After the home loss to the Indianapolis Colts three weeks ago, team captain Duron Harmon noticed something missing from his defensive unit.
In the 25-20 loss, the Silver and Black defense sacked the quarterback one time and allowed 12 points in the final two quarters of the game. Despite the talent on the defensive squad, the veteran safety felt they collectively had been lacking energy.
In a team film session following the loss to the Colts, the Super Bowl champion put his teammates on notice, letting them know that the energy needed to increase. It has seemed to be the spark that has sent into defense into supercharge over the past three weeks.
"At the end of the day, this is a game," Harmon said passionately postgame. "It's a child's game and if you don't come with energy, you're not going to be able to play the way you need to play. We made a commitment to each other three weeks [ago] ... that we were going to play for each other and we were going to play with energy. Not just in games, but we're going to do it in practice. Because the only way you can do it in a game is if you do it in practice.
"People have stepped up to the challenge and I truly believe that's the reason we've been able to win these close games now."
The Raiders are on the winning side of their third straight game, with improvements from defense playing a vital part. In the first nine games of the season, the defense compiled 10 sacks. The past three games they've got to the quarterback 11 times, including sacking Justin Herbert five times in the 27-20 victory Sunday.
It was a Silver and Black breakout game for edge rusher Chandler Jones, who had 108 career sacks to his name coming into this week's game. The four-time Pro Bowler recorded three sacks in the first half against the Chargers.
While Jones enjoys the individual success, he noted his statistics don't matter as much to him in his 11th NFL season. There's only one thing he truly cares about.
"My main focus is winning," Jones said following the game. "The sky is the limit for our defense and our defensive line. When you play this profession, you have to understand that the other team is a professional team too and you'll never have a perfect game. We're going to go watch the film and see what we could have done better, and actually highlight the things we did well and hopefully we can capitalize on it and carry it over into the L.A. Rams."
The Raiders have also come away with three turnovers over the past three weeks, including today where Harmon forced a fumble on Austin Ekeler that was recovered by Nate Hobbs. It was Hobbs' first game back since suffering a hand injury in Week 5. The cornerback led the team in tackles (eight) in his return.
"We got off to a rough start ... but the NFL is not determined by the first six, seven games [but] it's when it matters," Hobbs said of the season as a whole. "We've got cohesiveness and we play together. We know each other's strengths, and we know where we got to help each other out."
View photos from the Raiders' Week 13 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium.