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Raiders hold off Jets, win 2nd straight under Antonio Pierce

Updated November 12, 2023 - 10:23 pm

It was only a matter of time before this new version of Raiders encountered adversity. The only questions were when and how would they respond.

Both answers were supplied Sunday night against the Jets, and the latter mattered most as the Raiders hung on for a 16-12 win at Allegiant Stadium.

They are 2-0 under interim coach Antonio Pierce and 5-5 overall. Considering their struggles just two weeks ago, which cost coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Dave Ziegler, offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo their jobs, it’s starting to feel as if anything is possible.

“Our will to win is very strong,” said linebacker Robert Spillane, who came up with a huge fourth-quarter interception. “And we’re just gonna keep pushing forward. A lot of unknowns moving forward, but we’re 5-5. We’re in a good place.”

The adversity came in the form of a late-game fumble by Josh Jacobs as the Raiders appeared on the verge of icing the game while looking to protect their four-point lead.

The Jets, who up to that point were flailing around offensively, drove from their 24 to the Raiders 20. Suddenly, what seemed to be a near-certain win turned frantic.

That’s when Spillane said enough was enough. A key free-agent signing for a Raiders defense that has made forcing turnovers a priority, the veteran middle linebacker sat back in zone defense while watching the eyes of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. Just as Wilson threw the ball, Spillane perfectly timed his jump, stepped in front of Allen Lazard and snatched the ball for the interception with 1:14 remaining.

Spillane and the defense had to respond one final time after the offense couldn’t muster a first down on the ensuing drive. The Jets drove to the Raiders’ 44-yard line. With five seconds left, Wilson’s long heave nearly fell into the arms of Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs, who was waiting in the end zone, before Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson lunged for the ball and knocked it to the ground.

“Bro, I thought I had a pick,” Hobbs said. “I’m backing up thinking I’m fittin’ to end the game. But 17 came out of nowhere.”

Going back to training camp, Spillane preached the importance of the Raiders forcing turnovers. It wasn’t just talk; it was about creating a mindset. No one embodies and embraces that mantra more than the former Steelers linebacker.

“Spill, he’s just a dog,” Hobbs said. “All he do is come to work, do his job, and have an energy to keep playing all day long. He set us up with that W.”

It’s starting to become a trend, though, with Amik Robertson coming up with a game-saving interception this season and Maxx Crosby notching a safety to preserve another.

“Turnovers change the complexion of a game,” Spillane said. “There’s not much difference between a 2-yard gain and a 4-yard gain. It’s very minimal. But when you can get those turnovers, you change the complexion of a football game.”

It turned out to be just enough thanks to three field goals from Daniel Carlson, one timely run from Jacobs, and a clutch 7-yard touchdown throw and catch from rookies Aidan O’Connell and Michael Mayer.

O’Connell came off his first read, then sidestepped the pass rush before throwing to Mayer. He leaped over linebacker Jordan Whitehead to come up with the touchdown — the first of his NFL career — and make the score 16-9.

“I saw Aidan kind of roll out, and it was a beautiful throw,” Mayer said. “To be honest, I have to watch it. When I’m out there playing, I’m kind of in the moment and doing my thing.”

Jacobs, who had his first 100-yard rushing day this season while finishing with 116 yards, set it all up with a 40-yard run to the Jets 13.

O’Connell, firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback, passed for 153 yards and a touchdown against one interception. Davante Adams caught six passes for 86 yards.

Greg Zuerlein accounted for all the scoring for the Jets (4-5), kicking field goals of 47, 53, 30 and 45 yards.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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