Raider Rewind: 2019 Raiders Aren’t Dead Yet After Big Road Win Over Colts

There were a number of critical moments in Sunday’s victory over the Colts, but perhaps none more tenuous than when the Oakland Raiders received the ball with 5:27 left on the clock in the fourth quarter.

The Colts had just scored a touchdown to cut the lead to seven, and I couldn’t help but tweet the following:

Overreaction to say next 5:27 (maybe even just this drive) is a referendum on Gruden, Carr, etc? Lose this game and this team is picking in top 3-5 next year.

— Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel) September 29, 2019

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t an overreaction. The entirety of the Raiders season was dependent on whether or not the Raiders could actually close out a game (on the road against a quality opponent no less). After all, this game would be followed by three more games away from home — all against likely playoff teams, and so a loss here would make 1-6 seem all but likely.

So what happened next? Well, actually a pretty fascinating (and unexpected) series of events that was both the most “Raiders” and simultaneously the least “Raiders” sequence ever.

First, a pathetic offensive series. Three false start penalties by three different players in the first six plays made this drive an unmitigated disaster. Josh Jacobs tried his best to make up for the backward movement, but not even 26 yards on three carries was enough to keep the drive alive, and so after running just 2:59 off the clock, the Raiders punted the ball away.

If you would have gotten me alone and asked me for an honest assessment of my confidence at this moment, anything over 50% would have been a lie. And then? The unthinkable happened.

The Raiders intercepted a pass! And returned it for a touchdown! It was Oakland’s first interception of the season (which is absurd), and it was the break the Raiders desperately needed. And yet, still in need of a bit more anxiety apparently, the Raiders refused to allow this game to end comfortably.

The Colts got the ball back with 2:09 left on the clock and went 75-yards on six plays in just 59 seconds to cut the lead back to seven. Fortunately, they decided to kick the ball deep and Josh Jacobs was able to put this one to bed, moving the Raiders to .500 on the season (with a very winnable game against the Bears upcoming).

When head coach Jon Gruden said postgame that he was as proud of this win as any in his career, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a fan who disagreed. Nobody expected the Raiders to win this game — even with the Colts missing a few of their best players — and to come out and dominate like they did was impressive. Add in the fact that they were coming off back-to-back drubbings from the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings, and it says a lot about Gruden and his guys to do what they did.

Some quick observations:

  • The Colts will point to the loss of T.Y. Hilton, Malik Hooker and Darius Leonard as excuses for losing this game, but I’m having none of it. The Raiders lost their best receiver the day before the season, their starting safety after the first game, were down to their No. 4 guard by the end of the game and they lost their middle linebacker four minutes into the second quarter. Not to mention it was a 10 a.m. game for a West Coast team traveling east. Get the heck out of here with your excuses, Indianapolis.
  • Holy crap, Josh Jacobs. The stat line looks pedestrian, but Jacobs looked the part of a franchise back on Sunday — capped off by taking on the role of closing out the game in the final minutes of the game.
  • Darren Waller was absolutely dominant in the first half, but only caught one pass in the second half. Not coincidentally, the Raiders offense struggled mightily in the second half. Teams are going to start loading up against Waller, and the Raiders are going to need to prove they can move the ball without him.
  • When Vontaze Burfict was ejected with 11:07 left in the second quarter, the Raiders were up 21-7. If you’re curious as to how confident Vegas is in the Raiders closing out games, the Colts were +110 to win the game. What does that mean? Basically that Vegas viewed the Raiders’ odds — with a 14-point lead — of winning the game at just over 50%. Woof.
  • If you’re looking for progress defensively, I think you found it on Sunday. Karl Joseph, P.J. Hall and Maxx Crosby all flashed — which is a good sign for a young defense that Oakland needs to improve. As a unit, the group was pretty dominant for the day — if not for the offense giving Indianapolis the ball just outside the red zone, this one would have been far more comfortable.
  • Speaking of the defense, I thought the defensive line was actually better than the box score would show. Not only did they hold Marlon Mack to 39 yards, but while they didn’t log a sack, I did feel like the pocket collapsed in front of Jacoby Brissett throughout the day. Now, if only they could wrap up the quarterback…
  • AJ Cole is an absolute beast. I know, I know, he’s the punter, but holy crap. With five punts on the day, Cole averaged over 50 yards per kick (50.6) while also putting three kicks inside the 20.

 

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