Entering their Week 8 matchup with Cleveland, Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden and his staff were meticulous with their preparation for the Browns, and also the weather.
In years past, the Silver and Black have struggled to play in inclement weather and the team harped on that fact all week before Sunday's action according to Gruden.
"We talked and made a big deal about the weather," Gruden said postgame Sunday. "We knew the weather was going to be really harsh today and we kept talking about how we struggled to play on the road in bad weather last year against the Jets and the Chiefs. We really made a big deal out of it and we kind of enjoyed it I think. Our guys looked forward to the challenge of the weather more than anything."
When the team took the field Sunday morning, it was a brisk 38 degrees with 30-35 mile-per-hour winds — the kind of elements that promote old-school football. Both the Raiders and the Browns featured run-heavy offenses, as Josh Jacobs led the way with 128 yards on 31 carries, but it was the special teams unit that proved to be the deciding factor in a 16-6 Raiders win.
Despite the 30 mph gusts, Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson had as good of a day as a specialist can hope for. Before kickoff, Carlson and punter A.J. Cole took some extra time pregame to try and navigate the winds, but by the time they returned from the locker room the wind had picked up significantly. On his first field goal attempt of the game, Carlson aimed a 41-yard shot directly at the right goal post, knowing the wind would push it left; however, he didn't expect the wind to be as strong as it was.
"Pregame it wasn't quite as windy, so I had a really good pregame trying to figure it out," Carlson told reporters after the game. "Then we got out there and I really aimed at that right upright and that was by far the windiest game I've ever played in, and most of this team has probably played in. So, I just aimed it at the right upright and hit basically an A-plus ball, exactly how I wanted to. I just didn't factor in the wind quite enough."
Following that missed attempt, Carlson recalibrated and reassessed the wind patterns, and he went the rest of the game unbothered.
"Luckily, I was able to learn from it and bounce back and have a good operation, good holds, and good protection, and we were able to get some points on the board the rest of the game."
Carlson connected on a 29-yard field goal, a 33-yard field goal, a PAT, and a 24-yard field goal to put the game out of reach. All year, Carlson has been reliable, coming into today's game with a field goal percentage of 92.9. After battling through a slump toward the end of last year, the former Auburn Tiger has found his rhythm again, and even the harshest elements can't force his confidence to waver, but he knows he wouldn't be successful without his supporting cast.
"That snap and hold is tough when it's cold," he said, "when it's rainy, when it's sleeting, whatever it was — those guys did a great job of giving me opportunities to get the ball down and put it through."
Carlson's leg proved to be the difference-maker on Sunday and lifted the Raiders over a tough AFC foe.