By Abraham Gutierrez
Utilizing the old baseball metaphor, “With one swing of the bat,” Jack Del Rio accomplished something the Raiders organization hadn’t been able to do in a very long time. With a 27-20 win over the Browns on Sunday, Oakland snapped an 11-game road skid (Nov. 2013), captured its first win in Cleveland since 1985, and recorded its first win in Eastern Time Zone since defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in December of 2009.READ MORE: El Dorado County Braces For Flooding After Caldor Fire
“We’re the Oakland Raiders, who said we can’t travel east and win?” said a fired up Jack Del Rio during his post-game speech. “We write each chapter each week.”
Listed as three-point road dogs, the Silver and Black put together its first win streak of the young season, improving to 2-1 on the year while taking sole possession of second place in the AFC West (pending the outcome of the Broncos-Lions game). More importantly, this team is slowly changing not only the public’s perception about their ability to outside of the East Bay, but also reshaping the culture of a ballclub that possesses one of the most loyal fanbases in all of sports.
“Raider Nation, baby. Work hard, make plays,” Charles Woodson said after sealing Oakland’s win with a historic interception – one that brought him into a tie with Hall of Famer Darrell Green, who also recorded at least one pick in each of his 18 NFL seasons. “It was hanging over the whole organization’s head. You got to win these type of games to make the change you want to make.”
From the opening whistle, it was clear that the Raiders offense was clicking on all cylinders, and was destined to have a huge game. With the most balanced offensive attack of the season, Oakland tallied 19 first downs and 469 yards of total offense, out of which, 155 were produced on the ground and 314 through the air.
Second-year quarterback Derek Carr was sensational yet again, connecting on 63 percent of his passes, going 20-for-32 for 314 passing yards and two touchdowns for an impressive quarterback rating of 115.9. Some of Carr’s favorite targets of the day included rookie phenom, Amari Cooper (8 receptions, 134 yards); first-year player, Seth Roberts (3 receptions 56 yards, TD); and Andre Holmes (1 reception, 3 yards, TD).
Balancing the Raiders offensive attack was third-year running back Latavius Murray, who certainly picked the perfect time to have his best game as an NFL pro. The Central Florida product finished tied with the second-best NFL rushing total of Week 3, tallying 139 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown, including a backbreaking run of 54 yards.
“Hell of a job. Listen we all know that things in that game were learning experiences for all of us, we know,” said Del Rio during his post-game speech. “There’s things we’re going to do so much better. But hey, the resolve, the grit, making a play at the end – these games in the NFL, they come down to who makes a play at the end.”
Speaking of making plays at the end, none was bigger than Woodson’s 61st interception of his future Hall of Fame career, which put an end to the Browns hopes of a comeback, trailing 27-20 with just seconds remaining on the game clock.READ MORE: Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Barred From Caring For Bears Until It Makes Changes To Enclosure
After struggling against the Bengals and Ravens through the first two weeks, it was no secret that the Oakland defense was one of Del Rio’s biggest concerns heading into Week 3. Nevertheless, the Raiders defenders bit down on their mouthpieces and went to work, limiting Cleveland to a field goal for the duration of the entire first half of play.
Oakland also broke into the sacks column for the first time all year, slamming Josh McCown on the turf five times. Leading the way for the visitors on the defensive side of the football were linebackers Malcolm Smith (6 tackles, sack) and Curtis Lofton (5 tackles), and the aforementioned Woodson (4 tackles, a pass defended and a pick).
Special Teams A+
As Raider Nation has become accustomed to through the years, Oakland enjoyed yet another flawless effort from the special teams unit. Mr. reliable, Sebastian Janikowski, went perfect on the day, tallying 9 points total on a pair of field goals and three extra points.
Punter Marquette King was also on his game, booming away 4 punts for an average of 39.3 per boot, including a well placed 46-yarder. Kick returner Taiwan Jones also did his part, returning two kickoffs for a total of 60 yards, including a 35-yard run he almost took to the house.
One of the biggest impacts Jack Del Rio has had on the Oakland Raiders has been his ability to make believers out of such a young group. After being humiliated in the opener, Del Rio took the blame and he and his staff immediately went back to the drawing board. The adjustments are noticeable, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where the Raiders seem to be at their best and are only getting better.
“This is truly for us,” Del Rio said after Derek Carr handed him the gameball for his first road win as Raiders head coach. “This is just the beginning of some great things on the road for us.”
Looking Ahead to Week 4
Up next for the (2-1) Oakland Raiders is a trip to the Windy City, as Raider Nation takes its show on the road in Week 4, this time against the winless (0-3) Chicago Bears. This intraconference battle is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET from Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.
“Enjoy the ride back. We’re back on the road next week again,” Del Rio added. “The way we traveled [was] like professional football players that had a mission in mind. And we’re going to do the same thing next week. Same thing: take care of your business [and] travel like a professional club looking like you’re on a mission.”MORE NEWS: Kings Home Opener Brings Life To Downtown, Stresses Business
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.