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Thursday, September 29, 2022

‘I Don’t Hardly Know This Guy, but I Gave Him a Big Hug and Game Ball’

In a recent game, the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles threw an interception. The interceptor was tight end Trey Burton. However, in a rare moment of sportsmanship, Burton gave Foles a big hug and a game ball for his performance. What is the significance of this gesture?

Coach Jon Gruden and his Las Vegas Raiders have gone unbeaten after three games, despite playing 14 quarters of football. The Raiders are tied for first place in the AFC West after two overtime thrillers (and a business-like thrashing of the Pittsburgh Steelers). The team is winning these games because of everyone’s efforts. Nobody illustrates this more than one of the game’s MVPs, who Gruden admits he hardly knows since he wasn’t on the team throughout training camp.

The Las Vegas Raiders won another thrilling late game to remain unbeaten.

Peyton Barber of the Las Vegas Raiders scores on a rushing touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter of the game at Allegiant Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Coach Jon Gruden gave Barber a game ball after the win. The Las Vegas Raiders’ Peyton Barber | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders were at it again in Week 3 at Allegiant Stadium, this time against the Miami Dolphins, after nearly winning (then almost giving away) and ultimately winning a dramatic Week 1 game against the Baltimore Ravens.  

In the first quarter, the Raiders outscored the Dolphins by 14 points. Following a failed fourth-down convert by Las Vegas, Miami scored a fast pick-six and a 24-yard touchdown run.

Gruden’s team then went on to score the next 25 points, giving them a comfortable lead heading into the fourth quarter. However, a field goal by the Dolphins brought them within one point. Then, with two seconds remaining, a pass interference penalty in the end zone moved Jacoby Brissett and company down to the 1-yard line, where the quarterback sneaked in for the touchdown. To tie the game, the side converted the next conversion.

The Raiders marched down the field for a game-winning kick by Daniel Carlson after exchanging field goals in overtime. Peyton Barber, the running back, was instrumental in the drive. The club just signed the former undrafted free agent on September 4 to provide depth to the backfield.

Peyton Barber, a recent addition, was complimented by Jon Gruden for his outstanding performance.

So proud of Peyton Barber’s effort tonight for the Raiders in their 31-28 victory against the Dolphins. 142 yards on 26 touches. Not only is he a fantastic golfer, but he’s also a fantastic guy! pic.twitter.com/WTtptWNXdv

September 27, 2021 — Tim Horton (@CoachTimHorton)

At the end of training camp in 2021, Peyton Barber was on the Washington Football Team’s practice squad. The Raiders signed Barber after third-string running back Jalen Richard was placed on injured reserve due to an injury.

The running back didn’t play in Week 1, but an ankle ailment forced him to come off the bench in Week 2. With 13 carries against the Steelers, he led the team in carries but only gained 32 yards.

With Jacobs sidelined again in Week 3, Barber exploded for the Raiders. He rushed for 111 yards and a score on 23 attempts. In overtime, he also broke a 27-yard run to help set up the game-winner. This performance earned him plaudits from his new coach, Jon Gruden, even though the two haven’t met yet:

We had a need to get [Barber’s] hands on the ball towards the conclusion of the game, I believe. He caught a ball out of the backfield, picked up a few blitzes, was useful in coverage, didn’t blow any assignments, and ran hard. And when you meet him, he remains silent. He doesn’t even bother to grin. I’m not sure how he’s feeling right now. I don’t know this man at all, but I gave him a huge embrace and a game ball nonetheless. If you get the opportunity to meet Peyton, you will see that he is a wonderful young man, and today was a watershed moment for him. I’m overjoyed for him.

Peyton Barber, according to Jon Gruden

Barber’s emergence adds even more power to the Raiders’ already formidable attack. When Jacobs returns, this trio, along with Kenyan Drake, will give Las Vegas one of the league’s deepest backfields.

This is great news for the Raiders, who are 3-0 and have a strong chance of making the playoffs. However, this does not guarantee them a playoff berth just yet.

In 2020, the Raiders got out to a good start as well, but they were unable to make the playoffs.

Since the introduction of the current eight-division structure in 2002, 69 of 96 (71.9 percent) clubs with a 3-0 record have advanced to the playoffs. Only one of the 93 clubs who started the season 0-3 reached the playoffs (Houston in 2018)

September 22, 2021 — Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP)

While there is excitement in the Black Hole after the Las Vegas Raiders’ strong start in 2021, it is not yet time to start planning your postseason trip to Sin City.

Teams who start the season 3-0 have a good chance of making the playoffs. Since the formation of the eight-division system in 2002, 71.9 percent of clubs with an unbeaten record after Week 3 have advanced to the playoffs. With a 17-game schedule, this season will be a learning experience. 3-0, on the other hand, offers clubs a strong chance to make the playoffs.

The Raiders, on the other hand, looked strong at the start of the 2020 season, but were unable to clinch the deal and reach the playoffs for the first time under Jon Gruden.

Last season, the club went 2-0 to open the season and went on to a respectable 6-3 record, which included a thrilling Week 5 victory in Kansas City. However, the squad crumbled down the stretch. Gruden’s Raiders ended the season 2-5, three games short of a Wild Card berth, with a.500 record.

Gruden and Derek Carr are in dire need of a postseason berth. This Raiders squad seems to be the vehicle to bring them there after three games. It’s far from certain, and if the club doesn’t find out how to put opponents away early to prevent these heart-stopping endings, the Silver and Black may face another tough second half of the season.

Pro Football Reference provided all stats.

RELATED: Derek Carr Issues a Challenge to His Young Raiders Wide Receivers: ‘It’s Up to You Whether You Want to Make SportsCenter or Not’

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