Karl Joseph, Raiders' defense make plays when it matters to beat Lions


OAKLAND -- It's been prodded, poked, mocked, ripped, torn down and set on fire. The Raiders' defense has had a few nice moments this season, but by-in-large, they have been what most people expected: subpar. 

They were torched by the Chiefs, run over by the Vikings, diced up Aaron Rodgers and unable to bring down Deshaun Watson. They haven't been able to consistently pressure the quarterback or force turnovers, and the secondary, while talented individually, has given up too many big plays to name. 

But every dog has its day. 

As the 3-4 Raiders came home Sunday after a long road trip, they desperately needed a win against the Lions to keep themselves in the playoff picture in the mediocre AFC. Detroit came into the game having been content with pounding the rock, but with a backfield consisting of journeymen, they elected to open up the playbook and let Matthew Stafford pick the Raiders apart. 

The Lions moved down the field at will on the opening drive, but Stafford and running back J.D. McKissic botched the handoff and the Maurice Hurst pounced on it. 

Stafford led touchdown drives on the next two possessions and was threatening to put the Lions up 21-10 midway through the second quarter when the Raiders defense once again came up with a big play.

Stafford dropped back to pass from the Raiders' 20-yard line and lofted a pass toward the end zone intended for Kenny Golladay. But the receiver was blanketed by cornerback Daryl Worley, who lept with Golladay and made a sensational one-handed interception to change the momentum of the game. 

The Raiders and Lions went back-and-forth throughout the second half. The Raiders held a 31-24 lead with under a minute to play when Stafford drove the Lions down to the 1-yard line with under 20 seconds to play. On fourth-and-goal with the season possibly on the line, two of the Raiders' most criticized players made a stand. 

Rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell burst into the backfield and forced Stafford to rush his throw to Logan Thomas in the end zone. Thomas went up for the ball but safety Karl Joseph went with him and knocked the ball away, securing a 31-24 win for the Raiders. 

"We knew it was going to come down to us," Joseph said after the game. "Matthew Stafford is a great quarterback. We knew he was going to make plays for his team. So we just had to bend but don't break. We knew our offense needed us and we had to make a big play and we came up when it counted." 

All told, the Lions still racked up 406 yards through the air. Stafford, Golladay and Marvin Jones picked up chunks of yards at a time. It was by no means pretty. But when the moment came, the Raiders defense did what so many doubted they could do. 

"It's big," Joseph said of his unit's ability to make the plays needed to win. "I think this was a big game, big win for us. Now we sitting at 4-4. Got another big game coming up this Thursday. Any time you can get a win against a team like that man, it builds confidence. I'm excited about that."

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With the Lions needing 1 yard to tie the game and send it to overtime, they went to a multiple tight end package in order to get the Raiders thinking run was coming. Joseph had that in his mind, but was ready for what came next. 

"It's a normal play we practice every week," Joseph said. "We practice that almost every single week. Every offense has that play. I was telling myself stay disciplined, have good eyes. I was thinking run but I was thinking I have to stay disciplined. He came out and I just did my job and went up and made a play on the ball."

At 4-4, the Raiders are right back in the playoff conversation with a Week 10 battle with the Chargers on Thursday coming up. If the defense can continue to make strides, this Raiders team might just be able to head back to the playoffs. 

"That's our goal, playoffs," Joseph said. "Nothing less. Playoffs, Super Bowl and I think we can compete and play against anybody in this league and we've shown that these past couple weeks. We just got to learn how to finish the game in those big games that count. We got a tough AFC matchup coming up Thursday so we gotta get this one."

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