The NFL had better take notice that there is a new bully on the block as the "Silver & Black" is a team that can now deliver some black and blues. Behind strong rushing performances such as Darren McFadden's 171 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-24 win over the Jets, there is plenty of reason for optimism about the 2-1 Raiders.
Suddenly, the Raiders have the look and feel of a team that can challenge for the AFC West behind a brand of physical football head coach Hue Jackson has termed "Building a bully."
There are concerns for sure — the defense is giving up an unhealthy 27 points per game and they remain the most penalized team in the league — but offensively, the Raiders have their swagger back. They've predicated their rise on the ground game, building on last year's rushing offense which was second best in the league, averaging 155.9 yards per game.
And that ground game is built around McFadden.
"You know, I just hit and run and use my speed to do what I have to do and they made great blocks for me and that is something I wanted to do is just hit every hole running," McFadden said.
The Jets conceded 234 yards on the ground, a record during the Rex Ryan era and a sign that the Raiders brand of physical football works against one of the league's elite defenses.
McFadden hit them with short bursts and long gains, such as following the blocking of his receivers down field for a 70-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to cut the Jets' lead to 17-14. But always, his pads were down as he plowed for gains and, most importantly in the fourth quarter, he kept the clock moving.
"McFadden is always a threat to anybody's defense. He is a great player. He crushed us today," Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "He had a great day. When he is healthy, he always makes great plays. It's just a matter of him being healthy."
Entering his fourth year in the league, McFadden has never played a full season, having twice played 13 games but never putting together that stellar season that his highlights would indicate he's capable of doing. Now on pace after three weeks to top 2,000 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns, the Raiders could be following McFadden's dust for their first winning season since going 11-5 in 2002.
It is the way of the bully, after all.
And they took a big step towards that in Week 3, beating a Jets team that has been to consecutive AFC championship games and is a favorite to be there again this year. A team that very much prides itself on playing physical football got bullied around the field.
"Coach Hue always says that 'We are building a bully,' and it doesn't matter who we are playing against," McFadden said. "And that is what we want to go out there and try to do, is go out there and bully them and we were able to do that today."
Kristian R. Dyer covers the NFL and can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
- Hue Jackson
- Darren McFadden