Tell the Truth Tuesday: Bengals Edition

Cliches and old adages are timeless because more often than not, they hold true. In the NFL you never apologize for a win. Ever.

Before getting sidetracked by how poorly we feel the Oakland Raiders may or may not have played, credit must be given where credit is due.

The Raiders have authored a three game winning streak playing their brand of football. Getting a tremendous lift from all their rookies.

New Favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year?

One man has carried the defense into playing better as a whole. Maxx Crosby, the salt in “Salt and Pepper” has been playing himself into D.R.O.Y. considerations. Crosby, a 4th round pick out of Eastern Michigan University, has earned his way onto the football field and continues to get better in 60 minute increments. Last week he had 10 pressures and half a sack, this week he produced four sacks and a forced fumble.

On the season, Crosby has 28 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in only four starts. Since Week 5 Crosby has participated in over 88% of the teams defensive snaps. Crosby has 33 pressures (35th amongst all edge defenders) in 410 snaps and has played so well he’s getting nicknames from everyone. Hell, Crosby balled and he got the call from Prime. Brian Baldinger calls him “the Condor”, his teammate Clelin Ferrell call the two of them “Salt and Pepper,” he came in known as Madd Maxx and he has earned every one of them.

During training camp Crosby earned his stripes and took his lumps against a healthy Trent Brown. Brown told reporters that Crosby was going to be a good one. Now we have seen what he saw. Crosby is getting into the heads of NFL quarterbacks and it’s making a hell of a difference for this defense. Crosby got a later start on this season than the bigger names like Nick Bosa, Montez Sweat, Brian Burns and Josh Allen. As of now Crosby “IS” the best producing edge defender of this class, and he should be the defensive rookie of the year.

A win is a win

How should the Raiders 17-10 victory over the winless Cincinnati Bengals make you feel? The answer is one that is beyond my comprehension so instead here’s my take on the win.

Winning in the NFL is never easy, even when you think a bad team should roll over and die, they surprise you. The Bengals came into Oakland and expected to get the first victory of season. They started fast in a hostile environment, scored early, forced a turnover and took the crowd out of the game. In the first quarter.

The Bengals may be winless, but five of their 10 losses have come down one score. They employed a bending contortionist style of defense which bedazzled the Raiders offense.  The usually stout pass protection gave up three sacks to the Bengals, and for the second week in a row.

While the deterioration process has taken longer then just the last two weeks, the last two weeks have been especially horrendous. Melvin Gordon broke a hundred yards last week and Joe Mixon was well on his way to doing the same before the Bengals inexplicably stopped handing him the rock.

General Derek Carr

Carr has been an absolute general on the field and the interception he threw was the first one in three-plus games. Playing quite possibly the best football of his career in his second year under Jon Gruden. Carr started off the game 13/13 until his first incompletion was a drop in the end zone by Darren Waller. Carr has found familiarity with his auxiliary options and as such the passing game has taken off.

Carr clearly is far more comfortable with this installment of his offensive line and it shows in everything he does. He is standing in the pocket, sliding even taking off and picking up what he can with his legs. Carr’s second rushing touchdown of the season was a scramble where he knifed through traffic on the 3 yard line and ran to the goal line where he took to the air.

The only criticism one can offer about this play is this, Carr has a history of fumbling balls (into/out of) the end zone. As such it is absolutely imperative to any fan of the Raiders cardiac health that Carr keep both hands on the football. While the numbers aren’t gaudy, the Raiders have their first three game winning streak in a long time, and Carr’s play is a large reason why.

The O-Line

Carr has been sitting pretty and looking comfortable for the majority of the season, but for the last two weeks the defense has been on his post derrière. The run game continues to excel when they are needed, but the pass protection has been off. Raider Nation has been spoiled by an offensive line because they put together three clean sheets in a row, then been troubled by two weeks in a row of three sacks.

Now as the season goes on it is worth noting no one is 100%. Center Rodney Hudson is playing through a high ankle sprain because he is some type of super tough alien. Trenton Brown has been battling a calf injury since forever and has been battling different ailments all season long.

Gabe Jackson came back from injury and has been a focal point of opposing defenses. It seems defensive coordinators have found something and are lining up guys capable of beating him off the snap. To go into further detail about what has been happening in the sacks he’s given up is this: defenders are beating Jackson to his outside shoulder and slapping his hands away banking on the fact that he can’t handle their explosion. Resulting in defenders appearing to be able to walk around him and get to Carr. In Jackson’s defense only a handful of All-Pro’s are capable of executing this strategy, but it’s  something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Eyes on the prize

The San Diego Chargers, I mean the Los Angeles Chokers, err the Phillip “old toothless dog” Rivers led football team only did the Raiders a partial favor. While Rivers was awful and is enduring the worst stretch of his career, he was successful in distancing the Chargers from the Raiders and Chiefs.

While pundits, prognosticators, and even Vegas oddsmakers are playing the schedule game Raider fans everywhere need to understand one thing. The Raiders must be about the business of taking care of their own business.

A win against the Jets will tie the Chiefs (7-4) record, and give them an opportunity to seize control of the AFC West. All season long the Raiders have been hooked up by other teams, now it’s time for them to take it from here.

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