Fans went through a wave of depression that was quickly replaced by euphoria thanks to a miracle finish by the Las Vegas Raiders.
Sadly though, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s 46-yard, season-saving bomb to Henry Ruggs III does not mask the numerous issues that still plague them. Especially when a large amount of it lands at the feet of Paul Guenther and the defense.
Injuries in the secondary continue on Sunday
The Raiders entered Sunday without second-year safety Johnathan Abram, as well as Twitter darling Isaiah Johnson. Abram is not just the leader in unnecessary roughness calls for the Silver and Black. He also brings a level of toughness and energy that the defense feeds off of. It wouldn’t take long before first-round rookie Damon Arnette would join Abram on the sidelines. Just one week after suffering a concussion, Arnette ran headfirst into the ageless wonder that’s Frank Gore.
To the Ohio State product’s credit, both he and Gore would not return to the game. Have you seen Frank Gore without a helmet? I guarantee he could play with one of those leather numbers from yesteryear and be just fine. But I digress. Even Jeff â€œWhite Shadow” Heath got the worst of a collision with Sam â€œMano a Mano” Darnold in the fourth quarter and had to be evaluated.
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Defense will not be the calling card for this team any time soon. Injuries to key members of a secondary that’s routinely stretched to its limits due to a lack of pass rush by the front four certainly won’t help matters either. Let’s hope Abram, Johnson, and Arnette can return in time for next week’s matchup with the Colts.
The Run defense is what we knew it was
To loosely quote the late great Dennis Green, you shouldn’t let a silly thing like, â€œstats” blind you from what your eyes saw all along. The Raiders entered their matchup with the Jets with a defense no one would consider a juggernaut, but the â€œstats” would tell you they’re above average at stopping the run. No one gave that memo to the Jets.
Down their most effective running back in Gore due to the previously mentioned head-on collision, Las Vegas rolled out the red carpet for Ty Johnson and Josh Adams to the tune of 206 yards rushing. CBS analyst Adam Archuleta could be heard mentioning the Raiders’ 11th ranked rush defense in the middle of an 80-yard touchdown drive by New York that featured Johnson and Adams taking turns seeing who could take the longest to be tackled after receiving a handoff.
A look at the next opponent for Gruden’s ‘Gee Golly hog mollies’ gives this glaring weakness even more attention. Week 14 brings the Indianapolis Colts to Allegiant Stadium. Statistics would make you believe the Raiders shouldn’t have much to worry about from a Philip Rivers-led offense, but you’d be foolish to disregard the issues their backfield can present. Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Taylor, and Jordan Wilkins are all capable of taking over against such a leaky unit.
But hey, it’s not like they have All-Pros like Ty Johnson or Josh Adams.
The Raiders keep playing down to their competition
Week 12’s 37 point blowout loss in Atlanta has turned every game from here on out into a playoff matchup. Carr said as much in this week’s postgame interview, but one has to wonder if that message has truly gotten across yet. We should have seen a motivated, hungry and to put it bluntly, pissed off Autumn Wind blowing through Metlife Stadium on Sunday. What we got was an inconsistent, sleepy and for long stretches downright messy performance.
Carr bailed the Raiders out with a jump throw to a wide-open Ruggs and both needed that moment to wash the taste of middling play out of their own mouths, if only for that moment. ‘DC4’ missed a handful of throws, including what he called his worst throw of the 2020 season to Nelson Agholor on fourth down just one possession prior to his last-second heroics. Ruggs let a pass go off his hands for an interception in the first quarter and followed that up with a fumble in the fourth. Both turnovers led to Jets points.
Making the playoffs may very well require Las Vegas to win out. That means showing up not just for matchups against Miami and Indy, teams directly ahead of them in the standings. They’ll also need to show up against the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers, two teams in the rearview that would love nothing more than to spoil the postseason hopes of a division rival.
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*Top Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images