Oakland Raiders Exorcise Old Ghosts In Win Over Browns


The Oakland Raiders performed an exorcism on Sunday in their win over the Cleveland Browns. And were they ever a team in need of a spiritual cleansing. It wasn’t a dominating performance, but the Raiders got the job done and in doing so, got the monkey off their backs and finally laid some old ghosts to rest once and for all.

It wasn’t always pretty as the Raiders started slow, but heated up, and then hung on for a win over the Browns. In winning the game, the Raiders finally conquered some demons that had been haunting them for — in some cases — decades. It was a win that no doubt, took a massive weight off of the shoulders of the team and the fans — and gave them hope that Oakland is finally turning that corner.

More from Derek Carr

For the first time since 2009, the Raiders won in the Eastern Time Zone. Not since the man, myth, and legend that is Bruce Gradkowski led the Silver and Black to a victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh in December 2009 had Oakland won in Eastern Standard Time. It is a string of futility that stretches sixteen games over almost six calendar years.

And it is a string of futility that is finally over. Done. Finished. Cue the sighs of relief across the Raider Nation.

Ending the EST curse wasn’t the only old ghost the Raiders banished on Sunday. It was also the first time in thirty years that the Raiders came out of Cleveland with a win. Of course, it was only the third game they’d played there since 1985, but that’s still a long time without a win in any one particular city!

Coupled with last week’s win over Baltimore, the Raiders’ win in Cleveland were the first back to back wins the Raiders have posted in three seasons. And it was also the first road game the Raiders have won since November 2013 when they claimed victory in Houston.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Needless to say, the Raiders banished a whole lot of bad spirits in just one day. It is also giving hope to fans around the world that the better days GM Reggie McKenzie has been promising since he took on the job have finally arrived.

The Raiders won on Sunday because of an efficient and explosive offense that made some big plays. They won because of a defense that started off very strong and recorded not just its first sack of the season, but its first five sacks of the season with the “rolling ball of butcher knives” that is Khalil Mack finally getting his and leading the team with a pair. And they won because a first ballot Hall of Famer stepped up and made a huge play when the Raiders absolutely needed it the most.

Second year quarterback Derek Carr is playing like a veteran. And he’s playing like the franchise quarterback the Raiders believe him to be. Carr went 20 of 32 on the day for 314 yards and two scores. He finished the day with a pretty outstanding QB rating of 115.9. He made some big time throws when the team had to have them, and spread the ball around to his vast array of weapons. Carr never let the Cleveland defense feel comfortable and kept them on their heels for large parts of the game.

Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack (52) forces a fumble by Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) in a NFL game at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Browns 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was good to see the Raiders’ coaching staff finally take the shackles off Latavius Murray who rewarded them with 26 rushes for 139 yards — a stellar average of 5.3 yards per carry — and a score. Of course, it helped to be squaring off with a run defense that had been gashed to the tune of 160 yards per game coming into the contest. But OC Bill Musgrave‘s game plan worked to perfection as Murray maximized his touches, got the offense in good positions, and allowed Carr and the receivers to do their thing.

And to be sure, the receivers absolutely chipped in big time. Rookie sensation Amari Cooper grabbed eight receptions on eleven targets for 134 yards. His runs after the catch, his elusiveness, and his ability to juke defenders out of their cleats was incredible. If there was a negative for Cooper on the day, it was his costly fumble late in the fourth quarter that allowed Cleveland to put themselves in a position to stay in the game.

Other than that, the Oakland receivers were brilliant, and Carr made sure to spread the ball around, throwing passes eight different players. It was a heavy and steady dose of Cooper all day to be sure, but Carr made effective use of his other pass catchers and didn’t allow the Browns to simply key on the rookie all game long.

As good as a victory — and exorcism — as it was, it wasn’t without its dark clouds. For there are newer and disturbing spirits still hanging around the Oakland locker room. And those dark spirits still seem to be hanging around the secondary. For the majority of the game, Oakland’s defensive front put enough pressure on Josh McCown that he was off balance and inaccurate for large stretches of the game.

But then they allowed McCown to start heating up. With a two touchdown lead in the second half and Cleveland needing to throw their way out of the hole, rather than keep doing what had made them successful to that point, DC Ken Norton seemed to start to play it safe.

Rather than keep attacking and continue making McCown’s day miserable, Norton sent just four rushers on a good number of plays. Cleveland’s receivers were able to find the soft spots in Oakland’s secondary — of which, there were plenty.

The vast majority of McCown’s yardage came after the half with the Raiders on top by a pair of touchdowns. But Norton’s defense seemed to throttle back, content to protect a lead, rather than press their advantage and finish off a scrappy Cleveland team.

For the day, the Raiders’ defense allowed McCown to torch them for 341 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With most of the damage coming in the second half of the game — damage that allowed the Browns to stay in the game until Charles Woodson finally closed the door. That has to be — or rather, it should be — an alarming statistic for Norton and the Raiders’ defense.

But that has been the way of things over the first few weeks of this young NFL season. The Raiders’ young secondary just isn’t getting the job done. And those new ghosts, if they’re not banished sooner rather than later, could jump out to bite them at an incredibly inopportune time.

The good news though, is the Raiders — and their defense — did just enough to win the game and move to 2-1 on the season. And in so doing, they put an end to some rather dubious streaks and banished some old ghosts that have plagued this franchise for a long, long time.

One of Oakland’s most beloved old ghosts, Al Davis, believed that in the end, it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you come out with the “W.”€

Just Win, Baby. And on Sunday, the Raiders did just that.

Next: Oakland Raiders: A Complete Team Victory