Pass Offense: Derek Carr had a solid day, going 21-35 for 249 yards, with one touchdown and his first interception of the season (a deflection off Michael Crabtree). Carr continues to spread the ball around, hitting nine receivers in all this time, but mostly Crabtree, Cooper, Clive Walford and Seth Roberts. Roberts made up for an early drop with the game’s only TD reception. All of the main receivers had at least one drop, which hints at the larger potential this offense has once it clicks a little better a few games down the road. Still, while the execution needs to tighten a little, they got the job done.
Rush Offense: The running-back-by-committee approach is working well to keep the backs fresh and defenses guessing a bit. Latavius Murray (10-31-1) peeled off another great touchdown run, with a nice 22-yard downhill run through the heart of the Titans’ front seven. DeAndre Washington (6-57) is turning into a solid complementary runner, as is Jalen Richard (6-28). Ideally there would be a little more of a run-pass balance, especially with about a 5.0 YPC average, but again, they got it done. The interior o-line of Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson is pretty much built for a power-running up-the-gut game, so there will probably be much more of that in the weeks to come, as the line continues to gel.
Pass Defense: This unit performed much better than in the first two games, holding Marcus Mariota to just 214 passing yards, barely 50% completions, no passing touchdowns, two interceptions, and a lost fumble. Sean Smith’s interception at the beginning of the 4th quarter was outstanding; he basically pulled the ball out of Rishard Matthews’ hands as Matthews was trying to secure the reception. Reggie Nelson also had an interception at the end of the first half that should have given the Raiders a shot at a field goal, but apparently the timekeeper forgot to start the clock at the beginning of that play, so the refs ruled that time had expired for the half by the time Nelson’s interception return was stopped. Sounds like they run a tight ship there in Nashville. Either way, Tennessee’s first drive and last few drives were too easy and nerve-wracking, but overall, they did a solid job of containing the Titans’ passing game and limiting Mariota’s choices.
Rush Defense: Unfortunately, perhaps because the defensive team focused on improving against the pass, they performed worse against the run, surrendering 181 yards for an average of over 6.2 YPC. DeMarco Murray gashed the defense particularly well, rolling up 114 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Khalil Mack had a tackle and an assist, bringing his total after three games to 7 tackles and 6 assists, although Mack is getting double-teamed pretty regularly.
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski became the all-time leader for field goals over 50 yards, nailing his sole attempt from 52 yards, as well as both of his extra points. Marquette King had several booming punts, and continues to prove that a good punter adds a lot of value to the field position battle. Jalen Richard had a 14-yard punt return, and he and Taiwan Jones always seem to be on the verge of breaking off a big one, but it never quite happens (at least not without an accompanying penalty flag). But they’re not giving up any big returns either.
Coaching: The defense needed to step up, and they did so, just enough to hold on to a win. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave continues to craft smart, aggressive game plans that take advantage of opportunities. Execution could have been a little better in this game, but the unit continues to improve and be effective.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. has more work to do with his team, but he has taken responsibility for their poor performance in the first two games, and gotten players to be more responsive, and make fewer mental errors in coverage.
Head coach Jack Del Rio had another opportunity to play riverboat gambler, as Latavius Murray got stuffed at the Titans’ 43-yard line for a 4th-and-1 heading into the two-minute warning. Del Rio wisely chose to punt, but King booted into the end zone instead of pinning Tennessee back with a coffin-corner kick. And then, of course, the defense made Mariota look like Joe Montana in a two-minute drill. It was a close call, one that could have been averted with better execution on the part of Special teams and defense. But Del Rio continues to show trust in those units, and hopefully they gain confidence and execute better because of that trust.
They’ll have their work cut out for them next week, with another cross-country road trip to Baltimore. But the Ravens are not what they used to be, and sharp, focused ball from all three units will give the Raiders a nice 3-1 record to finish off a fairly brutal schedule for the first quarter of the season.