Heading into the Raiders Week 3 matchup with the Cleveland Browns, Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his staff constantly preached the importance of improvement.
After struggling in their season opener, gaining just 246 total yards against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Raiders offense rebounded in a big way the following week, exploding for 448 total yards en route to a 37-33 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
However, even in the Week 2 win over Baltimore, the Silver and Black's defense struggled – making plays when absolutely necessary to preserve a win, but still allowing 493 yards to Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense.
Heading into the team's game in Cleveland, the Raiders had yet to tally their first sack of the young season and had given up in excess of 650 yards through the air, but give credit where credit is due, as Head Coach Del Rio*decided to make a change, *electing to move starting cornerback TJ Carrie to safety in the matchup with Cleveland.
While Head Coach Del Rio wouldn't confirm that Carrie would remain strictly at safety going forward, the decision paid immediate dividends Sunday, as Browns quarterback Josh McCown completed just 7 of 15 passes for 104 yards in the first half.
While McCown did end the afternoon with 341 passing yards, the Raiders secondary showed a marked improvement in coverage which was surely helped by the 5 sacks the Oakland defense accrued throughout the game.
However, the biggest defensive play, for the second week in a row, came in the final seconds – this time courtesy of future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson.
With 0:43 seconds left in the game, Woodson singlehandedly stopped the Browns comeback bid as he picked off an errant pass intended for wide receiver Travis Benjamin.
"They had a chance and someone had to come up with a big play, and I'm happy it was me," Woodson said. "I think [Browns quarterback Josh McCown] tried to bait me. They put the fastest guy on the field out wide so I made sure to keep my eye on him."
After the win over Baltimore, cornerback DJ Hayden said that going forward things wouldn't be perfect defensively, but at the end of the day, the unit would come together and make plays when they needed to, and that's once again what happened Sunday.
The defense wasn't perfect and there is always room for improvement – the Raiders once again allowed a big day from the opposing tight end, but in crunch time the team's stars rose to the occasion and helped secure the Raiders first win in Cleveland since 1985.