The Oakland Raiders are 1-0 after a big week one win over the Tennessee Titans and in large part thanks to the defense.
Nope, you didn’t read that wrong.
Nope, it wasn’t a dream.
The Raiders defense are a big reason why the team was able to leave Tennessee with a win. They weren’t perfect, far from it in fact. And unlike the few strong performances from the defense last season, this performance didn’t rely on turnovers to hold the Titans in check.
Again, the defense was far from outstanding. They gave up almost as many yards as the Raiders offense put up and gave up first downs on third and long far too often. But at the end of the day, they did just enough and did it against a solid offense on the road.
The run defense, in particular, was a lot better than I expected it to be. They held what was supposed to be a very good Titans run game to under 100 yards. And when you take away the rush yards produced by quarterback Marcus Mariota, you realize that the dynamic duo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to a measly 69 yards and no touchdowns. They also had three tackles for a loss in the run game with two coming from Khalil Mack and one from the undrafted rookie free agent Nicholas Morrow.
The pass defense was just good enough. The Raiders had one sack and three quarterback hits which isn’t terrible and definitely isn’t impressive. Marcus Mariota was able to complete just over 60% of his passes and 256 yards but was unable to find the endzone.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the pass defense is that at no point was Sean Smith‘s name yelled with expletives before and or after it.
And perhaps the biggest takeaway for the Raiders defense as a whole was that they didn’t give up any huge plays.
Sure, there were actually at least four plays that went for more than 20 yards, but no play went for more than 24 yards. That, believe it or not, is a huge improvement for the Raiders. Last season, it seemed like every time the defense started to play well, they would give up a huge, 50+ yard play.
This time around, there were big plays for sure, but no huge plays. Nothing where someone in the secondary missed a tackle and allowed a receiver to run 40 yards into the endzone. No running back breaking tackle after tackle on his way to a big gain. No tight end open for a huge pass with absolutely no members of the Raiders defense around him.
It’s not like we are at the point where we can rely on the defense to win games for the Raiders, but after week one, we’re one step closer to feeling like we don’t have to be scared that the defense might lose games for the Raiders every week.