Updated October 2, 2022 - 8:34 pm
The Raiders had been down the same road before only to painfully falter.
Hence the apprehension that was swirling around Allegiant Stadium on Sunday when the offense took the field with about seven minutes left clinging to a razor-thin lead against the Denver Broncos, who had just scored a touchdown.
The events that unfolded in the ensuing five minutes didn’t just secure the Raiders’ first win of the season, a 32-23 victory over a division rival. It also put an end to three weeks of pain and misery and, for at least one week, embodied one of the pillars of which first-year coach Josh McDaniels hopes to build a foundation — playing your best when nothing less is required.
It’s something that eluded the Raiders (1-3) in the first three weeks and cost them three winnable games. That included a loss to the Cardinals in which the Raiders faltered in the same situation and allowed Arizona to steal a win in overtime.
This time, they reeled off a 10-play, 75-yard drive powered by an offensive line that delivered its best game of the season. They tapped into all of their weapons, whittled down the clock for 5:14 and capped the drive with Josh Jacobs barreling his way for a 7-yard touchdown and 32-23 lead.
It was Jacobs’ second touchdown, capping a day in which he rushed for a career-high 144 yards, 23 of them on the game-clinching drive.
“I loved our effort. I loved our attitude. I loved our toughness and our competitive spirit to finish the game,” McDaniels said.
The clutch march included 26 passing yards from Derek Carr, who also ran for 9 yards to pick up a key first down on a third-and-6.
Davante Adams, who finished with 101 yards receiving on nine catches, hauled in a key 17-yard pass, and rookie Zamir White rolled for 22 yards to pick up a first down and set up Jacobs’ touchdown run.
The entire sequence touched on points McDaniels has stressed since the spring.
“If we know the keys to victory and do them in practice, we’re going to do them in the game and it’ll help us win,” said Carr, who finished with 188 yards passing.
That attention to detail included the teamwork between safety Duron Harmon and cornerback Amik Robertson in which Harmon’s hit on running back Melvin Gordon resulted in Gordon fumbling the football into the arms of Robertson, who took it 68 yards for a touchdown and 16-10 second-quarter lead.
Also, punter AJ Cole, Mack Hollins and Matthias Farley combined to pin down the Broncos at their goal line after Cole’s 60-yard punt was chased down and tipped back by Hollins to allow Farley to down it at the 1. The Broncos eventually punted from their end zone, resulting in great field position from which the Raiders mounted a scoring drive to take a 25-16 fourth-quarter lead on Daniel Carlson’s 30-yard field goal.
“Complementary football,” is how Maxx Crosby put it.
Crosby, who had done his part all afternoon with a relentless pass rush that resulted in two sacks and constant pressure on Russell Wilson, watched with satisfaction from the sideline.
“It felt incredible,” Crosby said. “We had to go down there and call game.”
That’s exactly what they did, part of which required them to accept a directive McDaniels has stressed time and again — including before the offense took the field.
“You should want the burden to finish the game,” is how Carr explained it. “Not hoping that someone else does their thing or they fix the problem. Whatever the game asks for, if it’s our turn, do our job.”
But it was also McDaniels understanding the moment from a play-calling standpoint. There are two schools of thought in that situation, one of which, as he explained, is to be careful.
Or, as he put it, “try not to screw the game up.”
The other approach is to be aggressive.
“Try to finish the game offensively the way it needs to be finished,” McDaniels said.
The mindset lined up perfectly with Carr’s mentality.
“Our job as an offense is to score points,” he said. “Whatever that calls for, that’s just kind of the mindset we’re trying to keep. When we get the ball, go score.”