Written for Salute Magazine; original here
It could’ve been a different game last Sunday had the Oakland Raiders not given up two touchdowns to the Baltimore Ravens in the first four minutes of action. They fought admirably to make the rest of the game competitive but couldn’t finish off the comeback, falling to the Ravens 30-17.
Even in defeat, there are still positive aspects to take away from the game, and that’s what we’re going to do here today. It’s the week 5 iteration of the Raiders Standout Performances series.
5. Khalil Mack, DE/OLB
WHAT?!?! Mack didn’t get the top spot for the third straight week?!?! Say it ain’t so!
Mack got limited for most of the day by former Raider right tackle Austin Howard, who did a great job of slowing the reigning defensive player of the year down. Mack was able to make an impact against the run, finishing with 8 total tackles. However, he got blanked in pass rush. There will be better weeks for Mack, though it’s telling that a down performance for him was relatively decent.
4. Marquel Lee, MLB
The Raiders have consciously kept the fifth-round rookie on a smaller snap count thus far, pretty much assigning him to run downs. However, they let him off the leash in this one, and Lee’s performance could’ve been even better had an ankle injury not sidelined him on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Lee had 7 tackles before then, the majority of them against the run. He also looked a lot better in pass coverage than previous weeks. The Raiders run defense was visibly weaker after Lee left the game, which contributed to their ultimate defeat.
3. EJ Manuel, QB
Props have to be given to Manuel for keeping the Raiders in the game for as long as he did. 159 yards on 13 for 26 passing looks average on paper, but Manuel suffered a couple of drops at the hands of his receivers, had to throw the ball away a few times and had two passes swatted by Willie Henry.
Manuel kept some plays alive with his feet and showed much better strength with his passes than last week. He’s still limited as a full-time starter, but the Raiders don’t have to feel as much nervousness if Derek Carr ever gets hurt again.
2. Karl Joseph, S
Joseph ranks as one of the league’s best safeties at the moment, and it was easier to tell in this game. He led the team with 9 total tackles, with some stops coming against the run and some on clean-up from coverage lapses. Joseph also had a clutch pass breakup that held the Ravens to a field goal in the second quarter. It’s been great to see him take such a large leap in his second season.
1. Michael Crabtree, WR
Oh, how we missed you, Crab. He had to skip last week’s game with a chest injury, leaving a large hole in the passing game. With Amari Cooper in the middle of a downward spiral, the Raiders needed a jolt to their air attack. Crabtree provided that, and more.
He led the team with 82 yards and 6 catches, with 41 of those coming on a beautiful strike from Manuel. Crabtree wasn’t on the field as much as he’s accustomed to, on account of complications from the injury. However, he was a big reason why the Raiders were able to keep things close for a while. Hopefully, he’ll be fully healthy next week.