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Three Key Plays: A look back at the Raiders' most impactful plays of the 2023 season

It's not easy picking just three plays to define a season.

The Las Vegas Raiders experienced some highs and some clutch wins throughout the 2023 season. A couple of top moments for the Silver and Black included scoring a franchise record 63 points at home against the Los Angeles Chargers and defeating the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road the following week.

Among the clutch wins over the course of the season came some unbelievable plays to define them. These following three plays are broken down by the most significant offensive, defensive and special teams moment of the season. And I must stress, this is subjective.


Week 16 at Kansas City Chiefs | Zamir White 43-yard rush

Fourth quarter, 2:35

LV 2nd-and-4 at the LV 31

Without a doubt, Week 16 was a coming out party for Zamir White.

The Raiders held a firm lead over the Kansas City Chiefs going into the second half. This was in part to two second-quarter defensive touchdowns within seven seconds. While the defense was cooking all game against the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, the offense was having trouble clicking. The Raiders had only added three more points to the board in the second half, and quarterback Aidan O'Connell hadn't completed a pass since the first quarter.

White, starting in his second NFL game for an injured Josh Jacobs, took matters into his own hands. He finished the game with a career-high 145 rushing yards, with the offensive play of the game coming late in the fourth quarter to preserve the 20-14 win. He found an open hole on the right side between Jermaine Eluemunor and Austin Hooper, rushing for a first down and some change following a broken tackle on linebacker Willie Gay.

The rush wasn't only a great play from the running back, but from the Raiders offensive line as well – which was named a top 10 unit in the league by Pro Football Focus.

What makes this play so significant is it being the proverbial slamming of the door on the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. This victory was the Silver and Black's first over the AFC West powerhouse since Week 5 of the 2020 season.


Week 15 vs. Los Angeles Chargers | Jack Jones interception returned 16 yards for touchdown

Fourth quarter, 14:31

LAC 2nd-and-13 at the LAC 22

Watching this play live, it felt like the whole game stopped as Jack Jones was in mid air.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham dialed up this play specifically for Jones, knowing the Chargers would line up in a four-by-one formation. As anticipated, Chargers quarterback Easton Stick threw a screen to Austin Ekeler. The Raiders cornerback perfectly timed up the pass for an interception to the house.

Not only was the instinctual nature of Jones impressive, but the way he made the interception was an instant highlight. He caught the ball with one hand, contorting his body in the way of an acrobat. He originally believed he had overrun the route and reached his arm back to gain possession.

"[H]e's an instinctual football player and we try to encourage that as much as possible," Graham said. "Now, the one-handed catch that looked like the Michael Jordan kiss the rim [dunk]? That's what I saw. When I kept rewinding it, it made me think of how he caught it. It was like MJ on the kiss the rim dunk."

Jones had another pick-six the following week against the Chiefs that also could've easily landed at my top spot. However, I chose to recognize this one due to it being the touchdown that broke the Raiders' franchise record for most points scored in a game.

Special Teams

Week 6 vs. New England Patriots | AJ Cole 46-yard punt to the NE 9

Fourth quarter, 2:31

LV 4th-and-3 at the LV 45

While AJ Cole broke the franchise record for longest punt this season, it was overshadowed by a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Therefore, I chose a specific punt from the Pro Bowler that directly led to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots.

What was a 13-3 lead going into halftime became a back and forth affair in the second half. The Raiders offense was getting stalled in the the red zone, settling for two field goals. As for the Patriots offense, two rushing touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliot and Rhamondre Stevenson cut the Raiders' lead to two points. Coming up short on a late-game drive, the Silver and Black put their trust in the defense to get one last stop.

This was Cole's second punt of the day, the first going for 57 yards in the second quarter. With the game on the line, Cole's boot rang out a crafty punt from the Raiders 45 to push the Patriots offense to behind the 10-yard line. After a couple penalties pushed New England even further back against the goal line, Maxx Crosby and Bilal Nichols sealed the deal with a safety on Mac Jones to win the game.

Of Cole's punts in 2023, 45.3 percent landed inside the 20-yard line. It was also his first year since his rookie season that he's had over 30 punts downed inside the 20.

Preview the Raiders' 2024 home and away opponents with a look back at past matchups.

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