The Oakland Raiders 2016 regular season has been filled with plenty of gut wrenching, close finishes. Head coach Jack Del Rio isn’t afraid of taking risks, while the Raiders remain composed and prepared for any obstacle.
10 of the Raiders 14 games this season have been decided by one score or less, with the Raiders coming out victorious in eight of those contests. The risk-taking of Del Rio was on full display the first week of the season, as he and the offense elected to go for a two-point conversion at the end of the fourth quarter with the team trailing by just the extra point.
Although the Raiders have now clinched their first playoff birth since 2002, they still have a division to compete for, along with the standings in the AFC West. A win coupled with a Kansas City Chief’s loss would earn the Raiders the division title, along with a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.
The clutch ability of the Raiders has been on display, with quarterback Derek Carr completing numerous fourth quarter comebacks this season. It seems like the Raiders’ offense has this ability to hit an extra gear late in the game, demonstrating their clutch ability.
Against the San Diego Chargers, the Raiders were once again able to find their way to a victory. Running back Latavius Murray was asked about the tense situations late in games. He responded by stating that both the offense and defense deserve credit for the way they have been playing, via Raiders.com:
“We are continuing to find ways to win in obviously close situations,” Murray said. “Our defense made stops and helped us get enough to put us ahead and obviously made a key stop at the end so we could finish with the ball in our hands. It was great team football and a great team win.”
While the offense was able to tack on two field goals for the three-point lead, the defense was also able to shut out quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers had one final chance with around two minutes to play in the game, but were stopped by the Raiders on four straight possessions for a turnover on downs.
Safety Reggie Nelson capped off the comeback attempt, intercepting Rivers during his fourth down heave. Rivers threw a desperation attempt, as he saw defensive end Bruce Irvin approaching for the sack. The ball missed his receiver and fell into the hands of Nelson, who sealed the victory.
Both Nelson and Murray are a part of the seven Pro Bowl selections this season for the Raiders.
Nelson’s secondary play has organized the defense, which has seen changes at the cornerback position. The play of him and David Amerson has helped aid the pressure the Raiders have been putting on receivers, while still working on increasing their sack numbers.
Nelson was asked how the team continues to find ways to win games and responded by saying that winning any game in the NFL is tough and that the team is proud of the work they have accomplished:
“It is hard to win games in the league, it isn’t always going to be pretty,” Nelson said. “I would say we still have a lot of work to do, going into the playoffs we don’t want to keep making the same mistakes we make in the regular season. It is just exciting around here. I am happy for everybody in this locker room and I am just happy to be in the playoffs again.”
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Raiders still have time to work out any little kinks they find fit. Recently, Del Rio stated that the offense should run the ball more, so expect to see plenty of action from Murray and rookie Jalen Richard this week.
In 12 games (10 starts) this season, Murray has rushed for 737 yards on 175 rushing attempts. He has also accumulated 12 rushing touchdowns on the season, to go along with his average of 4.21 yards per carry.
Nelson has suited up and started all 14 games this season, proving to be a model of consistency for Del Rio. For the season, he has totaled 45 tackles (15 solo), with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.