Inside the Raiders: Pass rush, and not deep ball, is biggest reason for playoff hopes

The NFL world is astonished and amazed because Derek Carr, the quarterback who never met a 5-yard pass he didn’t like, started flinging it long against Kansas City as if the Raiders were the Greatest Show on Turf reincarnated.

Even Kurt Warner, the Hall of Fame downfield thrower for the Rams when they were the original Greatest Show on Turf, listed Carr as his top Week 5 quarterback during his weekly NFL Network feature and cited his willingness to “push the ball down the field.”

It was impressive, with Carr completing 4 of 7 passes thrown 20 or more yards in the air, for 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Yet the Chiefs win had another development that will have more bearing on a potential run at a division title or playoff berth.

The long strikes, featuring rookie Henry Ruggs III, as nostalgic as they were for those who long for Al Davis’ “vertical game,” take a backseat to the way the Raiders bewitched, bothered and bewildered Chiefs quarterback and NFL standard bearer Patrick Mahomes in the second half.

A pass rush that had been virtually non-existent showed up in a big way. The sack totals weren’t much — just three for seven yards — and one of those was a Nevin Lawson tackle of Mahomes for no gain on a scramble.

Maxx Crosby (98) brings down Patrick Mahomes with Arden Key (99) not far behind. AP Photo

But Mahomes was hit early and often, although still able to escape enough to put up good numbers in 24-24 first half. The second half was another matter, with Mahomes going 8 of 16 for 103 yards (78 yards of which came on a late fourth-quarter drive) and an interception Jeff Heath returned 47 yards to set up a Raiders’ touchdown.

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The Raiders were credited with 24 pressures by SportRadar, a data web site. The same site had the Raiders with 26 pressures in the first four games of the season combined. SportRadar had the Raiders with only three blitzes, which took away many of the quick-read, blitz-beating throws at which Mahomes has excelled of late.

Clein Ferrell, last year’s No. 4 overall draft pick, looked the part for the first time with five pressures, including the one that led to Mahomes’ fourth-and-7 interception. Maxx Crosby ran sideline to sideline chasing Mahomes to the tune of 1,423.9 yards according to SportRadar. Practice squad promotions Datone Jones and Chris Smith had their moments.

The 24 pressures were the most credited to the Raiders since Khalil Mack’s five-sack game against Denver in 2016, when they had 25.

The pass rush, combined with minimal blitzing, put more defenders in coverage and less time for receivers to get open.

“I think we simplified some stuff for the guys, and allowed them to play a little faster and I think that helped up front,” Raiders defensive backs coach Jim O’Neil said Wednesday in a video conference. “I think it helped us in the back end. But if the rush can save us a click, it helps us. If we …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports

      

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