ALAMEDA — The Raiders were tied for the league lead in sacks through the first two games, in large part because of their penchant for blitzing any player, in any situation, from a variety of angles.
Five of their nine sacks came from blitzing defensive backs. At this rate, the Raiders will need only six games to surpass last season's sack total of 25.
Padding that total won't be easy against the Denver Broncos, who have allowed only three sacks on 88 drop backs this season and are led by a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who welcomes the blitz.
“This is the ultimate,” Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “To be the best, you have to beat the best. This is what you want. This is why you play the game. Monday Night Football against them, doing something nobody thinks you can do? There's nothing better than that.”
Tarver is the architect of a revamped defense that will start 10 players Monday night who weren't on the team last season.
He realizes that the only way to succeed against Manning is to take calculated risks that manifest themselves in the form of well-disguised blitzes and sound pass coverage.
That strategy worked well against the Colts' Andrew Luck and the Jaguars' Chad Henne. Tarver need only watch the tape from last season's game against the Broncos in Oakland to see what Manning's skill at dissecting a defense short-handed downfield.
The Raiders threw a season-high 25 blitzes against Manning and the Broncos in the teams' second meeting, with Manning completing 15 of 18 passes for 177 yards.
“It's hard to fool that guy,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He's seen a lot. He does a great job in preparation. It'll be hard to fool him. It's going to come down to execution. We're going to have to execute our jobs.”
At the same time, Allen said, the Raiders have to do something to “affect” Manning in the pocket, which means some amount of blitzing.