The young but extremely talented Oakland Raiders are making waves through the National Football League and within the AFC West after their 34-31 victory over division rivals, the San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders attacked the Chargers and forced five takeaways for the game after the defense made it difficult in four of the team’s first five games.
“Defense has to be the key to these games and we need to learn from our mistakes week in and week out. We’ve seen some things we got to fix down the stretch,” said Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack.
All five of Oakland’s games thus far, including their 35-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, have been decided by one touchdown or less.
The win marks the first time the team has had a 4-1 start since the Super Bowl season of 2002. It hasn't been necessarily the defense that has led to the victory, but rather the offense. With 12:31 left in the third quarter, the Raiders trailed 17-9 and with 12:51 left in the fourth, Oakland led 34-24.
“It means a lot, especially for this program. We can only try to keep getting better week by week and we need to get ready for Kansas City now,” said Mack of the 4-1 start. “We got some new guys in coverage and up front and got to mix it in and hold it down for our offense.”
The offense has had to rely on a variety of players, including the line but most importantly, former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who has already showed glimpses of greatness in his third NFL season.
His worthiness as a top tier QB in the NFL has only grown after throwing for 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions in five games thus far. He is on pace to surpass his season record of 32 TD passes from last year if he continues.
His numbers have jumped from the last two seasons. His completion percentage is up from 61.1 in 2015 to 66.8 this year. He only completed 58.1 percent of his passes his rookie year in 2014. His average yards per completion is also up from 6.96 in 2015 to 7.17 this year.
Carr also has his highest QB rating thus far at 102.3 and a total QBR of 67.5. In all five games he has completed 60 percent or more of his passes.
“It’s nice,” said Carr of the 4-1 start. “But the road still goes through Denver. They are Super Bowl champs and division champs and I will always pay my respect to them because that is what they earned. We have not earned absolutely nothing yet, four wins in five games feels really nice, don't twist that, but we haven't done anything yet.”
The Raiders have won three of those four games by three points or less and in somewhat dramatic fashion.
“Happy about the win and our guys played their butts off but we are far from where we need to be at defensively,” said Raiders outside linebacker Bruce Irvin.
The Raiders will host the KC Chiefs at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.