Running Back Jalen Richard
Prior to the Oakland Raiders bout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we asked five questions that we were hoping to have answered in the Week 8 bout at Raymond James Stadium.
The game went to overtime, but the Silver and Black were able to handle their business in the extra period, beating the Buccaneers 30-24 on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Seth Roberts.
With the win, the Raiders now own an impressive 6-2 record at the halfway point of the regular season, so in the wake of the victory over the Bucs, let's see if our five questions were answered.
1. Can the Raiders force Jameis Winton into some mistakes?
While Winston was able to hold onto the ball Sunday afternoon, and not commit any turnovers, the Raiders defense did hold the Buccaneers second-year quarterback to a pedestrian 16 completed passes for 180 yards.
While Winston did find the end zone twice, and the Bucs took the Silver and Black to overtime before finally succumbing to Derek Carr and Co., in general, Winston wasn't able to really get rolling Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
"Overall the explosives were way down," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "I think we had two explosives that we allowed on the day; one on a quarterback scramble, and one on a pass. That's a good number to have coming down. That's what we're after."
While Winston did account for over half the points the Buccaneers scored Sunday afternoon, for the most part, the Raiders were able to limit his effectiveness through most of the afternoon.
2. Can the re-tooled running game keep rolling?
The run game has come alive in the Sunshine State over the past two weeks.
After rushing for 144 yards in the Week 7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Silver and Black followed that effort up with 128 yards on the ground in Sunday's win over the Buccaneers.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio has consistently said that he wants his team to dominate the line of scrimmage, and that's exactly what the group did in Tampa Bay, as all three Raiders running backs averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry on the afternoon.
"It was huge, man; just to finish up these two road games with a win obviously, heading back home 2-0," running back Latavius Murray said postgame. "Just the way the game went. It was back and forth battling. We had a lot of penalties, but we were able to overcome and find a way to win. I think that shows a lot about this team.''
The win over the Bucs also showed that the Raiders run game is back on track, and at the halfway point of the regular season, Murray and Co. are now averaging an impressive 116.5 rushing yards per game, which is good for eighth in the NFL.
3. Can the defense limit Mike Evans?
In short, yes.
Coming into the Week 8 matchup, Evans was far and away the most productive wide receiver for the Buccaneers, but Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium, the Raiders defense largely kept Evans in check.
Winston targeted the physical wideout 11 times, but Evans was only able to haul in four of those passes for just 50 total yards.
Evans did haul in a critical two-point conversion midway through the fourth quarter, but outside of that, he was largely rendered ineffective, even after Sean Smith left the game on the first series of the afternoon with a shoulder injury.
4. How will Amari Cooper impact the game?
Simply put, Cooper was splendid Sunday afternoon against the Buccaneers.
The explosive wide receiver enjoyed an impressive day, hauling in 12 receptions for 173 yards, both of which served as a career high for No. 89.
Cooper was routinely able to gain separation from the Tampa Bay defensive backs, and looked to be uncontainable for most the afternoon.
As good as he played against the Bucs though, did Cooper even know just how statistically dominant is day was?
"I mean you never know going into the game," Cooper said postgame. "You hope to have a great game every game, but you never know how it's going to turn out. I just thank God. I always say, 'Thank you God for having your gracious hand on me,' because it's all him."
After the Week 8 performance, Cooper now has four 100-plus receiving games this season, which ties him with Sammy Watkins for the third most in the NFL by a player 22 years old or younger.
**5. How will Donald Penn's homecoming go?
Honestly, the veteran left tackle probably couldn't have scripted his return to Tampa Bay any better if he wrote it himself.
Not only did the Silver and Black fly out of Florida with a thrilling overtime win over the Bucs in tow, but No. 72 also found the end zone.
Yes, you read that correctly, with 10:30 left in the third quarter, the veteran lineman reported as an eligible receiver, and then proceeded to haul in his fourth career touchdown, and this one was especially meaningful considering his history with the Buccaneers.
"I had a little chip on my shoulder, man, because I really didn't want get released when I did get released, when I thought I was going to retire a Buc, but everything happens for a reason," Penn said postgame. ""I'm happy I'm a Raider. I love being a Raider… I played eight years here. That's a long time in my life, eight years. I'm not going to play eight more years in the league."
At the end of the day, the Raiders won the game, and that's the most important thing, but the flight back to Oakland had to feel a little, extra special for Penn following his big day against his former team.