Jeff Heath’s career day helps Raiders defense suffocate Broncos

Raiders safety Jeff Heath celebrated the five-year anniversary of the only two-interception game in his entire career in appropriate fashion on Sunday.

He picked off two more passes, of course.

Heath’s pair of interceptions helped the Raiders defense come up with five turnovers — doubling their NFL-worst total — in setting the tone during a dominating 37-12 win over the Broncos.

“Jeff Heath has made some big plays. I think he got the fire started,” said Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who was only too happy to watch the Broncos’ offense go down in flames. “Got some good overall play by a lot of guys on defense. Paul Guenther and his staff have tweaked the defense the last few weeks and we were opportunistic.”

Las Vegas Raiders strong safety Jeff Heath (38) makes an interception on a pass intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver K.J. Hamler, right, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker) 

Whatever the changes, they didn’t look like the same bunch that had been 23rd in the NFL in yards allowed per game (385.6), 24th in points given up (28.6) or dead last in the league with a paltry five takeaways.

“Them boys went crazy,” Raiders running back Josh Jacobs said. “It was fun celebrating them doing good and just seeing them make plays.”

Take your pick: Seven quarterback hits. Four interceptions. Two sacks. Or, how about one yard allowed in the third quarter? There was plenty to celebrate.

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It’s been awhile since the Raiders defense made such a statement or such a difference — holding the Browns without a touchdown two weeks ago in wet, snowy and icy conditions, notwithstanding.

On Sunday, the Raiders picked off beleaguered Broncos quarterback Drew Lock four times — Carl Nassib and Nick Kwiatkoski had second-half interceptions to help seal their third straight win. It had been 12 years since the Raiders’ last four-interception game against Jake Delhomme, when they actually lost to Carolina, 17-6.

It’s been 10 years since the Raiders were so harsh on an opposing quarterback. Lock’s 37.3 passer rating Sunday was the lowest they’ve allowed since 2010, when the Chiefs’ Matt Cassell and Tyler Palko teamed up for an abysmal 25.5 rating.

Then Nevin Lawson’s fourth-quarter fumble recovery gave the Raiders defense their first five-turnover game since they beat the Chargers in 2013.

It was certainly a group effort, with a couple other notable players stepping up in big ways:

Linebacker Nicholas Morrow, starting because Cory Littleton was on the COVID-19/reserve list, had two of the Raiders’ season-high seven quarterback hits — one leading to Kwiatkoski’s interception — and one of their two sacks. Gruden called it Morrow’s “best game as a Raider.”
Middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski continued to settle into a leading role — he was their top tackler for the third straight game (8) and also got the second interception of his five-year career.

Truth be told, the defense also got a big assist from the Raiders’ punishing offense in the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports

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