Raiders defense holds strong in the red zone and swats away Lions' upset bid

Judging from the box score, the Week 9 duel between the Oakland Raiders and the Detroit Lions was an offensive affair, but it was a trio of plays on defense that helped clinched the Silver and Black’s fourth win of the season.

On the opening drive of the game, with Matthew Stafford and Co., moving the chains with ease, Lions running back J.D. McKissic botched a handoff from Stafford, and the Raiders pounced on the fumble. The offense took the takeaway and converted it into the first points of the game, courtesy of a Josh Jacobs rushing touchdown.

Little did the fans and press in attendance know, that play would foreshadow the events which would unfold throughout the game.

Later in the second quarter, Stafford wanted the home run ball, and targeted wide receiver Kenny Golladay in the back left corner of the end zone, but Daryl Worley came away with arguably the greatest play of his career. The former West Virginia Mountaineer positioned himself at just the right angle, boxing out Golladay, and in contested coverage came away with a one-handed interception.

“It might’ve been the best play of my career, honestly,” Worley said postgame. “I felt like going back and watching it was probably was just good technique. See ball, get ball.”

It was a defining moment in the matchup that prevented the Lions from increasing their then-16-10 lead, and allowed Derek Carr and Co., to march downfield to end the first half with another Josh Jacobs touchdown.

Coming into the game, the Raiders knew the Lions were going to lean on their aerial attack to make plays. Worley gave up a big play to Golladay earlier in the afternoon, but he remained confident, and as a cornerback you need to be.

“We knew that it was going to be a challenge vertically against Matt Stafford, he’s having a hell of a year,” he said. “Tray [Mullen] was able to go out and make plays today. Our safeties were making plays today. It’s awesome. You’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some, especially as a defensive back in the NFL. I definitely feel like it’s one of the hardest possessions, so you get some wins, you get some losses and I was able to win on that play.”

Following that momentum-changing play, the Raiders and Lions battled back and forth for much of the second half, and it all came down to another pivotal moment in the red zone. With eight seconds left in regulation, the Lions trailed the Raiders 31-24 and faced a third-and-goal from the 14-yard line. Prior to the snap, the Raiders didn’t appear to be on the same page, and Karl Joseph tried to call a timeout, but the officials didn’t see. 

“I just think we weren’t all on the same page, I think some guys didn’t have the call, so I was just trying to — it was a critical down — I was just trying to make sure we were all on the same page,” Joseph explained. “It was a big situation right there, so I wanted all of us to be on the same page… .”

Stafford took advantage of the miscommunication, and fired a dart over the middle to third-string tight end Logan Thomas, who came up just short of the end zone. Three second remained in the fourth and it looked like the game was going to extend to overtime. Instead of handing the ball off on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, Stafford tried to drop a pass in the back of the end zone to Thomas again, but Karl Joseph leapt in the air to swat the pass out of Thomas’ hands, and give the Silver and Black their fourth win of the season.

It was the third defensive takeaway of the day and the second game-changing play that helped the Raiders finish Sunday victorious.

The defense may have allowed some big gains to the Lions, but they showed up when it mattered most, and that’s all that matters.

“It’s always a learning experience, we know we gave up a lot. I think we had a couple big stops in the red zone and took away points; whether it was a field goal and not giving up a touchdown,” Joseph said. “I’m just happy we were able to make the big plays when it counted and got the win. That’s all that matters at the end of the day, but we can always learn and get better from this experience.”

The Raiders gave the Lions far too many opportunities on offense and defense, but Head Coach Jon Gruden praised his team’s resiliency postgame.

“They fumbled a snap, the Lions did, on an exchange. We had an interception in the red zone, great play by [Daryl] Worley. I thought we gave up some big plays, which we got to eliminate, but I’m really proud of our guys,” Gruden shared. “They got a stop at the end and I’m going home — we got a short week — I’m going to go home have dinner with my wife, go to bed, and get ready for the [Los Angeles] Chargers.”

In their return to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Raiders were able to come away with a big win in front of the home crowd, but as Coach Gruden pointed out, the team is on a short week and will face a division rival Thursday.

There’s no time for let up.

Check out photos from the Raiders' Week 9 matchup with the Detroit Lions at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

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