ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Having given up an average of 517.5 yards to the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons in Weeks 1 and 2, the Oakland Raiders had limited the Tennessee Titans to a relatively “mere” 325 yards of offense before their final drive.
Bounce-back effort? You could say that.
Also, sitting back and almost daring Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to beat them from the pocket certainly played a part. The Raiders only blitzed Mariota seven times, and he was just 1-for-7 for 1 yard against the blitz, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
So with more of a pocket passer in the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco up next, might the Raiders employ more of the same -- even if Flacco is coming off a performance in which he completed 21 straight passes against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
“Flacco’s a guy that’s very accurate,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. "Steve Smith, you know he always has a chip on his shoulder, still does all the things he’s always been able to do -- catch and run, playing with a lot of attitude.
“The team is winning. They’re winning a certain way and they’re going to be a really strong challenge for us.”
Especially if All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack remains shut out of the sack game. True, he does other things to distract the quarterback, but as a team, the Raiders only have three sacks through three games.
Again, might this be the week for Mack & Co. to break out?
"Those guys are game-changers," Flacco said. “You play against good outside rushers, they can get their hands on the ball, they can do a lot of things to disrupt games. It is a big deal keeping him in check and doing our job against him."
The Raiders are coming off a performance in which the 10 points allowed were their fewest since Week 2 of the 2013 season, a 19-9 victory over the Jaguars. Oakland, which has won four of its last five road games, has not allowed 10 points or fewer in back-to-back games since 1998.
And Oakland’s defense improved from allowing an average of 404 passing yards in the first two games to 212 last week, from a third-down conversion rate of 42.9 to 16.7, and an opponent Total QBR from 91.3 to 3.6.
As Norton said, it was about communication, not necessarily sitting back and reacting rather than blitzing with aplomb. Besides, the Raiders had two new rookie starters in Tennessee in first-round pick Karl Joseph at strong safety and sixth-round pick Cory James at middle linebacker.
"When you get everybody on the same page," Norton said, "you get performances like that."