The Denver Broncos were supposed to be the ones with the nasty pass rush.
With Von Miller and Bradley Chubb and their combined 26.5 sacks from a year ago waltzing into Oakland, all eyes were on the Broncos' defensive front Monday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but while that group was held in check for 60 minutes, that was not the case for Brentson Buckner's squad, as the Oakland Raiders finished their Week 1 win with three sacks – their most since December 10. 2017.
"I just felt like we just kept at it," said defensive end Benson Mayowa following the team's 24-16 win. "We stayed together, and we came into the game with the mindset of do what we do, control what we can control, so I feel like we did a real good job of doing that."
The Raiders defensive front did just that, making life miserable for Joe Flacco much of the night, totaling the trio of aforementioned sacks, as well as notching four quarterback hits by the time the clock hit triple zeroes.
"I feel like it was us, just as a collective group on defense," rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell explained. "As a defensive line, we knew we had to create pressure. Our DBs did a great job holding up on the backend – so did our linebackers, [they] did a great job of getting us lined up. Shout-out to the coaches too, man, Coach 'Buck' and Coach G Baby [Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther] did a great job in just having that game plan dialed up, and we were able to go out there and have some success."
And for a team that struggled mightily to get after the quarterback a year ago, finding some sustained success – even if it was for a short sample size – was a gigantic step in the right direction for Paul Guenther's group.
That said, it doesn't mean the Silver and Black want to keep hearing about the struggles from 2018.
"I don't want to hear about 13 no more," Mayowa said in reference to the amount of sacks the team had last season. "We got three. All we need is 10 more, and that's three in one game, so we just have to keep stacking. Next time we get four. Next time we get five. We did a good job today, and we just have to keep stopping the run, so we can get into passing situations, and every passing situation we get in, that's how we get sacks. That's what we're looking forward to."
While the first two sacks of the night belonged to Mayowa, the nightcap belonged to Ferrell, and for the No. 4 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, notching his first career quarterback takedown in his first career game felt pretty good.
"Hell yeah," Ferrell said when asked if his first sack coincided with a sense of relief. "It felt like a big, ole monkey off my back, for real. Not because I feel pressure, but it was just about – as a defensive lineman, you're always just thinking about when you're going to get your first sack, and especially in this league, because they're so hard to come by, and for it come in my debut, it felt amazing. Truly a blessing, and hats off to my teammates, because they're the ones putting me in that position."
With three sacks in the home opener, the Raiders have already totaled 23 percent of their sack total from 2018, and for Mayowa and the defensive line, they're hoping to ride this wave of positive momentum into Week Two and beyond.
"We say, we get the first one, and then they start coming in bunches," he explained. "We got our first one, and we don't need to sack chase, we just need to go in there, stop the run, so we can rush the passer."
Through one week, so far, so good on that front.
Check out photos from the Raiders' first regular season matchup with the Denver Broncos at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.