When it was over and the craziness subsided — and, boy, was there a lot of it — the Raiders beat Baltimore 33-27 in overtime Monday night because this happened:
Five plays over 1:49.
One enormous forced fumble and recovery.
The defensive stop that never really came last season.
The sort of play that was never really made back then.
Things need to be cleaned up all over the place, but apologies are never warranted following an NFL victory.
The Raiders earned every bit of this one before an electric 61,756 at Allegiant Stadium.
Defense stood tall
It was the first regular-season game fans were allowed to attend in our pandemic world, and it’s a safe bet the majority walked (stumbled) away all sorts of euphoric.
They also departed with this image: A defense that stood tallest when needed most. A side of the ball that has been deservedly criticized for several seasons turning the game on its wild head in favor of the Raiders.
It was defensive end Carl Nassib who forced the fumble that was recovered by tackle Darius Philon with 4:31 remaining in overtime.
Three plays later, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr lofted a 31-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones for the win.
What followed was a shrieking tremor of noise loud enough to awaken folks in Henderson on one side of town and Summerlin on the other.
“We harp on the defense so much,” Carr said. “You hear this. You hear that. You see a lot of coordinators come in and go. For them to make the play at the end and give us chance after chance after chance with all their stops — I hope someone praises the defense. They deserve it.
“Were they perfect? No. Were we as an offense? No. But we won as a team.”
Guys were just so active defensively. Gus Bradley is the new coordinator, and it’s not a secret many players who competed under him at previous spots are now wearing Raiders colors. Many of them shined Monday.
Maxx Crosby isn’t a Bradley disciple but his play certainly suggests the coach has made an early impression on the third-year end. So too has defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
Crosby would finish with two sacks and five quarterback hits, and free-agent signee Yannick Ngakoue had four tackles and a quarterback hit before leaving with an injured hamstring.
You had Quinton Jefferson forcing a fumble and Denzel Perryman recovering it. You had K.J. Wright making big tackles on fourth down.
Carr is right. Things weren’t perfect. There were breakdowns that led to Baltimore scores. Blown coverages. Blown assignments. Guys being totally out of position.
But when the time came — like it has so often before — and someone had to step up and do the one thing that leads to winning, Nassib was there.
“He made a great play,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “Nassib had a great training camp. We’re going to need him going forward.”
The biggest play
Such is how things played out:
Lamar Jackson threw an incomplete pass.
Jackson completed a 10-yard pass to Sammy Watkins.
Latavius Murray ran for 3 yards.
Jackson threw incomplete.
And on third-and-7 from the Baltimore 33 with 4:39 remaining in overtime, Jackson dropped back and the Raiders brought pressure.
Nassib got to Jackson first, sacking the quarterback while forcing the fumble that Philon fell on.
“I’ve played in a lot of games, this being my sixth year,” Nassib said. “I try to make sure that I remember every single game. I won’t forget this one.”
Neither will his coaches or teammates or Raider Nation in what was a rocking Allegiant Stadium.
The stop and play they needed to finally make.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached 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.