On a night where the highlights for the Oakland Raiders were hard to find – as is usually the case in a 24-point defeat – Arden Key provided one of the handful of defensive bright spots against the Seattle Seahawks, registering his first NFL sack in the third quarter of the Week 6 affair.
Lined up over right tackle with 13:15 left in the third quarter, Key beat his man, then proceeded to chase down Russell Wilson, taking down the Super Bowl champion signal-caller for a loss of eight.
"It took all four of us," said the rookie postgame. "We had contain on the opposite side, so it made Russell stop, and pause for a minute, and I was right there to collect the sack."
"I'm happy for him," added fellow defensive end Bruce Irvin. "He's going to be a hell of a player. He's been busting his tail. He's been getting close every week, and it was just good to see him finally get home. He works so hard, so he got rewarded today. I'm going to stay on him, keep working, and more sacks to come for him."
As Irvin noted, Key has been getting close, really close in fact, so it was encouraging to see the former LSU Tiger secure his first NFL sack, albeit in a losing effort.
During his career in Baton Rouge, Key was a sack machine, totaling 20 during his three college seasons, including 11 during his sophomore campaign.
It's no secret that the Silver and Black have had their fair share of struggles rushing the passer this year – their seven total sacks rank 30th in the league – so having Key keep the positive momentum going after the bye week would be a welcome asset to Paul Guenther's defense.
As impressive as Key's moment was, at the end of the day, it didn't alter the end result of the 27-3 loss, or the fact that headed into the bye week the Silver and Black are four games under .500.
It was unquestionably the worst loss of the young season, and while the raw pain of the international loss still lingers, Head Coach Jon Gruden hopes that for Key and the rest of the young Raiders, Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium becomes a seminal moment for them, a galvanizing one that they remember going forward.
"I told the rookies after the game, don't forget this," Gruden said. "Just because you're in the league, doesn't mean it's going to be a pleasant experience. You can get your butt kicked in this league, and I want the rookies to take advantage of this playing time. They all know they've got to get stronger. They've got to get faster. They've got to become better students of this game, because it's tough going up against guys who played this game for a living for seven, eight, nine, ten years, especially a world champion quarterback."
Key played 47 defensive snaps against the Seahawks – more than any other Raiders defensive lineman – and he was active throughout, finishing his night with four tackles, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, as well as the aforementioned third quarter takedown of Wilson.
Fellow rookies Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall played 42 and 33 defensive snaps respectively, so No 99 isn't the only young player contributing on the defensive line, but make no mistake about it, that trio isn't playing just for the sake of playing – they've earned their reps.
"We're going to continue to try to get some young guys experience, but most importantly, we're playing our best players, just so you know," Gruden explained. "We're not just playing rookies for the heck of it."
With his first sack now out of the way, Key said he's hopeful the levy will break, and more come will, and the Raiders would benefit greatly if that was indeed the case.
Take a look through the top images from the Raiders' game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 at Wembley Stadium in London.