Following his team’s 26-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, Head Coach Jon Gruden – for the second time in as many weeks – credited his defense for coming up with big plays when the team needed them the most.
“I thought defensively we got some really good play from all three levels,” said Gruden in the aftermath of the Oakland Raiders fifth win of the season. “[Tahir] Whitehead was all over the field, Cle Ferrell and the pass rush showed up, and you can’t say enough about Erik Harris and the secondary.”
And following Harris’ big night, Gruden is right – finding the words for the type of performance the athletic safety delivered is indeed difficult.
Harris was, simply put, a man possessed against the Los Angeles Chargers, and was an absolute menace to Philip Rivers en route to his career night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
When the clock had finally struck triple zeroes – after more than a few anxious moments down the stretch of the primetime tilt – Harris had secured two interceptions, three passes defensed, and both a defensive tackle and a tackle on special teams for good measure.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Harris postgame. “Special moment, special moment for this team, special moment for my teammates, and credit to them for putting me in a position, and just trusting [me].”
And that trust was rewarded in a huge way Thursday night, as Harris roamed the defensive backfield, giving the fans in attendance flashbacks to when Charles Woodson locked down the secondary for the Silver and Black.
“I was real proud of Erik, just the way he prepared, and the way he goes on the field,” rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen explained. “He’s just a really smart guy. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve played with in my whole entire life playing football, just knowing situations, down and distance, and formations, and just his communication is over and beyond. I think he’s one of the best safeties in the NFL as far as preparation, communication, and just being a ballplayer. “
Harris prematurely ended each of the Chargers’ first two offensive drives with interceptions, and while the first ultimately resulted in three points for the Raiders, Harris found the end zone on the second, stretching the Silver and Black’s early lead to 10 following a Daniel Carlson PAT.
“I just saw a really big lineman chasing me to the sideline at first, and then I almost slipped on the sideline,” Harris said when explaining his pick six. “I just knew I had to beat him, and after that, it was to the end zone.”
And as wild as it sounds, while Harris took Rivers’ lunch money twice, in actuality, he could – and probably should – have ended his night with three, if not four, picks.
“I also had another one [interception] that I could have capitalized on,” Harris conceded postgame. “It was a special, special night.”
While the night as a whole belonged to Harris, the exclamation point on the team’s Week 10 win belonged to his defensive teammate Karl Joseph, as he intercepted Philip Rivers on 4th and 10 to make sure the Silver and Black’s fifth win of the year wasn’t in jeopardy.
With Thursday’s game now squarely in the rearview mirror, Harris and the Raiders will get a few, well-deserved days off before returning to work early next week.
And when they do, they’ll be a game over .500, with a date with the currently winless Cincinnati Bengals next on the docket.
“We built momentum, and after this game, obviously, we’re going to keep this momentum going,” Harris said. “We get a few days off, so rest up, get our guys healthy, and be back at it Monday.”
Take a look at photos from the Raiders' Week 10 home game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.