Oakland Raiders Break Road-Game Barrier with High-Powered Offense

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2015

Safety Charles Woodson grabs the game-ending interception.
Safety Charles Woodson grabs the game-ending interception.Aaron Josefczyk/Associated Press

The Oakland Raiders didn’t display a flawless performance in their 27-20 Week 3 triumph over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but they managed to lift a road jinx that plagued this team for nearly two years.

Oakland won its last road game against the Houston Texans in Week 11 of the 2013 season. After 11 consecutive road losses, the Raiders earned a well-deserved victory in Cleveland to start a winning streak of their own.

The Raiders’ Week 2 win triggered some smiling faces, but veterans such as wide receiver Michael Crabtree and defensive end Justin Tuck remained composed with little emotion attached to the outcome.

Sunday’s win prompted a different tone from a well-respected veteran, per CSN Bay Area reporter Fallon Smith:

Safety Charles Woodson understood what a road win meant to the entire franchise, and he forced an interception in the clutch.

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Raiders quarterback Derek Carr presented head coach Jack Del Rio with the game ball in a locker room full of hope that the Raiders have become road warriors instead of road kill:

The future has to unfold, but the Raiders have shown they’re ready to shed the image of a struggling team—whether on the road or on their turf—with their first set of consecutive wins since 2012.  

Commitment to Excellence

Derek Carr
Derek CarrJason Miller/Getty Images

The whispers about turning the reins over to backup quarterback Matt McGloin have gone mute. Carr recorded another 300-plus passing-yard performance, and the vertical attack continues to uplift the Raiders in close games.

Oakland's second-year quarterback often staggers near the goal line, but he connected with wide receiver Andre Holmes inside the 5-yard line for his first touchdown pass of the game.

Carr also improved his decision-making in the pocket; he didn’t commit a turnover or force unnecessary throws against the Browns’ opportunistic secondary.

He resembled a composed signal-caller with complete control of the offense, ready to strike with decisive precision. Mary Kay Cabot of the Northeast Ohio Media Group tweeted Browns cornerback Tramon Williams' comparison of Carr and a former Packer teammate of eight seasons:

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave shows great trust in his young quarterback's ability to stand in the pocket and deliver throws as well as roll outside the pocket to throw on the run.

Carr continues to improve with solid line protection, and he’s excelling against formidable pass defenses.

Silver Lining

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. received heavy criticism for the lack of pressure from his defense over the last two weeks.

Oakland entered Week 3 as one of two teams that failed to record a sack within the first two weeks of the season. Norton either flipped a switch or a light bulb sparked an idea during practices.

The Raiders sacked Browns quarterback Josh McCown five times on Sunday. Edge-rusher Khalil Mack accounted for two of those sacks in a breakout performance many expected in the regular-season opener.

Mack consistently harassed McCown in the pocket, which allowed the linebackers to take part in joining the sack party. Outside linebackers Malcolm Smith, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Neiron Ball each recorded a sack after two weeks of no-shows from the linebackers in the pocket.

The Raiders' five-sack performance could become a template for creative designs in pressuring opposing quarterbacks going forward. Oakland will need exceptional play from its front seven to hide weaknesses in the secondary.

Black Cloud

The secondary is the black cloud hovering over the Raiders' 2-1 record. Woodson’s timely interception looks great when you see the highlights.

The 18-year veteran sealed the victory with an interception, but with one healthy shoulder, he’s still the most capable of forcing turnovers among the Raiders defensive backs. 

McCown managed to march the Browns offense down the field with a group of C-plus receivers to narrow the gap on a game that should’ve ended more decisively.

Browns wide receiver Brian Hartline makes a catch with Raiders cornerback Neiko Thorpe in coverage.
Browns wide receiver Brian Hartline makes a catch with Raiders cornerback Neiko Thorpe in coverage.Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Raiders led 20-3 midway through the third quarter, but McCown’s arm sparked a late rally. Yes, wide receiver Amari Cooper fumbled late to give the Browns a short field, but McCown threw for 341 yards on the Raiders pass defense.

The Raiders secondary, marked with inexperience, garnered questions in the offseason. Nonetheless, general manager Reggie McKenzie remained confident in his group of young cornerbacks.

But lately, the Raiders have made personnel moves and transactions that indicate a bit of concern for the secondary.

Oakland claimed third-year cornerback David Amerson off waivers. On Sunday, Norton opted to utilize T.J. Carrie as a safety providing coverage over the top.

Obviously, the Raiders are looking to press the right button to find a solution to their poor deep-ball coverage on wide receivers and tight ends.

On multiple occasions, the safety help over the top arrived late in covering Browns tight end Gary Barnidge. Secondly, wide receiver Brian Hartline found soft spots on the outside and accumulated five catches for 96 yards.

Fortunately, the Raiders' passing offense provided an early cushion, and the front seven came up with big plays in critical moments.

However, when high-end quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers take the field against this secondary, it could become a field day or a full-blown carnival for the opposing offense.

Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for news, updates and intriguing discussion about the Oakland Raiders.

All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com, ESPN.com and Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted. 

Week 3 statistics and play-by-play analysis provided by NFL.com.


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