Defense leads the way in Raider win

One of the consistent trends for the Raiders over the last decade is winning by small margins, but losing by large margins. Even years when the Raiders did not have a losing record, such as 2011, they had a negative point differential by 74 points.

Through eight games played in the 2020 season with a 5-3 record, the Raiders had a negative 11-point differential. After the ninth game of the season, which was played at Allegiant Stadium against the Denver Broncos, the Raiders now have a positive 14-point differential.

The 37-12 win marked the Raiders largest margin of victory in 2020 and unlike most Raiders victories, the players leading the charge were on the defense. Defensively, the Raiders were sound, and came out throwing their weight around. There were some incredibly hard hits, including a hit on Broncos quarterback Drew Lock in the second half that clearly left him injured and off point. By the time the clock read all zeros at the end of the fourth quarter, the Raider defense accrued four interceptions, one fumble recovered, and two sacks.

Offensively, the Raiders attempted to pass the ball aggressively against the Broncos, but that tactic was unsuccessful. Rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs and star tight end Darren Waller both dropped what would have been long touchdown receptions. Even with the lack of success through the air and three replacement offensive linemen, the ground game came out strong and both running backs had big days.

Second-year running back Josh Jacobs led the charge with 112 yards rushing on 21 attempts and two touchdowns. His impact was felt right away when he scored on an 11-yard scamper to put the Raiders ahead 6-0, cashing in on the defense’s effort in forcing a Bronco three-and-out on the game’s opening drive.

Veteran Raider safety Jeff Heath recorded two interceptions in the opening 30 minutes and at halftime, Las Vegas had a 10-6 lead. Heath leads the Raiders with three interceptions, which has tied his career-high.

The Raiders began the third quarter with another field goal to go ahead by seven. Las Vegas added to its lead with the second touchdown of the day from Jacobs.

Defensive end Carl Nassib and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski also recorded interceptions for the Raiders, with Kwiatkoski’s coming in the final 25 seconds of the game.

All-in-all, this was one of the most balanced performances by the Raiders in some time, and although it was not perfect, it is the sort of win that shows the Raiders have the potential to make waves as long as they can continue to be consistent. In week 11, the Raiders play host to defending Super Bowl champions, Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs will be coming off of their bye week, and Andy Reid has an impeccable record coming out of the bye.

What lies before the Raiders is a tall task which requires the franchise to go against long lasting standards and trends. The question is: can they overcome those trends, sweep the Chiefs, and turn the 2020 season into a real dog fight in the AFC West? It is not likely, but if the Raiders can somehow pull it off, then there can be some serious conversations about whether or not this team has the moxie to make a real run.

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