We covered the top offensive plays of the year, so let’s show some love to the big men on the other side of the ball.
The Oakland Raiders did not have a good defensive showing in 2017, but there are always some golden moments that rise above, especially when Khalil Mack is involved.
Here are the top five defensive plays of the year.
5) McDonald forces a fumble, Amerson recovers – LA Chargers, Week 6
For quite some time, Chargers games have been considered home games by proxy for the Silver and Black, whether they were at the Coliseum or in San Diego. So many fans traveled with the team that it was hard to distinguish. In 2017, the two met for the first time in Week 6 at the Coliseum, the Raiders’ actual home field. Usually, the Black Hole electrifies the team and gives them a leg up against their opponents. Unfortunately for the Raiders, it wouldn’t help this time. There was so much incompetence from the sidelines, the players couldn’t overcome it completely. But even in the 17-16 loss, there were a few bright spots.
In the third quarter, the Chargers were driving down the field when Philip Rivers dumped a quick pass to Ty Williams, who traveled 14 yards before being nailed from behind by Dexter MacDonald, sending the ball flying forward. It was knocked down and bobbled between safety Karl Joseph and cornerback David Amerson, who covered it up for the turnover. It was a little too late in the game to save it, but a promising play for a struggling secondary.
4) Bruce strips, Bowman recovers – New York Giants, Week 14
The formerly great New York Giants traveled to the Black Hole in Week 14, only to be sent home with another L to add to the 10 they had already accumulated. This was in part due to the play of the Raiders defense. Although it wasn’t a perfect showing, the team was able to make some solid goal-line stands and force turnovers that made all the difference.
Halfway through the second quarter, the game was tied and the Giants were well within striking distance to take the lead when tragedy struck for Geno Smith. Tragedy in the form of Bruce Irvin. Irvin skirted around the left tackle virtually untouched and made it to Smith with ease. His hit from behind was perfectly timed, forcing the ball out of Smith’s hands. Fumble. NaVorro Bowman was Johnny-on-the-spot, tracking the free ball until he ultimately recovered for the Raiders, who would drive down the field for a Giorgio Tavecchio field goal.
3) Mack stalks, Autry drops a SuperBowl MVP
In a Monday night game against the eventual SuperBowl champs, the Raiders headed to Philadelphia to what everyone expected to be a blowout. But the Raiders came to play. They weren’t going to give up on Christmas Day.
Late in the game, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Eagles were tucking the Raiders in for a long winter’s nap. In the fourth quarter, the defense ramped up. Denico Autry exploded up the middle, beating the holy snot out of Eagles center Jason Kelce, skirting him right as Khalil Mack broke through three blocks in pursuit of Nick Foles. Mack was able to reach him with a fingertip, which was enough to slow him down and slip into the waiting arms of Autry, who gave him a nice bear hug that was neither warm nor fuzzy.
2) NaVorro breaks the worst streak in Raiders history – Denver Broncos Week 12
The Raiders are not strangers to making history, good or bad. Some of the greatest moments on film belong to the team. The franchise has been trailblazers in the league in minority and female hirings. There have been countless rule changes based on the team’s gameplay. They regularly break the record for most penalties in a season. And this season saw another record. One that no one ever wanted to see.
The Raiders were the first team in history to go 10 weeks without catching an interception. Common opinion says that this is due to the poor coaching of former coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. A midseason veteran acquisition and defensive coordinator replacement soon after gave the Raiders their first of the season. They would only end up with five, but once they started, they averaged almost one per game.
Week 12 versus the Denver Broncos, another longtime heated rivalry game, and the Raiders have something to prove. They were handed their hats and politely asked to leave Mexico City the week before, after losing horribly to the New England Patriots, so a win of any kind was desperately needed.
It was 46 seconds into the 4th quarter when Paxton Lynch threw to the end zone, hoping to hit Virgil Green for the score when Bowman came in from the left and deflected the ball over to Reggie Nelson, who then deflected it back to his man on the ground. Not only did he force it, NaVorro Bowman also intercepted his own deflection. The Raiders exploded in excitement and everyone took a deep breath. John Pagano was making a difference in just his first week at the helm of the defense.
See: Bowman with the Raiders’ First Interception
1) Offensive Lineman gets hit by a Mack truck and survives…barely – Kansas City Chiefs Week 6
Probably the best pickup in a draft or anywhere, really, in decades (seriously, decades that predate the millennium), Khalil Mack is changing the game weekly. He deserves his very own list, but we’re narrowing down to five, so we’ll keep the Mack love to a minimum.
Week 7 was the season’s first meeting between the Raiders and their arch-rival Kansas City Chiefs. It was a crucial contest that the Raiders had to win in order to regain some of their confidence and composure after a tough loss to another division rival, the Chargers, in Week 6. All parties involved were nothing short of impressed by the gameplay by both teams. They revived rivalry play that the West has been missing in recent years.
It was the second quarter of what was already a back and forth battle, and on 3rd and 5, Mack showed why he breaks records one after another, along with the spirits of his opponents. Sometimes it’s surprising that they still have the will to live.
He was lined up against Chiefs offensive lineman Eric Fisher (poor, poor man), who wasn’t aware what he was about to get himself into. Mack shreds strong side linemen, so maybe there’s a question about his ability to run through the weakside linemen? I mean, they generally have to be more sturdy and ready for a stronger pass rush to protect their QB’s back. It’s a foolish notion, yes. With a man who can essentially line up anywhere in the front seven and make mincemeat out of an O-line, assumptions should never be made.
After the snap, Fisher made the list of men who have been embarrassed by Khalil Mack. The list is long and gets longer every year. No shame in it, Mr. Fisher, you were run through by one of the best in the game.
Think Khalil Mack lifts? pic.twitter.com/zMJhWtPpA0
— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) October 20, 2017