The Las Vegas Raiders defense had the opportunity to turn in a quality performance against an inconsistent Denver Broncos offense in Week 10. They did just that on Sunday, with a blowout victory over the Broncos with a final score of 37-12.
In the first eight games of the season, the Raiders surrendered an average of 28.6 points per game. To add insult to injury, the unit missed 13.4 percent of their tackles. While they allowed only 32 points in the games prior to Week 10, we needed to have a bigger sample to assess whether they had indeed improved.
In Week 10, the Raiders had an opportunity to keep showing if their defensive dominance was legit. Denver’s offense currently ranks near the bottom of the league, and the Silver and Black seized the chance to have one of their best defensive performances on defense in a long time. Las Vegas put pressure on quarterback Drew Lock all day, sacked him twice, and picked him off four times. The Broncos lost badly and these three Raiders’ defensive players had a big role in the team’s 37-12 win.
1. Jeff Heath has made the most of his playing time
When you register two interceptions (and take one to the house), you have automatically earned a spot on this list. Heath has filled his role as a special teamer and rotational safety very well. The veteran safety has become the team’s ballhawk as well leading the Raiders with three interceptions.
Erik Harris, who was the interception leader last year hasn’t been so sharp this year. Having someone like ’38’ to back him up is what this team needs. Heath’s first interception came in the first quarter when Lock overthrew wide receiver K.J. Hamler on third down and the safety snatched it from behind with one arm. His second pick was very important too as it came at the end of the first half in the end zone.
2. Nick Kwiatkoski has become the leader of the Raiders defense
Nick Kwiatkoski is arguably the Raiders’ best 2020 free-agent signing. He has become a staple against the run and against the pass. In coverage, ‘Sky’ has only allowed a completion percentage of 45.8 and 59 yards. He also led the defense this week with eight combined tackles (six solo and two assisted) and defensed a couple of passes as well.
Kwiatkoski also hauled in a very flashy one-handed interception within the final 30 seconds of the game. Since he is in charge of green-dot responsibilities, the fifth-year linebacker deserves a lot of credit for holding the Broncos to 12 points and 313 total yards (both stats are the second-lowest allowed by the Raiders this season).
3. Nicholas Morrow is having a career year
Does anyone remember the excitement Cory Littleton brought when he signed with the Raiders? Those days have not aged well. He has missed 23.8 percent of his tackle attempts and up until Week 10, he was third-worst in yards allowed amongst linebackers. Littleton was unable to play this week after being put on the COVID/Reserve list.
Nicholas Morrow had to step in and he made his presence felt with five tackles and a strip-sack. This was the Raiders first sack by a linebacker since 2018. The Greenville standout also registered two pass deflections and got a key pressure on Lock, which forced an interception to defensive end Carl Nassib. Gruden has promised to make improvements to the defense and Morrow should be part of them.
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Top Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post