Dolphins were at a crossroads looking into a descending abyss, valiantly fighting with everything they could muster. Quarterback Jay Cutler would start the game scorching hot, hitting running back after running back flat route against the soft underneath coverage. However, sustaining drives the entire length of the field proved to be too difficult a task to overtake the Raiders on this day.

A second-round pick, Obi Melifonwu made his much-anticipated season debut, and it was a solid one.

The Force Is Strong with Obi

Melifonwu reminded Raider Nation what exactly it was that they were getting when they drafted him. Melifonwu stuck to former Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas like “white on rice, in a glass of milk on a paper plate, in a snowstorm” as Major Payne so eloquently put it. A sight missing in Oakland since as long as the most devout of Raider fans would care to remember.

Physically speaking, his imposing size and speed combination leaps out at you the moment the tape starts rolling. For a team that has been severely lacking elite level athletes on defense, giving Melifonwu two weeks to prepare for Rob Gronkowski is a colossal step in the right direction to getting a win.

Melifonwu was a bright spot for the Raiders, the tackling, however, was not. Weather would be the easy excuse for a defense suddenly forgetting how to deliver a blow; with a helmet on the ball, wrap up the ball carrier, lift and take him to the ground. Tackling has been abysmally comical. Watching defenders coming up laying a monster shot on a ball carrier and then said ball carrier spins and scores because there was no wrap-up, well that is a football sin. As the season has progressed and the defense has spent minute after minute in every game on the field, the old bad habits are beginning to resurface.

A look ahead

With a lack of a pass rush, the Raiders were dead last in the league in sacks last season with 25, this year they appear to be on well on their way to fewer sacks. The 13 sacks produced by the defensive line is exacerbated by the defensive backs going nine weeks into an NFL season without recording a single interception. And playing the soft style coverage they currently employ they will be the only team in history to go without recording an interception period. Wide open windows on short routes negate any chance of the defensive front (Khalil Mack) to get to the quarterback.

A 4-5 record looks and feels a lot better than 3-6 heading into the bye week feeling like the season is pretty much over in retrospect. The offense held onto the football and executed against a good defense, the defense appeared to take a step backward, but if the coaching staff opted for playing the long game well then, the defense accomplished what was asked. Albeit far from an ideal game plan and one which will undoubtedly end in embarrassment should they employ it against the Patriots in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico next week.

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