The Oakland Raiders suffered a difficult loss in Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the team still has three games remaining. Although the defeat was a difficult one to swallow, the play of Ken Norton Jr.’s defense was a strong takeaway.
The Chiefs’ only points scored came during the second quarter, via two offensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown. Besides that, the Raiders’ defense was able to produce three scoreless quarters and a shutout second half.
Although the defense has been subpar all season, they have continued making improvements with each week. While a team always has something to improve on, Norton Jr.’s group of players has shown a willingness to lockdown an opposing offense.
During a press conference on Thursday, Norton Jr. addressed the play of the defense and how the team still has many facets to improve upon. For the defensive coordinator, sacks are a key statistic that needs to increase moving forward, via Kyle Martin of Raiders.com:
“Well, we do get them off their spot a lot, but like you said, there’s a lot of different stats you can look at. That particular stat, obviously, you want it up. You want as many sacks as possible. Again, there’s lots of things to improve on. There’s things we’re doing really good. Things we certainly need to improve on. Sacks, I think last year we were up in the 38 area, where you end up. The season’s not quite over yet. At the same time, Khalil [Mack] is doing well. Bruce [Irvin] is doing well. I think the sack and the pressure is developing, but obviously it’s not where we want it.”
Through 13 games this season, the Raiders have collected a total of 22 sacks, while only allowing 13. Of those 22 sacks, 16 have come from two players. Those two players are the cornerstones of this defense, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
On the season, Mack has secured 11 sacks, while Irvin has totaled five. While the two players have started a trend in the right direction, the Raiders are still slacking in getting sacks. Entering Week 15, the Raiders are tied for 28th in the NFL with those 22 sacks.
Irvin and Mack have led the way for the defense, attempting to get constant pressure on the quarterback. While Mack has received constant double teams and most of the attention from the opposing line, Irvin has proven his worth on the other end.
While Norton Jr. is impressed with how the Raiders have been able to get pressure on the quarterback, sealing the play with a sack is a key characteristic of a defense that wreaks havoc. Norton Jr. once again alluded to the tandem of Irvin and Mack, stating how they are able to coincide with one another:
“Bruce is a guy that’s very versatile and I put in a lot of spies. We have a lot of quarterbacks who like to move around a lot and run, so he becomes a spy guy while Khalil gets to do the sacking. At the same time, you just have to really let guys do what they do. This week, obviously, this quarterback isn’t the type that’s going to run a lot. So you might see Bruce rush a lot more. At the same time, the guys are all working together. When one gets a sack, they all celebrate. So the group is doing well as Khalil is.”
During the first half of the NFL season, the Raiders were allowing well over 400 yards per game on defense. However, due to the improvements throughout the season, the Raiders now allow 380.7 yards per game (30th in NFL).
The Raiders’ Week 15 matchup at Qualcomm Stadium against the San Diego Chargers is a chance to get back on track. A victory on Sunday would clinch a playoff birth for the Raiders, with the seeding to be determined.