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Josh Jacobs breathes life into Raiders’ running game

Josh Jacobs returned to the Raiders’ backfield with 2:20 to play Sunday in a 30-6 victory over the New York Giants at Allegiant Stadium, requiring 8 rushing yards to reach 100 for the first time this season.

So up the middle on first down he would run for 5 and around the right guard he would go for 4 — giving the NFL’s defending rushing champion 101 yards on 25 carries.

But Jacobs was swarmed by the Giants on the ensuing play, losing 3 yards — and with it his first 100-yard outing since Dec. 4.

“We’ll keep grinding on that,” interim coach Antonio Pierce said. “I don’t take that for granted. It’s hard to do in the NFL.”

Jacobs still had his most productive game this season, rushing 26 times for 98 yards and scoring runs of 2 yards and 1 yard. He celebrated his touchdowns by blowing kisses toward his 3-year-old daughter, Journey, whose birthday Tuesday coincided with the firing of former Raiders coach Josh McDaniels.

Under McDaniels, the Raiders were last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 70 yards per game compared with 121.1 last season.

Said Jacobs through his signature smile, sheathed this season amid all the dysfunction: “We really didn’t know how it was going to go, but the whole week I just kept preaching to the guys, ‘Let’s lock in with each other and go out there and have fun. Play how we think we could play.”

Pierce referred to Jacobs as the “heartbeat” of the franchise, sharing a similar sentiment last week with the 25-year-old team captain, who relayed afterward the coach’s message ensured he would have to “stand on my word to him.”

“He just told me the way I play the game with passion it ignites the guys … and that’s what I tried to come out and bring today,” Jacobs said. “Whenever you make me have to stand on business, I tend to get on that.”

Jacobs fielded four carries on the first possession, gaining 31 yards behind an inspired offensive front that powered for the Raiders a season-high 125 rushing yards on 34 attempts. Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers capped that scoring drive with an 18-yard touchdown run.

Said Jacobs of the first drive: “Everything that could go right was going right.”

As it would throughout a half during which he rushed 18 times for 85 yards. His touchdowns gave the Raiders a 21-0 halftime lead and the offensive balance they’ve lacked this season.

“It’s common sense. You have to be able to run the football, because if you run the football, you can do anything,” rookie wide receiver Tre Tucker said. “It was good to see Josh kind of get going and doing what we know he can do.”

Pleased as he was with his improved production, Jacobs was happier for Pierce — knowing he helped secure for him a victory in his head coaching debut.

“We all sat down like, ‘No matter how this goes, we’re going with everything we’ve got for that man,’ just because of the position he’s in,” Jacobs said. “We wanted to go out there and play for him and show that we can play good in all three phases of football.

“We went out there and did that today. I think it’s the best we played as a team all season.”

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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