DETROIT – The Raiders pass rush looked a little different Sunday against Detroit, their first game without Aldon Smith.
The talented edge rusher was suspended a full calendar year for violating the NFL’s substance policy, supposedly leaving a huge void in the defensive front.
It didn’t look that way against the Lions. The Raiders had four sacks and hit Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford four other times in an 18-13 loss at Ford Field.
“I thought the front was pretty rugged,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought they generated some good pressure. I think that was one of the bright spots. I’m really happy with those guys.”
Mario Edwards Jr.’s role changed somewhat in the post-Aldon era. The rookie second-round pick was a stand-up rusher at times, playing defensive end at others. He worked some from the inside as coaches tried to create favorable matchups.
“I felt productive off the edge,” Edwards said. “They asked me to step in and fill that role. It’s not anything I haven’t done before. I felt comfortable and confident and did the best I could to help the team.”
Benson Mayowa’s snap count increased as well, using his speed to record his second career sack. The Raiders got some production from the blitz and four-man pressure.
It’s a good turn for this unit, which has been inconsistent getting to the quarterback.
Khalil Mack was his usual self, leading the team with eight tackles, two of which went for a loss. The Raiders didn’t win, but it was a good start for the defense’s life after Smith’s suspension.
“We knew what the challenge would be,” Mack said. “Aldon is a great pass rusher, but there are going to be guys stepping in filling that void. They did well in that spot today.”
Hudson re-aggravates ankle: Raiders center Rodney Hudson missed last week’s game with a sprained right ankle, but was able to return Sunday after limited practice work.
He started and played every snap until that same joint got caught in the wash during a second-half run play. Tony Bergstrom stepped in for Hudson and will if Hudson can’t play next week.
The Raiders also reported injuries to cornerback Keith McGill (ankle) and running back Taiwan Jones (knee). Those players will be evaluated further when the team gets back to Oakland.
Del Rio doesn’t like catch rule: Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree made an excellent first-half catch near the sideline, tapping both toes in bound after snaring the ball with one hand while rolling to the ground. Or so he thought.
Officials ruled it incomplete. Crabtree apparently didn’t maintain possession long enough.
Del Rio considered throwing the challenge flag in that instance, but the fuzzy rules surrounding what constitutes a catch presented him with a losing case.
“I definitely thought about it,” Del Rio said. “I don’t agree with the rule, but the rule is, if you go to the ground, you have to come up with catch. ...If we were playing in my backyard, that would be a catch. But I know how the league is going to call it. It doesn’t matter if I agree with it or not, I know how they’re going to call it. It would’ve been a waste of a challenge.”
Slowing Megatron: The Raiders struggled to stop elite Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in the early going, but tightened up coverage late.
Johnson had four catches for 81 yards in the first half, but grabbed just one pass for seven yards in the second. Halted production was due in part to good coverage from David Amerson, the Raiders’ biggest cornerback. Overall, the secondary’s play against him was a mixed bag.
“There were some situations where we did pretty well on him,” Del Rio said. “There were other times where we, quite frankly, should’ve been a lot better and weren’t.”
This and that: The Raiders had two delay of game penalties on Sunday, and had to call a timeout to avoid a third one. That is unacceptable to the Raiders, and quarterback Derek Carr took responsibiity for the errors. … Kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit a 56-yard field goal attempt, leaving him one 50-plus conversion short of Jason Hanson’s all-time record.