Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree
Heading into the Oakland Raiders Week 4 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, we posed five questions that we were looking to have answered Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Raiders handled business, and beat the Ravens 28-27, so let's take a quick look back and see if our questions were answered.
1. Can the offensive line respond yet again?
While the Raiders didn't hit the century mark on the ground for the first time this season, the offensive line still provided quarterback Derek Carr ample time to operate from the pocket, and once again did not allow a sack all afternoon.
While there are certainly some areas that need improvement – rookie Vadal Alexander was flagged for four penalties – overall, the group once again delivered an impressive performance from top to bottom.
Through the first quarter of the season, the offensive line – maybe more than any other group – has been forced to adjust its personnel because of injury. Regardless of who has been inserted along the line, the group has stood strong, and Sunday was no different.
2. How does the team respond to back-to-back road trips?
It's becoming abundantly clear through the first four weeks of the season that these Raiders are road warriors.
When the schedule came out, the Silver and Black saw that they'd be challenged early with three of their first four games on the road, but Head Coach Jack Del Rio's team has risen to the challenge, winning all three of their road games so far this season.
Sunday's effort might have been the team's best of the season, coming back to secure a win in a raucous environment, after surrendering a lead in the fourth quarter. As impressive as the win was, particularly after the ever-discussed 10:00 a.m. PT kickoff, Head Coach Del Rio thinks it's time to retire the narrative that the Raiders have issues traveling east of the Mississippi.
"There are some things you have to do as a team, and we've embraced that," said Head Coach Del Rio. "As far as traveling and being able to cross time zones like we do, we play in the early time zone like we're asked to do. For whatever reason, the league likes to put us in that window, and we're going to need to do well. I think we've learned how to travel well. Our guys are taking on that challenge."
Well, through four weeks that challenge has certainly been accepted.
3. Will the offense return to form?
On the road, against a top-ranked defense, the Raiders produced 28 points Sunday afternoon, which is no easy task.
Led by Terrell Suggs and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Ravens routinely boast one of the best defensive groups in the NFL, but Sunday afternoon Derek Carr and the Raiders offense were able to find the end zone four times en route to an impressive 28-27 road win.
Granted, the offense only racked up 261 total yards, but the four touchdowns that Carr was able to manufacture proved to be enough to earn the win in Baltimore.
Obviously, Michael Crabtree's career day helped immensely, and any time you go on the road and score four touchdowns, that's a good day at the office offensively.
Was it the team's most dynamic effort of the young season? No, but the unit did just enough to come away with the win, and that's all that matters.
4. Can the secondary keep improving?
By a quick look at the stats from Sunday's win over the Ravens, you would think that the answer to this question would be "no" but you'd be incorrect.
Joe Flacco found the end zone, and threw for nearly 300 yards, but those numbers alone don't tell the full story of the secondary's game.
While the Baltimore quarterback completed 62 percent of his passes Sunday afternoon, but in the final moments of the game, the Silver and Black forced four consecutive incompletions to secure the win over the Ravens.
"We've got a good group of guys working hard who take pride in doing the things that it takes to help this football team," Head Coach Del Rio said. "I'm pleased with the way we continue to work at it. And we're going to continue to improve throughout the year."
He's right, as the secondary has made marked improvements over the past couple weeks, and is slowly but surely turning into the group they anticipated being during training camp.
5. How does Kelechi Osemele's homecoming go?
It was no secret that Sunday's game would be an emotional one for Kelechi Osemele.
After being selected by the Ravens in the second round (No. 60 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft, the versatile lineman spent the first four seasons of his career in Baltimore, winning a Super Bowl in the process, and the Week 4 matchup at M&T Stadium marked the first time he had returned to Maryland as a visiting player.
However, while emotions did run high, Osemele kept his in check, and helped deliver yet another impressive performance for the Raiders offensive line.
"I was just focused, focusing on technique, and just finishing every play through the whistle," Osemele said. "That was just my main focus, is just control your emotions throughout the entire time. I was fired up before the game, my teammates rallied around me. They were there for me, and I was able to keep my composure, and just went out there and we executed as a team."