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Saturday, November 27, 2021

‘Resilient’ Raiders cap week with emotional win

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7:56 PM ET

  • gutierrez paul

    Paul GutierrezESPN Staff Writer

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    • Covered Oakland Raiders for CSNBayArea.com and Sacramento Bee for eight years
    • Member of Pro Football Writers Association
    • Previously worked at Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Illustrated

DENVER — An emotional win Sunday for the Las Vegas Raiders ended a painful week for the team.

The Raiders beat the Denver Broncos 34-24 in their first game since Jon Gruden resigned as coach in the aftermath of his email scandal, and their first game with Rich Bisaccia as interim coach.

It was also the first game Bisaccia, a longtime special teams coordinator whose career began in 1983, worked as a head coach at any level.

“The best part for me was to be able to get on the grass,” Bisaccia said. “The worst part for me was figuring out the headset. Once you get on the field and the game goes, a lot of my responsibilities were the same. There was a pretty good dialogue between myself and [offensive coordinator Greg Olson], and myself and Gus [Bradley, defensive coordinator]. … It was really a collective effort going through the game.

“Certainly, it’s emotional for everybody, right? So, I think they did a good job. It’s a bunch of grown men, handling their emotions throughout the week, putting them in perspective when it was time to go play the game. It’s a job for all of us. They seemed to do a really good job with it. We’ll see what goes on.”

The offense responded to Olson taking over playcalling duties from Gruden as Derek Carr authored his fourth 300-plus passing yard game of the season (the only Raiders quarterback with more such games in the first six games of a season was Rich Gannon, who had five in his 2002 MVP season). Henry Ruggs III caught three passes for 97 yards — including a 48-yard touchdown — Josh Jacobs rushed for 53 yards and a TD on 16 carries, and the oft-forgotten Kenyan Drake scored twice, once by air and once by ground.

Carr credited the team’s leadership with not letting the emotions swallow them up this week.

“More now than ever, we had to step up and be a voice,” said Carr, who threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns in completing 18 of 27 passes for a 134.4 passer rating, his highest rating in almost three years. “There will be a time for all the emotions, but now is not the time. If anything, what this did was it, for sure, brought us closer. … We needed a win bad this week.

“It sucks not hugging Gru’ after a game like that. Some of the plays we ran, he would have been so fired up, but it is what it is and we need to move forward. For those three hours, it’s definitely easier to just focus on football.”

Defensively, the Raiders forced four turnovers — interceptions by Brandon Facyson, Tre’von Moehrig and Johnathan Abram, and a fumble recovered by Denzel Perryman that was forced by Solomon Thomas — and Maxx Crosby had three sacks.

It was the first time the Raiders committed zero turnovers but had four takeaways in a road game since Week 7 of the 1988 season at Kansas City, when Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson each rushed for a TD and Vann McElroy picked off Steve DeBerg twice.

“In this business, there’s always crazy things going on, especially with the Raiders,” Crosby said with a laugh. “There’s no mistake about it. Ever since I got here, there’s always things going on. But these guys that we have in this building are resilient.

“Everyone’s talking about, ‘Oh, now what are the Raiders going to do? Is the season over?’ We heard all of it. For us to go out and have a great week of practice and go out there and play good football, it’s just a testament to all these guys in the locker room. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

An emotional bump after such a week was expected. Unknown, though, was whether it would be positive or negative. It ended up being positive as the Raiders improved to 4-2 and ended a two-game losing streak as they prepare to play host to the Philadelphia Eagles next week before enjoying their bye.

Bisaccia is just the second in-season replacement coach in Raiders history to win his debut, joining Art Shell, who beat the New York Jets in 1989. Tony Sparano (2014), Tom Cable (2008), Red Conkright (1962) and Marty Feldman (1961) all lost their debuts with the Raiders.

Part of the reason team owner Mark Davis promoted Bisaccia was that, in his role as special teams coordinator, he was already working with players from both sides of the ball.

“Coach Bisaccia has been incredible my whole time for the Raiders,” Crosby said. “He took me under his wing since I got there. If I needed, literally, anything, talking about life, talking about football, I’m talking about anything, he was always there for me. I can’t say enough good things about him. I’m just glad we got the win for him.”

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