Raiders not sur­prised how well de­fense played in Week 1

Ripon Bulletin - - Sports -

ALAMEDA (AP) — Any sur­prise re­gard­ing how the Raiders de­fense played in their sea­sonopen­ing win against the Ten­nessee Ti­tans came from out­side the team’s head­quar­ters near the Oak­land air­port.

The Raiders sim­ply saw it as busi­ness as usual and not a big deal at all.

That might be a hard sell com­ing from a de­fense that has fin­ished in the lower third of the NFL rank­ings for much of the past decade.

Yet in al­most ev­ery facet, Oak­land showed signs of im­prove­ment against a Ten­nessee team many pegged as play­off con­tenders be­fore the

sea­son.

Shocked? De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ken Nor­ton Jr. wasn’t.

“Oh my good­ness, there was no sur­prise,” Nor­ton said Thurs­day. “A lot of things are in­volved in play­ing your best foot­ball. The way the young play­ers have grown, the way the older play­ers are lead­ing and mak­ing their plays, there’s no sur­prise at all. We ex­pect to play well and to play solid foot­ball.”

Head­ing into the sea­son it was widely as­sumed that Oak­land’s of­fense would be one of the best in the NFL. The only ques­tion was whether the

de­fense could hold up its end of the bar­gain.

Against the Ti­tans, the an­swer was a yes.

The Raiders al­lowed a touch­down on Ten­nessee’s open­ing drive, but held the Ti­tans out of the end zone after that. Three of Ten­nessee’s fi­nal six drives ended in punts. The other three were field-goal at­tempts, one of which missed.

That helped al­le­vi­ate pres­sure off the Raiders’ of­fense, which took off in the sec­ond half after a slow start.

“I thought over­all the ef­fort, the ur­gency, the at­ten­tion to de­tail was re­ally strong,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We cer­tainly knew we were go­ing to start out with a good op­po­nent,

that knew how to run it well, had good backs, good line­man, good de­sign, all that. It was a good test.”

Some of it was good fortune.

The Raiders started two rook­ies — mid­dle line­backer Mar­quel Lee and de­fen­sive tackle Ed­die Van­der­does. Oak­land also ro­tated Sean Smith and TJ Car­rie at right cor­ner­back, with Car­rie start­ing be­fore mov­ing to the nickel slot mid­way through the first half.

Smith’s sta­tus for Sun­day’s home opener against the New York Jets is un­cer­tain. The vet­eran cor­ner­back was lim­ited in prac­tice earlier in the week with a neck is­sue and was held out Thurs­day.

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