Running Back Latavius Murray
Before the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills kicked off Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Week 13 action, we posed five questions that we were hoping to have answered throughout the course of the game.
After falling behind early, the Silver and Black roared back with a vengeance, putting up 29 straight points to bury the Buffalo Bills and improve their record to 10-2.
In just a few short days, the Raiders will board a flight to Kansas City in advance of their Thursday Night Football showdown with the Chiefs, but before we look ahead to Week 14, let's see if our five questions were indeed answered in the 38-24 win over the Bills.
1. Who wins the line of scrimmage?
After the first 30 minutes of play, and with the Silver and Black trailing 10-9 at halftime, you'd have to say that halfway home, the Bills had dominated the line of scrimmage.
However, after halftime it was a different story for the Raiders, as they went on an offensive spree, scoring 29 straight points to bury the Bills.
Not only did the Raiders offensive line keep Derek Carr clean once again, the big fellas up front helped reinvigorate the run game, as the Silver and Black finished the Week 14 win with 139 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground.
"Honestly, I've said this before, our running backs, they help us pass protect, our tight ends help us pass protect, also, Derek gets that ball out pretty quick," said tackle Austin Howard. "He makes very quick decisions, so all of this kind of works into how we are able to go out there and have success in terms of keeping him clean out there."
In the second half in particular, the Silver and Black's fronts – both offensively and defensively – dominated the Bills, and that dominance in the trenches is a big reason why the Raiders were able to buckle down and take care of business against Rex Ryan and Co.
2. Can the Raiders limit Lorenzo Alexander?
For the most part, the Raiders were able to make Alexander a non-factor in Sunday's contest at the OACC.
Entering the Week 13 matchup with the Silver and Black, Alexander was in the midst of a career rebirth in Upstate New York, as the 33-year-old linebacker had already tallied 10 sacks, and had been a wrecking ball for the Buffalo defense.
However, the Raiders offensive line did a tremendous job of limiting the veteran linebacker's productivity all afternoon.
In total, Alexander finished with four total tackles and one quarterback hit, but he – along with the entire Bills defensive front – was kept at bay throughout the Week 13 bout.
Give offensive line coach Mike Tice and his group credit; they knew they'd have to find a way to limit Alexander, and they did just that.
3. Will David Amerson get back on the gridiron?
After missing the Raiders Week 12 win over the Carolina Panthers, and with a critical Thursday night matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs on the horizon, there was some uncertainty about whether or not cornerback David Amerson would hit the field Sunday against the Bills.
However, that uncertainty was laid to rest early Sunday, as Amerson returned to his usual position in the Raiders base defense, playing 70 defensive snaps in his first work since Week 11.
"I feel good, man," Amerson said postgame. "I feel good. I'm just glad it was back home in front of our home crowd. I love playing here."
The Raiders fourth-year cornerback made sure to leave his imprint on the game as well, finishing Sunday's outing with five tackles, and one critical pass defensed on a third down pass intended for Sammy Watkins in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
The tandem of Amerson and Sean Smith was impressive once again Sunday, as they helped limit Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to just 191 yards through the air.
4. Which team will run the ball better?
We knew coming into Sunday's game at the OACC, that the Bill's identity was based squarely around running the ball.
With Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy in the backfield – along with Tyrod Taylor – the Bills had run the ball at a higher clip than any other in the team in the NFL, and during their Week 13 outing at the OACC, they were able to do just that once again.
In total, the Bills offense was able to amass 212 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, but a bulk of that damage was done before the Silver and Black rattled off 29 unanswered points en route to a 38-24 win.
While the Bills were able to get their rushing attack rolling, so were the Raiders, as the tandem of Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard also eclipsed the century mark, finishing the day with 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns themselves.
"I've said this before, we have probably one of the best – if not the best – running backs corps in the league," Austin Howard explained. "They make our job pretty easy back there. We have Latavius, obviously Jalen, and we have D. Wash [DeAndré Washington] also as well. We have a good group of guys back there who can really help us out."
The 139 rushing yards was the team's biggest output since week 9, and per usual, when the Silver and Black are balanced in their attack, it typically spells good news for the offense as a whole.
5. How does Khalil Mack follow up last week's performance?
Oh boy, have another day Khalil Mack.
After delivering arguably his best performance of the season last weekend against the Carolina Panthers, No. 52 didn't see a drop in production Sunday afternoon back at the OACC.
Once again, the Raiders All-Pro defensive end very much looked the part, finishing the Week 13 win over the Bills with seven tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit, one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
"The guy is a walking Hall of Famer," linebacker Bruce Irvin said when asked about Mack. "He's the best in the business. I'm blessed to suit up with him week-in and week-out."
Mack is now tied for third in the NFL with 10 sacks, and after the past two weeks in particular, the dynamic edge rusher has firmly thrown his name into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.