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Raiders report: Reserve safety makes big plays in relief

Updated November 19, 2023 - 7:45 pm

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Nate Hobbs was expecting big things from Isaiah Pola-Mao as soon as the second-year safety entered Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in place of injured safety Marcus Epps.

Pola-Mao didn’t disappoint in the Raiders’ 20-13 loss.

“Big game for him,” Hobbs said. “I’m super proud of him. He stepped up in a big way for us and made plays that only people on this team know he can make. He just did what he’s been doing in camp and in practice the whole year.”

Pola-Mao had played just 33 defensive snaps all season before he was called on for an expanded role at Hard Rock Stadium.

The former Southern California player had an interception and finished a tackle on Tyreek Hill on a fourth-down play inside the 5-yard line late in the first half after Hobbs had knocked Hill off balance.

The interception was the first of Pola-Mao’s career.

“I stepped up and was there for my teammates, but I’d trade all those individual accolades for a (win),” Pola-Mao said. “It’s cool to have an interception, to do my job to help the team, but I wish we had a win.”

Pola-Mao also had seven tackles. He said the key to stepping in for a teammate is staying prepared.

“We preach every week to not blink because anything can happen,” he said. “Even if I’m not out there, we have a turnover or sudden change, we have to go out there on the field just like that. Unfortunate reason I was out there, but I have to have my teammate’s back.”

Hobbs also had an impactful game, recording eight tackles and a forced fumble and breaking up a pass against the NFL’s top-ranked offense.

“I feel like I did what I was supposed to and what I got paid to do,” he said. “It shows what type of defense we have … to keep getting stops and run around with that little track team they’ve got out there.”

The three turnovers forced by the Raiders gives them six in the three games since Antonio Pierce took over as interim coach, tied for the most in the NFL in that span.

Defensive end Maxx Crosby said it’s no accident.

“You see a bunch of guys stepping up,” he said. “It just shows the development, and we’re intentional about taking the ball away. … We’re getting better, playing as a unit, flying to the ball. It’s about the things that don’t show up in a stat sheet. Good defenses fly to the ball and impose their will on offenses.”

Renfrow gets involved

Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow set season highs with five catches and 42 yards, including a 31-yard catch that saw him make several nifty moves on a late drive that could have tied the game.

The reception was his longest since the 2021 season.

“It felt good, mainly because it helped the offense out a little bit,” Renfrow said. “But we have to do a better job of helping the defense out by capitalizing because they played incredible today.”

Renfrow had not caught more than two passes in a game this season.

Another record

Running back Josh Jacobs continues to write his name in the franchise record books.

Despite a rough day during which he had 39 yards on 14 carries, Jacobs did enough to pass Marcus Allen for the most rushing yards by a Raiders player in his first five years. He has 5,401 yards to Allen’s 5,397.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.