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Once again led by defense, Raiders improve to .500 after primetime win

Las Vegas defensive end Malcolm Koonce sacks New York quarterback Zach Wilson inside Allegiant Stadium. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas’ defense closed the show once again led by a spirited second half effort from the group to remain undefeated under interim head coach Antonio Pierce.

Linebacker Robert Spillane hauled in an interception late in the fourth quarter to help the Raiders seal a 16-12 win over the New York Jets Sunday, Nov. 12 from Allegiant Stadium. It’s just the second time this season that Las Vegas has won back-to-back games.

“I don’t know if I’m going to do this for 30 years," Pierce said. “I don’t know how these guys do it. It’s just fun being around the guys, that’s why I got back into coaching.

“For however long I’m here as a Raider, as head coach, shit, we’re going to have a blast.”

Both wins on this short two-game win streak took place at home as the Raiders improved to 4-1 inside The Death Star while jumping to 5-5 on the year. Next week, the team will travel to Florida to play the Miami Dolphins Sunday, Nov. 19 from Hard Rock Stadium.

After having just one interception through the first four years of his career, Spillane’s game-saving interception Sunday night counted as his third this season, his first with Las Vegas. He also tallied seven tackles which tied for the team-high to go along with a sack, a tackle for loss and a pass deflection.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I poured my heart into this football. To be able to help my team win is a blessing.”

Raiders linebacker Robert Spillane is pictured smiling after snatching his third interception of the season. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Over the last nine quarters, the Las Vegas defense has given up just one touchdown. New York drilled a 45-yard field goal with 11:58 left in regulation to put points on the board for the first time since early in the second quarter.

The bend but don’t break approach of the Raiders defense bled through as the team was able to eke out the win despite losing the turnover battle.

As the offense struggled in the first half, the team faced its first deficit under Pierce. In fact, the six points put up in the first 30 minutes tied for the second-lowest scoring half this season for the franchise.

Rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell had ups-and-downs against one of the NFL’s top defenses on his way to 153 passing yards and an interception on 16-of-27 through the air.

“I think [I grew up] a lot,” he said. “It was a tough game, it was up-and-down. Obviously, we were down and had to come back – even in the second half, [it] was up-and-down.”

Despite the early struggles, Pierce and newly-cemented offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree continued to trust the offense in big moments down-the-stretch including converting on two fourth downs in the second half.

“That’s just believing in your team,” Pierce said. “Our defense was playing really good football, I thought we were controlling the game defensively and I kind of went with my gut.”

Las Vegas tight end Michael Mayer goes up high to reel in a touchdown over the outstretched arms of New York safety Jordan Whitehead. Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

O’Connell engineered the only touchdown-scoring drive of the night that ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Michael Mayer. On the catch, the tight end from Notre Dame went up and high-pointed the football over New York safety Jordan Whitehead.

“He did an awesome job making an awesome play,” O’Connell said. “I kind of just threw it up and let him be a football player and he made a great play. Great protection by the offensive line, I probably held the ball there still a little too long. Just kudos to the guys around me for making plays.”

At that point, Las Vegas had scored 13 straight points after trailing by as many as two field goals in the first half.

Running back Josh Jacobs reached the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time since last December. He finished with 116 yards on 27 carries including a conversion on a third quarter 4th and 1. The other 4th down conversion came on a 15-yard run by receiver DeAndre Carter.

“It’s aggressive,” O’Connell said of the playcalling. “There’s just no fear, you have to play the game in order to win, you don’t just try to keep from losing.”


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