By Abraham Gutierrez
Perhaps the (1-1) Oakland Raiders just needed a fifth preseason game in order to get their legs underneath them, as the Silver and Black kept the (0-2) Baltimore Ravens winless with a shocking 37-33 win in Week 2. After a dismal performance in the opener, the Raiders went into this week’s showdown with Baltimore listed as betting underdogs by a touchdown and a point, despite being at home.
With seemingly no one giving this team a chance against the mighty Purple Pain defense, all indications were that Raider Nation was in for a long afternoon in the Black Hole. Nevertheless, second-year quarterback Derek Carr had other ideas, as he once again flashed signs of greatness, not only leading the way with an inspiring performance, but more so, further validating the fact that Oakland has finally found its franchise quarterback.
“That’s how you change a culture. That’s how you fight. That’s how you do it,” Carr addressed his teammates in the locker room after the game. “Against that team, that’s a great job. Hey, guess what? Let’s get ready for the next one. Hey, this is what we do, man. This shouldn’t be a big surprise… we’ve been doing this all offseason. This is what we do. I love y’all.”
Led by Derek Carr’s (30-for-46 for 351 yards, 3 TDs, INT, 100.9 QBR) inspired play, the Raiders accumulated 26 first downs and 448 yards of total offense versus the Ravens defense. That includes 97 yards through the ground, 351 passing yards, controlled the ball for 29 minutes and 34 seconds (time of possession) and converted on 9-for-14 in third-down situations.
In addition to Carr’s heroics, other offensive standouts for Oakland include: running back Latavius Murray (15 carries, 65 yards, TD) and wide receivers Michael Crabtree (9 receptions, 111 yards, TD), Amari Cooper (7 receptions for 109 yards, TD) and Seth Roberts (1 reception for 12 yards, TD), whose lone reception happened to be the game-winner with 26 ticks left on the clock.
“Because the head coach and the quarterback’s records are tied to each other,” Del Rio said prior to handing Carr the celebratory gameball. “Fourth quarter comeback win, one of many.”
Defensively, it was another afternoon to forget for the Raiders and defensive coordinator, Ken Norton. Oakland’s “D” surrendered 29 first downs and 493 total yards on 30 minutes and 26 seconds of time of possession. Those totals include 109 rushing yards and 384 yards passing, as the Raiders couldn’t stop the Ravens attack.
However, the defense came up huge when it mattered most, holding Joe Flacco (32-for-45 for 384 yards, 2 TDs, INT, 102.5 QBR) and the Ravens offense to a 31-yard field goal with 2:10 left in the clock. For that reason alone, the Raiders defense earned a grade of D+, but it’s clear Del Rio has plenty of work to do on that side of the football.
Special Teams: A+
Raiders special teams play was solid as usual. However, with both offenses exchanging power punches, field goals and special teams play took a bit of a backseat. Nevertheless, doing the little things is what wins ballgames in the National Football League, and therefore, there are some players to acknowledge in Oakland’s special teams unit.
For starters, Pro Bowl kicker Sebastian Janikowski was “Mr. reliable” yet again, connecting on three field goals, including a 48-yarder, along with four PATs for a total of 13 points on the win. Punter Marquette King also made the most of his limited touches, booming away a pair of punts for an average of 49 yards per boot, including one inside the Ravens’ 20 and a long of 70 yards.
As stated above, Del Rio’s offense was clicking on all cylinders, but this team’s defensive struggles make it impossible to give this team a letter grade higher than a B-. Nevertheless, giving credit where it’s due, the Raiders head coach deserves a ton of that, as he was able to lift his team’s morale following an “embarrassing” effort in the opener against the Bengals.
“That right there, that is sweet, man. That is grit,” Del Rio said during his post-game speech. “That is determination. That is emptying your bucket. I saw so many cases of guys emptying their bucket, man. That was special, man, way to go, hell of a job.”
Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com and other online publications.