November 20, 2018 - 5:59 pm
Updated November 20, 2018 - 7:56 pm
ALAMEDA, Calif. — A drought stretching 49 possessions and spanning five-plus games came to an end Sunday when Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley intercepted Josh Rosen’s first pass and returned it 28 yards to the Arizona Cardinals’ 33-yard line.
The offense then did what it has in short-field situations.
Field position has been an issue for the Raiders largely all season. In their 10th game, a 23-21 win, Conley’s interception provided the offense its fourth possession that began in opponent territory. The three others occurred in the club’s other victory Sept. 30 over the Cleveland Browns.
All four short-field chances culminated in a score, including three touchdowns.
Three plays after Conley’s takeaway, quarterback Derek Carr found tight end Jared Cook on a slant-and-go double move for a 23-yard touchdown. Notably, safety Karl Joseph returned a second-quarter interception to the 50-yard line. While it falls outside the parameters of opponent territory, it led to a 5-yard Carr touchdown to wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
Only Tampa Bay (3-7), with two, has begun fewer drives beyond the 50.
“We’ve been talking about field position all year,” coach Jon Gruden said Sunday. “I think we came into this game with three possessions all year, nine games, that started on the plus-side of the 50. That’s no way to win — at all. I’ve never heard of that statistic. And to get field position, obviously, it’s a lot easier to score. That’s been proven with all the analytical data that everybody is looking at these days.”
By comparison, the Raiders started 25 possessions in opponent territory during their 12-4 season in 2016, tied for most in the NFL. They had a league-high 20 scores on such drives, including 10 touchdowns.
In 2017, they had 11 short-field drives during a 6-10 campaign. Eight led to scores. Four were touchdowns.
The 2018 team is up to four possessions with six games to go.
■ Wide receiver Saeed Blacknall cleared waivers Tuesday and rejoined the practice squad. Wide receiver Rashard Davis was removed in a corresponding move.
■ The Raiders’ offensive line spent Tuesday evening, a player off-day, serving turkeys and various fixings to families whom the club hosted at its headquarters. Recipients were selected in conjunction with various community partners, including the Boys and Girls Club and the Alameda Family Justice Center.