INDIANAPOLIS — Jon Gruden has won 101 regular-season games in his coaching career. He has five playoff victories and a Super Bowl ring. And while Sunday’s 31-24 victory at the Indianapolis Colts was seemingly just a Week 4 notch in the win column, it was more than that to Gruden.
“I’m as proud of this win,” Gruden said, “as any one I’ve ever had before.”
Sure, the Oakland Raiders‘ first 10 a.m. PT kickoff win since the 2017 season opener at Tennessee gave them a much-needed confidence boost after back-to-back deflating losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings. And it did even the Raiders’ record at 2-2. Gruden is known to indulge in some hyperbole — yet this needs clarification, no?
“Well, I think it’s a tough schedule that we have, honestly,” Gruden added, referencing the Raiders playing at Oakland in their first two games, then not again until Nov. 3.
“There are a lot of difficult things that we’ve gone through. You show up here today and the guy you’re counting on to be the Z position [J.J. Nelson] doesn’t play. Your middle linebacker [Vontaze Burfict] gets thrown out … your right guard [Jordan Devey] goes out, your right tackle [Trent Brown] goes out. There are a lot of reasons to fold your tent. There are a lot of reasons to start making excuses, but our guys were really resilient and tough mentally, and those are components that I think that are going to serve us well as we continue to build our team. I’m really proud of these guys.”
But none of it would have been made possible without a quick start by the offense — quarterback Derek Carr in particular — an opportunistic defense late thanks to safety Erik Harris‘ 30-yard pick-six, and a rookie closer in running back Josh Jacobs.
Because even after the Raiders took that two-score lead on Harris’ interception of Jacoby Brissett, the Colts made it nervous time for Oakland with a late touchdown.
“If you look back at it, [the Colts] got three timeouts and we need a first down,” Carr said. “You don’t want to give them the ball back. So they knew we were running and our offensive line was still able to move people.”
And Jacobs, who was playing in his fourth NFL game while Gruden was coaching in his 205th (including playoffs), played the role of closer for the Raiders.
“A lot of pride,” said Jacobs, whose 307 rushing yards are the most by a Raiders rookie running back through the first four games of a season in franchise history. “To be relied on to close a game, I mean, it was a close game at the end so it was just definitely huge for us.”
With 66 seconds to play, the Colts still having those three timeouts and the Raiders at their own 19-yard line, Carr handed off to Jacobs. He went off right tackle for a 7-yard pickup.
The Colts called a timeout with 61 seconds left.
Jacobs then went right for 5 yards and the first down.
Asked about the pace of the NFL, the closer shrugged.
“It’s not what everybody told me it was going to be, just to be honest,” Jacobs said. “Since camp, I feel like I got the pace of the game. And I know there’s levels — the playoffs come and things like that, it speeds up.
“But right now, it’s smooth.”
Yeah, something to be proud of, for both coach and players.