OAKLAND, Calif. — The Raiders got to Joe Flacco for three sacks in a 24-16 victory over the Broncos on Monday night.
It’s hardly an earth-shattering number, unless the ineptitude of last season’s anemic pass rush is taken into account.
The Raiders had 13 sacks overall last season, the worst in the league by 17.
“We’re not worried about last year,” rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby said after his debut. “A lot of us weren’t even here. We’re just trying to focus on the now and do everything we can to get better and just improve every day.”
The team addressed the issue by bolstering the defensive line, taking Clelin Ferrell with the No. 4 pick in the draft and solidifying the roster with several other new players.
Their efforts paid immediate dividends.
Ferrell recorded a sack and Benson Mayowa became the first Raider with multiple sacks in a game since Khalil Mack had two in December 2017 against the Broncos.
The Raiders had more than one sack in just one game last season, against Cleveland in Week 4.
“We’ve got to continue to get more pass rush,” coach Jon Gruden said. “But we did get home a few times.”
The pressure was a major factor in the Raiders not allowing a touchdown until the final three minutes.
Oakland allowed at least two touchdowns in every game last season.
It was enough to win, but Gruden was disappointed with the letdowns late when the Raiders were trying to preserve the lead.
“I think we wore down a little bit in the second half, obviously, and they were able to get some sustained drives,” he said. “But I thought (our defense) played hard. We gave up a couple big plays that you can’t give up in the situation we gave them up. We’ve got to correct that.”
He mentioned veterans Vontaze Burfict and Lamarcus Joyner as standouts on defense.
The second and third levels of the defense deserved some credit. The pass rush was aided mostly by outstanding coverage.
But one area the Raiders had hoped to improve was forcing turnovers after getting just 17 takeaways last season.
They failed to force one on Monday night.