Safety Karl Joseph
It might have been pushing 90 degrees on the field at Raymond James Stadium, but with just under two minutes left in overtime, and the Raiders offense facing a critical 4th and 3, rookie safety Karl Joseph was cool and collected on the sideline as he watched Derek Carr walk towards the line of scrimmage.
"I knew we were going to get it," said Joseph postgame. "I was actually standing on the sideline, like, 'they're going to convert it.' I wasn't even nervous. I knew they were going to make a play. I knew D.C. [Carr] was going to make a play for us."
And that's exactly what Carr did, connecting with Seth Roberts on a 41-yard touchdown to give the Silver and Black the Week 8 victory, improving their record to 6-2 in the process.
Carr was the recipient of many of the accolades following his record-setting performance Sunday afternoon against the Bucs, and rightfully so, but the Raiders offense would not have gotten three chances to secure a win in overtime had the defensive side of the ball not held up their end of the bargain, holding the Bucs scoreless for the final 14:53 of the game.
"I was excited when we got some more opportunities," Joseph said. "I just kept telling myself I had to make the play to change the game, and whether it was a pick or a tackle, but I think that's how everybody felt, and that's a good thing about it. We took the challenge head on, nobody was down, like, 'oh, we have to go back out there,' we just knew that we had to get a stop. That was the only option really."
After a Mychal Rivera touchdown tied the game at 24-24 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Ken Norton, Jr.'s group put together arguably their best stretch of football this season, finishing the game by forcing three consecutive three-and-outs by Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay offense.
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"Like I said from the beginning, I think we have the potential to be one of the best defenses in the league," Joseph said. "You can tell we've been improving every week. Once the game was on the line, we knew that, and we knew we couldn't allow them to score. Everybody was locked in on their job. That's what it came down to, everybody just doing their job."
After an admittedly less-than-stellar start to the regular season, Joseph and the defense have seemed to turn the corner over the past few weeks, and No. 42 thinks that the reason for that improvement is simple, the group is growing more comfortable playing with each other.
"I think it's a lot of new guys playing together, so we had to get kind of acclimated to each other, and get used to playing with each other," Joseph explained. "I know me, myself, I had to get growing and getting better every week. I think I've gotten better every week I've played, and I think we're getting better as a defense every week. We just have to continue to grow, and everybody just continue to do their job, and I think we're going to be pretty good."
Now at the halfway point of the regular season, the Raiders own a 6-2 record as they head into a highly-anticipated Sunday night matchup against the Denver Broncos, and as pleased as the group is to be tied atop the AFC West, Joseph quipped that, "7-2 sounds even better."
"I don't like losing," Joseph added. "So my goal coming in here was to make the playoffs, and make a run for the championship."