The Raiders offense was the unit receiving most of the applause Sunday in the team’s victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back Latavius Murray were electric in the team’s 27-20 victory.
But for the first time this season, the Oakland defense also appeared to be on the verge of big things.
Now, as the Raiders (2-1) prepare to play the Bears this Sunday in Chicago (10 a.m. kickoff), the defensive unit has some momentum from a strong performance in Ohio.
The defense, led by linebacker Khalil Mack's two sacks, had five sacks – after the team had none in its first two games. And, the Raiders’ pass coverage was more effective. Plus, veteran safety Charles Woodson came up with a victory-ensuring interception late in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Jack Del Rio was excited by the strides his defense made Sunday.
“I think the pressure was really strong throughout the day,” said Del Rio. “… It’s getting better. The coverage was good for a long portion. We had a few lapses there and some things that we’ll correct, but all in all I thought it was a really good effort.”
Del Rio also pointed to a goal-line stand made by Oakland late in the second quarter. Cleveland had first-and-goal at the Raiders’ 1 with 2:25 remaining, but had to settle for a field goal. Then the Raiders got the ball right back and drove for a touchdown. Taiwan Jones had a 35-yard kickoff return, Murray ran for 20 yards, Carr hit Seth Roberts for 36 yards and then 10 yards and, after a 1-yard run by Marcel Reece, Carr connected with Roberts again for a 13-yard TD play.
That gave Oakland a 17-3 lead at the half.
“I think getting them to stop and then offensively going down and scoring ourselves was a big turnaround,” Del Rio said. “It was excellent football for our defense to not yield once we let them down there and forcing them to kick the field goal. Offensively, we took that opportunity very efficiently and got seven points.”
The Raiders now have an opportunity to improve to 3-1. The struggling Bears are 0-3, have been outscored 105-46, are without starting quarterback Jay Cutler and are coming off a 26-0 loss to the Seahawks.
Already, the Raiders are listed by oddmakers at 2 to 2½-point favorites.