ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Whether you're Peyton Manning awaiting the snap or a fan sitting in the last row of the 500 level at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, your focus could be in the same place when the Raiders line up on defense: knowing where Khalil Mack is at all times.
The rookie linebacker's sack numbers are finally starting to catch up to the pressure he's mounted from Week 1 onward. with four in the last six games.
"Well he's creating a lot of pressure on the quarterback," said Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. "His biggest thing is he's very disruptive and he's popping free a lot more now. Seems like the more games he's played, the more comfortable he's getting and he's really creating a lot of pressure."
He is also ProFootballFocus.com's top-rated run defender ( 48.0).
As with Broncos linebacker Von Miller, the Raiders use him in a stand-up alignment in the base package and often with a hand in the dirt on passing downs.
"He'll be one of the top players in this league," said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. "There's no doubt in my mind, that guy is an absolute monster. He's an absolute beast and there's no doubt in my mind he'll be winning MVP awards in his career."
Mack and defensive end Justin Tuck complement each other well, and Tuck showed in Week 10 against Denver that he still has the athleticism to drop back and make a play, as he did in intercepting Peyton Manning to set up a touchdown.
But the Raiders defense doesn't make explosive, game-turning plays on a consistent basis. Although the unit is in the middle of the pack in yards per game and per play allowed, it ranks 30th at forcing takeaways. A game like the one the Broncos and Raiders played in Week 10, when Oakland intercepted two Peyton Manning passes, is the exception rather than the rule.
In the coming offseason, Oakland will try to procure more young, complementary parts to the defense. But the unit is well on its way back to respectability because it has Mack at its core.
OAKLAND BY THE NUMBERS**
- Yards per game: 351.33, 17th
- Points per game:27.0, 30th
- Yards per play: 5.45, 18th
- Takeaways: 13, 30th
- First-down rate: One every 3.68 plays, 10th
- Third-down conversion rate: 37.86 pct., 12th
- Yards per game: 233.4, 14th
- Yards per pass play: 6.73, 23rd
- Sack rate: One per 24.8 pass plays, 30th
- Interception rate: One per 57.78 pass plays, 25th
- Touchdown rate: One every 18.57 pass plays, 29th
- First-down rate: One per 2.93 pass plays, 25th
- Yards per game: 117.93, 21st
- Yards per rush: 3.96, 10th
- First-down rate: One every 5.20 carries, 9th
- Touchdown rate: One every 31.93 carries, 24th
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