Sunday’s upset win over the Steelers was something that very few expected to happen. The Oakland Raiders were coming off of two very disappointing efforts to start the season, and what they had shown to that point did not seem to match up to the tough Steelers defense. While it was not the prettiest of wins, as Dennis Allen said, it doesn’t have to be. After starting the season 0-2, with fortunes for the season looking bleak, an impressive win against the Steelers featured a much improved effort on the Raiders end, suddenly putting them just one game out of the AFC West lead.
Heading into the game, much of the focus was on whether or not the Raiders would be able to stop the Steelers very talented receivers with all of the injuries in the secondary. While they did still give up some consistent yardage on this day, the unit did enough to win the game. In the NFL, that’s all you need. Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 380 yards, while Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown combined for 15 catches and 210 yards. However, the Raiders defense held strong on a couple of key drives, and forcing game-changing turnovers. In addition, after a bad week defending the run in Miami, the run defense got back to where it was against San Diego, limiting the Steelers to 2.7 yards per carry on 20 attempts. Consistency in that area will be key moving forward.
Based on the offense’s struggles to start the season, it was assumed that it would again be a long day at the office against the Steelers always strong defense. In the first half, aside from Darren McFadden’s 64-yard TD run, it seemed as though that was indeed the case. However, the offense started to click again on their last drive of the first half, and came out firing in the second half. They put points on the board on each of their final 5 drives, and all 4 second half drives. As the Raiders coaches alluded to upon questions of the run game’s struggles, it was just a matter of time before it all came together. We definitely started to see signs of that improvement in this game, of course highlighted by that long McFadden run.
Not only did the run game start to come together, but so too did the passing game. Carson Palmer did not light up the statistical categories by any means, but nor did he have to. He was in control throughout the game, and especially in the second half, leading the Raiders down the field drive after drive. As the season goes on, he will become more and more comfortable in Greg Knapp’s new offensive scheme, and we began to see that in this game against an extremely tough opponent. Should the offense as a whole continue to improve within this scheme, the possibilities are endless. The key will be the pass protection in the offensive line, and establishing the run game on a weekly basis.
The first win of a season is always the hardest to get, and the Raiders managed to get that all-important win just as the schedule starts to get tougher. Having momentum going into games against Denver and Atlanta can do nothing but help their chances, and building upon improvement in several key areas will be important. This was a huge win for this Raiders team, as 1-2 looks very different than 0-3 would have. The Raiders will have a tough matchup next week in Denver, but if they can get another win, they will be in good shape heading into their bye week at 2-2.
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