The Las Vegas Raiders took down a division rival, the Denver Broncos, to stay alive in the playoff race. The driving force behind the victory came primarily from a staunch defensive effort but also from a player who finally broke through.
Josh Jacobs resurgence
If there was a wager on when Josh Jacobs would surpass the 100-yard mark, you would not have bet it’d take until Week 16. However, that is, unfortunately, the reality for Jacobs. As the feature back of the offense, it’s slightly embarrassing when the third the string option, Peyton Barber, eclipses 100 yards before you do. Granted, that came in Week 3, a game in which Jacobs sat due to turf toe. However, when you’re playing for a second contact it’s imperative you have a solid season.
Now, to lay all the blame on Jacobs is completely unfair. Sunday’s game marks only the fifth time the run-first offense of the Raiders has eclipsed that 100-yard mark. They did rush for 98 against the Cleveland Browns, but that almost doesn’t count in the NFL. The struggles of the offensive line to run block have been well documented up to this point. It’s been a knock on the team since the start of the season. Jacobs, nor any of the other backs, have had a whole lot to work with. However, the line looked completely different as well.
Aggression in the trenches
There are very few times throughout a season in which a team goes into the locker room at half time and comes out looking like an entirely different team. This was one of those instances. Jacobs and the offensive line seemed to find a groove and rode that wave. So much so that it allowed Jacobs to rush for over 100 yards in the second half alone. This is a positive sign for the Raiders moving forward.
Teams get predictable and stale when they’re one-dimensional. Without the threat of the run game, the Raiders relied heavily on Derek Carr and the passing game. This game looked to be no different. In fact, five of the first six plays of the game were passes, and the one run they attempted got wiped out by a penalty. That was, of course, until the second half. In that second half, Carr only attempted seven of his total 25 pass attempts. Going forward, the Raiders will need more of this style of play to help alleviate the pressure that is on the passing game.
Run it back…
The real question that remains to be seen is whether or not the offensive line and Jacobs can recreate that second-half performance. The Raiders, and Jacobs alike, need the run game to be an element of force if they wish to win out and make the playoffs. They’ve officially reached the territory where they win and they’re in. It’s imperative the offense be strong on all fronts against the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Having multiple threats is the best way to go about beating good defenses. When you can beat them on the ground or in the air, it keeps them honest and guessing. Getting Jacobs going might be the edge the Raiders need to drag them to the promised land. So, whatever was said in that half-time speech needs to be re-iterated a couple more times, and Jacobs needs to keep running angry.
*Top Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images