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Despite loss, Raiders' two interceptions show growth in the secondary

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There’s always a silver lining, and this week it was the Oakland Raiders’ ability to force turnovers against the Baltimore Ravens. Despite losing 34-17 on the road, the Silver and Black put up a fight for most of the afternoon, keeping the Ravens within reach, but eventually tapered off towards the end of regulation. There’s several reasons as to why it was a tightly-contested game for three quarters, but one of the main reasons was the team’s production from the secondary.

Sure, the defense as a whole gave up 242 yards on the ground — and that needs to be cleaned up — but the secondary limited versatile quarterback Lamar Jackson in the passing game for the most part. Jackson finished his second career start with just 178 passing yards, and just one passing touchdown. On two separate occasions, the Raiders took advantage of the rookie’s miscues, tipping a pass in the air for a Reggie Nelson interception, and cornerback Gareon Conley contesting a ball against former Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree, which also resulted in an interception. 

“That’s just typical from any receiver, fade route, single receiver, cover three, you’re going to get that a lot, but they were going to try me of course because ‘Crab’ is their top receiver, a good receiver,” Conley said postgame. “Just had to make a play and execute.”

Not only did the Raiders force a pair of interceptions, but both came prior to halftime, which gave the team a morale boost.

“Felt good, kind of gave us momentum, we just have to finish,” Conley shared. “It’s frustrating [not capitalizing on takeaways], but we just have to keep battling, and fighting, and executing more.”

The former Raiders first-round pick has had a strong showing in 2018, hauling in two interceptions of his own, including a pick-six, and he attributes that to his ability to stay healthy this season.

“Health is the biggest thing for me, but I’m just going out there and playing free,” he explained. “Letting it fly, just reading my keys, and doing what I gotta do to hold my island down.”

The Silver and Black have a relatively young core, but the team has plenty of experienced veterans among them to share their wisdom. Nelson was the recipient of one of the two batted passes that resulted in interceptions, and he thinks it was simply just a product of people doing their jobs in unison.

“Guys made plays on the ball, and everybody was in the right spot,” he told reporters postgame. “That’s what makes you win games, just try to create turnovers. Like I said, we’ve been doing a good job of doing that, it just didn’t go our way this week.”

As I mentioned earlier, there’s always a silver lining, and even at 2-9 the team is finding ways to stay positive. Nelson is proud of the way he and his teammates played Sunday, they just have to do it for a full 60 minutes.

“There’s always positives, we’re playing good and trying to get better each week,” he said. “It didn’t go our way this week, like I said, we’ve got to come back and watch the film to see what we did good in the running game, and what we didn’t do in the passing game. We just have to keep playing to try and finish strong this year.”

Next week the team will host the division rival Kansas City Chiefs at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for the first of their two matchups this season. The Chiefs are coming off of a bye, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes is operating at a high level. Stopping the many weapons on the Chiefs offense will be a tough task for the Raiders secondary, but they’re up for the challenge.

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