With the third quarter of the regular season in the book, here's how Raiders.com writers Kyle Martin and Eddie Paskal break down the action.
Who is your third quarter MVP?
KM:The third quarter MVP has to be Marshawn Lynch.
Prior to Lynch's suspension in Week 8, it's safe to say "Beast Mode" wasn't performing at the level we all know he's capable of. Now, that might've been because he was getting acclimated with a new system, and was still shaking off the rust from his one-year retirement, but when he returned from his suspension No. 24 hit the ground running, and running hard.
When the former University of California Berkeley Golden Bear took the field on Sunday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, he made his presence felt, as he rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns. By the end of the third quarter of the regular season, Lynch totaled 292 yards rushing, four touchdowns, and 79 receiving yards. Beast Mode also finished the third quarter on a high note with a 51-yard run to the end zone, which naturally got Raider Nation fired up.
Lynch's ability to close out games and control the pace of the offense is one of the main reasons the Silver and Black brought him in during the offseason.
EP:I'm going to have to agree with Kyle on this one, and go with The Beast. Since he returned from a one-game suspension, Lynch has been a man on a mission, and he's delivered the results to back that assertion up. Over the past four games, Lynch has carried the ball 68 times, totaling 292 yards, and four touchdowns. To give a little perspective, and show just how well No. 24 is running right now, in his previous seven games, he had totaled just 266 rushing yards. And while an efficient Marshawn Lynch is a good thing regardless, over the past few weeks, he's stepped up in the moments when the team needed him the most. Last week, without the services of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, Todd Downing's offense needed a big day from Lynch and he delivered in a big way. The offense has seemed to get back on track the past few weeks, and the play of Marshawn is a big reason why.
What was the best moment of the third quarter?
KM:For those of you who missed it, when World War II Veteran Mickey Ganitch took the field during halftime when the Raiders hosted the Denver Broncos in Week 12, not only was it inspiring, but the man looked like he could still play football at 98 years old.
Ganitch, a Pearl Harbor survivor, took the field to congratulate the Navy servicemen and women who pledged their service in front of all those in attendance at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. After congratulating the enlistees, Ganitch got down in the three-point stance and looked like he could start on the Raiders defensive line.
EP:Khalil Mack's strip-sack/fumble recovery of Geno Smith last week against the Giants. Khalil is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and Sunday afternoon – on that play in particular – he showed why. Simply put, No. 52 stole the ball away from Geno, showing no regard for the former New York Jet as he got the ball back for Derek Carr and the Raiders offense. Outside of the impressive feat of strength that it took Mack to rip the ball from Smith's grasp, I think it's also important to remember the game situation when that play occurred. After a botched punt attempt set the Giants up inside the Raiders 10-yard line in the final moments of the first half, Mack's sack essentially took points off the board at a time when the Raiders led by just three points. Big players make big plays in big moments, and that's precisely what Mack did.
**Area of improvement?
KM:Well, I would say the defense, but since Assistant Head Coach – Defense John Pagano took over defensive play calling duties in Week 12 the group has been noticeably better. Instead, it's the offense that's struggled in recent weeks. While Lynch, along with fellow running backs DeAndré Washington and Jalen Richard, have the ground game performing at an effective rate, the aerial attack hasn't been what it was a season ago.
We all know the offense is loaded with talent, and quarterback Derek Carr has an arsenal of weapons he can go to, so the likelihood is high that the unit starts clicking again. During the third quarter of the season, No. 4 only threw more than one touchdown on one occasion, and being the selfless player that Carr is, he doesn't care about his stats as long as the team wins. That's a characteristic that should certainly be appreciated, but I'd like to see the two-time Pro Bowler air it out a little more. Obviously I'm no offensive coordinator, and the coaching staff has put the offense in a position to win, but Carr and Co., have the talent to perform at a higher level.
EP:Just consistency. It's kind of been the story of the 2017 Raiders; they show flashes and glimpses of what they're capable of on both sides of the football, but they're unable to sustain that kind of play over an extended period of time. Well, give credit where credit is due, the Silver and Black have been more consistent over the past four games, but if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive, they're going to have to remain consistent over the final four weeks of the regular season. Like I said, the Raiders have showed time and again that they can play the type of football that they want to; we just need to see that type of play consistently over the final month of the regular season.
What's been the most surprising part of the third quarter?
KM:The NFL is crazy, and anything can happen on any given Sunday.
At 6-6 the Raiders are in the thick of a playoff race with the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Los Angeles Chargers, which wasn't what I expected to be the case at this point of the season. If you would've told me the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers would all be in a three-way tie for first, each at .500, before the season started I probably wouldn't have believed you, but such is life.
The Silver and Black will have a tough slate of games in the final quarter of the 2017 campaign, but a win over the Chiefs this week would be huge going forward. Kickoff is at 10:00 a.m. PST this Sunday.
EP:Honestly, that the Raiders still control their own destiny. Headed into the third quarter of 2017, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's team was two games under .500, and while there was still a lot of football left to be played, there certainly wasn't the air of optimism surrounding the team like there is now. Headed into the stretch run, after all the ups and downs of the season, everything the Raiders want is still in front them. They control their own destiny, both in the division, as well as in the wild card. It's going to be a really fun final month of the season; I can't wait.