Updated November 2, 2020 - 4:07 am
CLEVELAND — The Raiders had to travel across the country and trade the dry heat of Las Vegas for the cold and wet of Northeast Ohio before they could make a discovery that figures to help them in their quest to make the playoffs.
What they found in a 16-6 win over the Cleveland Browns was a big, physical offense that was able to manage the wind and their opponent, unleashing a punishing run game that ate up the clock, kept the chains moving and doubled the Browns in time of possession and total plays.
The Raiders ran for a season-high 208 yards on 45 carries, with Josh Jacobs gaining 128 of those yards. Derek Carr chipped in with 41, including an 18-yard run on a designed zone read in which he tucked the ball away, lowered his shoulder and rambled all the way to the Browns’ 5-yard-line.
That run set up Daniel Carlson’s game-sealing 24-yard field goal and nearly caused coaches and teammates to have heart attacks worrying for their quarterback’s safety.
“Are you out of your mind?” is what his coach, Jon Gruden, immediately shouted to his quarterback. “They got mad at me for not sliding,” Carr said, laughing.
Jacobs, who has been steady but not spectacular this year running behind an offensive line in constant flux, registered a long run of 16 yards but was consistently effective getting five- and six-yard gains to keep the Raiders on a favorable down and distance schedule.
“He’s a great runner,” Gruden said. “We just need him to break one long one to satisfy a lot of statisticians.”
For the game, the Raiders ran 71 plays to the Browns’ 47 and kept the ball for 37:43 to the Browns 22:17.
“We went back in time a little bit to an old-school attack,” Gruden said. “That’s something that we’ve been trying to put together here.”
The result was a must-win over a Browns team the Raiders needed to keep within arms’ reach in the AFC playoff race and gave them a winning blueprint to follow the rest of the season. The Raiders improved to 4-3. The Browns fell to 5-3.
“I feel like that’s our style of play. I know that’s my style of play and our mentality,” Jacobs said. “To be able to showcase that this week is huge.”
Two drives in particular were the difference. Both came in the second half with the game still very much in doubt.
On the first, the Raiders drove 75 yards in 15 plays, eating up 8:54 of clock stretching across the third and fourth quarters. It was highlighted by an 11-yard scramble by Carr on third-and-8 to pick up a key first down and Carr zipping a pass to Hunter Renfrow for a 4-yard touchdown to break a 6-6 tie to put the Raiders up 13-6.
After the Raiders’ defense forced a three-and-out on the Browns’ ensuing drive, Carr and the offense marched 74 yards in 13 plays. Jacobs ran eight times for 30 yards on the drive, with Carr taking off on his run to set up Carlson’s field goal.
“Whenever we can win a game like this, it makes me pumped,” Carr said, “especially with the way we had to grind it out.”
Making it all the more satisfying is the upheaval the Raiders dealt with along the offensive line. Right tackle Trent Brown was a surprising late scratch after falling ill just before the game, and his backup, Sam Young, left the game with a knee injury.
That meant the struggling Brandon Parker had to take over at right tackle. He played a solid game, despite waking up on Sunday thinking he wasn’t going to play.
“And wouldn’t you know he was pressed into duty early in the game,” Gruden said.
Parker’s performance, along with the rest of the offensive line, made the loss of Brown and Young a moot point. The Raiders ran the ball effectively and rendered Browns defensive end Myles Garrett almost invisible. He had just three tackles but no quarterback hits or tackles for losses.
“I’m just proud of those guys,” Carr said.
Meanwhile, a defense that spent the week hunkered down trying to come up with answers for their season-long struggles responded with their best performance of the year. For the first time since 2012, the Raiders didn’t allow a touchdown.
“We still have a long way to go,” Gruden said about the defense. “But we did make some strides today.”
In the process, the Raiders may have rediscovered their identity.