NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Raiders defense was under fire all week long. That’s what happens when expectations are high and you allow 69 points and 1,035 yards over two games.
High-profile free agents underwhelmed, the pass rush was lackluster and young bucks hadn’t been making a major impact on defense.
The Raiders weren’t perfect defensively, but were far better than they had been in Sunday’s 17-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium.
“We can get off their backs now,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “They won the game for us. That right there was a prime example of (the defense) I see every day in practice.”
The Raiders created their first three turnovers of the year, including interceptions from Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson. First-round pick Karl Joseph provided a spark in his defensive debut. Bruce Irvin forced a fumble.
While the defense bent at the end, but didn’t break on Tennessee’s last ditch comeback effort.
“I’m not going to stand here and say were where we want to be, but we’re getting there,” Smith said. “We’re communicating a whole lot better and not making the small mistakes that we were in previous weeks.”
The pass rush still wasn’t consistent, and there were some mistakes from the linebacker corps, but this performance was significantly better than weeks past.
“I saw glimpses of what it should look like. I think we all did,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “It’s nowhere near what it needs to be, but there are certainly reasons to be optimistic, which I am. I optimistic about the men we have and the work we put in. We have a lot to clean up, but we’re 2-1 and looking forward to the rest of the season and the challenges ahead.”
This story would read a little different had the Titans completed their comeback try. They nearly did, with offensive pass interference negating a touchdown catch and a reckless Tennessee personal foul hindering those efforts. The Titans moved the ball with ease when it mattered most, but the Raiders kept them out of the end zone and sealed the win.
“You never want to panic out there,” Smith said. “I just knew that, once they got close to the goal line, we were going to have to tighten up. We made some different calls, and everybody locked up and got the victory.”