Thursday Night Football was a barometer for the Oakland Raiders. A 26-24 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers has gained the attention of the NFL landscape.
On a short week with a mere game separating the two teams, the Raiders won with defense for the first time all year. The Chargers’ starting right tackle didn’t play and later losing left tackle Russell Okung to a groin injury opened up the floodgates for the Raiders pass rush to come alive. In perfect complimentary fashion, the pass rush rattled Phillip Rivers and turnovers ensued.
Coming into the game, the Raiders had the 32nd ranked pass defense going up against the Chargers 7th ranked passing offense. At home for perhaps what could be the last primetime game in Oakland ever, the defense was up for the challenge. Rivers only recorded 207 yards passing with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Penalties negated 2 more interceptions.
Erik Harris is the first Raiders player with two INTs, including one for a TD in a game since 2003.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 8, 2019
Erik “freaking” Harris
Say Harris’s name five times and send Rivers into night terrors. Harris recorded two interceptions, four passes got caught and secured in his hands, with a fifth slipping between his fingers. With the eyes of an eagle, Harris was deducing route combinations by focusing on the eyes of Rivers. Harris jumped routes early and often and was an assassin against the Chargers vertical passing game.
It was an amazing game to see and truly special for a player who many continue to doubt. Harris has been considered just a special teamer by most experts. Has he been perfect, no, but what he has done is continued to plug away and get better and better at his craft. Harris has elevated himself at every level of play in his life. Performing like this one against a hall of fame level quarterback may be indicative of another ascension.
Enough can not be said about the quality of game Harris had. He had a goal line pick which was negated by penalty. Harris was doing it all over the field in crucially clutch situations. Two plays prior to the last game sealing interception by Karl Joseph, Harris had what would have been the game sealing pick.
Raiders rookie pass rushers Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell set career-highs in pressures tonight in their win.@CrosbyMaxx: 10 pressures, the most by any Raiders defender in a game since 2016, and forced 2 INTs from pressure@Cle_Missile: 5 pressures, 2.5 sacks#RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/FjMoWkrhF6
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 8, 2019
Salt and Pepper
Rookies Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell had a coming out party at the same time. For all those who said the rookies need seasoning, they brought the salt and the pepper. Crosby has been a godsend to the Raiders, earning his spot in the starting rotation and rewarding the Raiders with better and better play each week. Crosby got to Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers early and often. Crosby has produced sack in each of the last three games and against the Chargers he got a magnificent 10 pressures.
Ferrell was also magnificent. His 2.5 sacks, 5 pressures and 3 qb hits were a coming out party against the Chargers in Week 10. Oddly reminiscent of a former top draft pick pass rusher who went on to become a superstar. The season ending broken foot for Arden Key and injury to Josh Mauro have opened up an opportunity for Ferrell to play the weak side. For those who don’t know, Ferrell was an All-American and National Champion at Clemson playing on the weak side.
Ferrell has been the dutiful soldier and played the strong side. He has done what he’s been asked to do and helped corral the run game. Starting at his natural position for the first time all season Ferrell was a hellhound coming off the edge. Finally giving fans a glimpse of what they expected from the 4th overall pick in the draft.
For every action expect an opposing equal reaction
Andy Reid started Patrick Mahomes at quarterback against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are no slouches on defense and are armed with a formidable pass rush themselves. Ryan Tannehill is the new sheriff in town and has been putting up points for the offense. Reid is fully aware that 10 weeks into the season, for the first time in a long time, the Raiders aren’t going away. Same old Raiders has been the narrative when it comes to the Chiefs for far too long, but this, this feels different. Chiefs fans and NFL experts haven’t expected this set of circumstances and are now looking towards the future matchup.
The Chargers run some similar passing concepts as the Chiefs do in terms of getting vertical. Their receivers aren’t the same world class sprinters as the Chiefs, but the concepts and uses are very similar. For the Raiders to be finding balance on defense, giving up more on the ground to allow less on the back end is a strategy which has allowed them to win a big game in primetime.
With 10 days until they play against the Bengals at home, and then take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium, the Raiders are in control of their own destiny. Should the Chiefs slip up and drop a game prior to their matchup against the Raiders, and not beat the Raiders at Arrowhead, they could find themselves looking up in the AFC West for the first time in years.