Updated October 23, 2022 - 6:40 pm
The Raiders have preached for months the message of being their best when it’s required. It has been an elusive quest, and their inability to close deals in the red zone and at the end of games sabotaged the season’s first month.
For one afternoon, though, they decisively made good on that mandate by using power and efficiency to maximize all three red-zone visits with touchdowns and by playing complementary fourth-quarter football to close out the Texans 38-20 Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
By finally conjuring up the necessary concoction to close out a win, the Raiders (2-4) at least have a blueprint to draw from as they continue their uphill climb toward playoff contention.
That was the formula they followed in unleashing a 21-0 fourth-quarter blitz that produced two touchdown drives and two straight defensive stands, one that resulted in a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown by Duron Harmon to blow open a close game.
“We’ve come a long way with that,” said wide receiver Davante Adams, who had eight catches for 95 yards. “Obviously that’s the reason we’re in the position we are recordwise right now. It’s not because we’re just goofballs and getting blown out every game. We’ve had a shot at pretty much all these games at the end and just didn’t really pull it out. It’s showing the growth we have, great coaches that are locking us in on some of the details to get us to where we can perform like that, especially late.”
They did it behind an offensive line that has transformed from a question mark four weeks ago to a physical, ambitious group leading the way for punishing running back Josh Jacobs, who broke loss for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the third straight game Jacobs has eclipsed the 100-yard mark, and as his three red-zone scores attest, the Raiders make life so much easier for themselves when they dictate terms in that part of the field with a potent run game.
“I love the fight in those guys,” Jacobs said of his offensive line. “They might get beat on a play or whatever, but you don’t ever see it weigh on them. But they come in the huddle, we’ll talk about it, and they’ll be ready to go for the next play. It’s just been a fun, interesting ride.”
They also did it behind an efficient Derek Carr, who completed 21 of 27 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown while spreading the ball among six receivers. Just as important, he took care of the football and was sacked only one time for 5 yards.
And they accomplished it with a fourth-quarter turnaround by the defense, which hunkered down to stonewall all three Texans drives in the period.
The Raiders had not forced a punt until the final quarter, but they turned Houston away at every turn. And when Harmon read the eyes of Texans quarterback Davis Mills, then broke on his throw to Brevin Jordan, a former Bishop Gorman High star, to intercept Mills and race the other way for a touchdown, it was game-set-match.
The push at the end negated the rough start the Raiders had trying to find a rhythm after coming off their bye week. They fell behind 10-3 in the first half and 13-10 in the third quarter after too many penalties and a defense too slow to adjust to the Texans’ offense bogged them down.
“I didn’t think we played very clean in the first half,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said.
But then they let their talent advantage over the Texans win the biggest moments.
“We stopped beating ourselves, and we just executed,” Carr said. “It sounds so cliche, but when you just do your job the right way — not your way but just do it the right way — and all 11 do that … if we can keep doing that, then hopefully we can play good football moving forward.”
For one day at least, the Raiders took a big step toward being the team they set out to be months ago.
“We want that to be our identity,” Harmon said. “We talk about getting better as the game goes on. We can’t always control everything that happens at the beginning of the game, but we can make sure we finish strong, and that’s what we did today.”
Contact Vincent Bonsignore at email@example.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.