LONDON — From the opening snap to their postgame comments, a clear theme emerged from the Raiders at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday:
They had heard enough about how good the Chicago Bears defend.
They had heard enough about everything, really.
The Raiders rode a massive second-half roller coaster before defeating the Bears 24-21 before a Chicago-heavy gathering of 60,463, claiming victory in the first American football game played in the spectacular new stadium.
“We came out and punched them in the mouth and they didn’t like it,” Raiders offensive lineman Richie Incognito said. “They were talking a bunch of trash, so we came out and punched them in the mouth and put it in the end zone … and all that talking stopped.”
For as much praise as is bestowed upon Chicago’s league-best run defense, which allows an average of just under 70 yards, the Raiders had little issue moving the ball on the ground.
They rushed for 169 yards, including 123 from rookie Josh Jacobs.
It was Jacobs who soared for a 2-yard touchdown with 1:57 remaining, capping a 13-play, 97-yard drive that ultimately delivered the win.
The Raiders, who saw all of a 17-point lead disappear over nearly 14 minutes following halftime, next enter their bye week before returning at Green Bay on Oct. 20.
Here are three key takeaways from Sunday’s win:
1. Gruden can call a game
The Raiders attempted 32 passes and rushed 39 times, a balance that kept Chicago guessing more defensively than usual.
Gruden was at his best late, when quarterback Derek Carr looked off a defender right before finding rookie tight end Foster Moreau all alone in the flat for a catch that went for 23 yards on the team’s final drive.
The Raiders also did a terrific job making up for a depleted wide receiver corps — Tyrell Williams (foot), J.J. Nelson (knee) and Dwayne Harris (ankle) didn’t play.
Of Carr’s 25 completions, 10 went to tight ends, eight to running backs and seven to wide receivers.
“Several long drives,” Gruden said. “And that’s with a penalty taking us out of field-goal range on one and fumbling at the 1 on another. It’s great to have players continue to play and fight for each other. We had a lot of really good players out and a lot stepped up to get a big win.”
2. Rookies can play
Jacobs was stellar throughout, coming back twice from injury and then with his play after missing an audible call from Carr early in the third quarter that led to a turnover and, ultimately, Chicago’s first touchdown.
But the Raiders needed other first-year players to win, especially on that final drive.
Moreau had three catches, the one for 23, another for 2 and finally for 16 yards to give the Raiders first-and-goal from the 2. Jacobs scored the next play.
Also, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow made the most of his one catch. It only went for 12 yards, but it came on second-and-7. Renfrow made a nifty move to avoid a tackler and pick up the critical first down.
“I love my rookie class,” said Moreau, who finished with four catches for a team-best 46 yards. “Nothing had to be said that final drive. Now or never. Get first downs. We all did our job. (Gruden) made great calls, the protection was awesome and we come out with a win. Nice to see the hard work of all our rookies is paying off.”
3. Nasty up front
Incognito picked up a personal foul for unnecessary roughness on the team’s first drive that took the Raiders out of field-goal range, and then had one for a chop block.
Then, afterward, he talked about punching the Bears in the mouth.
Yeah, a tone was immediately set.
Think about: The best defensive front in football never got to Carr.
Not a sack among it.
“No one talks about our guys up front,” Gruden said. “We’ve got good tight ends who block, a good fullback, a great running back and our offensive line is quality stuff. Guys like (tackles) Trent Brown and Kolton Miller — I don’t know who gets the game ball.”
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.