Raiders key matchup No. 3: Palmer vs. Suggs

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Raiders key matchup No. 3: Palmer vs. Suggs

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Ravens matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at M&T Bank Stadium.Raiders QB Carson Palmer vs.
Ravens OLB Terrell SuggsTale of the tape
Palmer (3): 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, 10th season, USC
Suggs (20): 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, 10th season, Arizona StateALAMEDA -- The rivalry between Carson Palmer and Terrell Suggs goes back to their college days in the old Pac-10, reached a boiling point in the AFC North and rekindles this weekend."Me and him come from the same draft class, 2003," Suggs said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week. "He also played at USC, I was at Arizona State. So, this guy has kind of tortured me through all my college and professional career. Im very aware of the talent. I know he can make every throw. If you ask me, hes very highly underrated. Hes definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in the league."Palmer went No. 1 overall in 2003, Suggs No. 10 overall to Baltimore.With the Cincinnati Bengals, Palmer went 9-4 against the Ravens, the most wins against Baltimore by any quarterback. He has a career 84.4 QB rating against the Ravens, having thrown for 3,202 yards on 61 percent passing with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions."Hes definitely still the same guy," Suggs said. "Im talking about that from a good standpoint. I dont fear any quarterbacks, but he definitely, Im always worried when I play Carson Palmer."I would say his poise, his decision making (stand out). He can make every throw. He has phenomenal talent. That's why he's the Heisman winner. All that into one."Suggs, meanwhile is returning from a torn Achilles' suffered in an offseason workout in April. He was not expected back until November but was playing on Oct. 21. The reigning NFL defensive player of the year had a sack in his first game back, and the mutual admiration society was in full bloom."I mean, its amazing he is playing," Palmer said of Suggs' return from injury. "I remember when it happened, I remember thinking'That sucks for Terrell, but hell be (playing) by the time we get out in Baltimore.' And sure enough, he was playing two or three weeks ago against Houston. Thats the type of guy he is. Hes an extremely hard worker. Hes going to come back early, and just when you doubt him, he proves people wrong."Suggs is a five-time Pro Bowler."I played against him for 15 years now, a phenomenal football player, phenomenal against the pass and phenomenal against the run," Palmer added. "There arent a lot of guys who are good at both, like he is. I dont know if there is another one, as good as he is, at playing them both."And with the Raiders most likely missing their top two running backs in Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson to high ankle sprains, Oakland's gameplan figures to depend heavily on the passing arm of Palmer.Besides, Baltimore's defense is not as fearsome on paper as it has been in recent years with Ray Lewis lost for the year with a torn right triceps and the Ravens having only the No. 26 overall-ranked defense, No. 22 against the pass and No. 28 against the run."As far as playing against Baltimore, its always an uphill battle," Palmer said. "Their numbers are not statistically where they normally are, and theyve had some injuries, but they are still 6-2, and theyre still very good at home. Their crowd is phenomenal. They make it a hostile environment to come in and try to communicate and play."You have to play great, you cant play okay and win. You have to put together four quarters and put together a complete game, if you want to get out of there with a win. Its difficult to do there."

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

The Buffalo Bills were running right through the Oakland Raiders early in Sunday’s contest, a never-ending assault that took its toll on defenders in silver and black.

That was the case for the most optimistic, steadfast member of that unit.

“We were giving up big plays, and I was frustrated,” star edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “Actually, I was pissed off.”

Bruce Irvin sensed a disturbance in the force. The veteran pass rusher knew how to fix it.  A little pep talk would get Mack going again.

“We feed off each other’s energy. … That dude pulls me up. I was feeling a little down towards the middle of the game, and he was like, ‘Come on. We need you. Come on. Let’s go. He pulled me up and kept pushing.”

That wasn’t the turning point in yet another comeback win. It wasn’t the only reason why defense locked Buffalo down during a run of 29 unanswered points.

It showed how strong a friendship Mack and Irvin have formed since the spring, one that helps get the best out of the other. Bonds formed from insatiable work ethic, one evident even in the offseason program.

“We’re both so hungry to be great that it just brought us together,” Irvin said. “When I got here, we talked right away. Khalil and (quarterback Derek Carr) were the first two guys I sat down with, and I told them I was coming over to play with Khalil, to help turn this thing around and become one of the top units in the league. Khalil and I just bonded quickly, and it was like we had been friends forever. It’s like whole thing was meant to be.”

It has turned out to be a productive pairing. There are 15 sacks, 94 other quarterback pressures and eight forced fumbles between Irvin and Mack this season.

Mack has the bulk of those numbers, especially during a second-half run where he has been outright dominant and jumped into the conversation for defensive player of the year. Mack has been involved in four turnovers the last two games, including game-sealing strip sacks while recovering his own fumble in consecutive weeks.

“You all don’t want to talk to Robin,” Irvin quipped. “Batman’s right over there.”

Irvin has used that line after two home victories in a row. The fifth-year pro is more than Mack’s sidekick. He’s on a roll himself, with sacks in three straight games. He uses speed and agility to create pressure off the strongside edge, dealing with left tackles on a consistent basis.

“I’m in a good groove right now,” Irvin said. “Mentality, physically, I’m in a very good place right now. It’s really showing on the field these past couple weeks.”

Irvin has been a productive defender either making plays on his side or driving traffic back towards Mack. It works both ways, with Mack drawing significant attention that often leaves Irvin in more favorable matchups.

The combination has been impactful, especially on a defense that doesn’t’ get pressure from other sources. They’ve been productive in the clutch as well, with six sacks coming in the fourth quarter. Mack has big plays the last two weeks, and Irvin has a big sack late in a victory over Houston in Mexico City.

The Raiders defense is improving, and having Irvin rushing strong recently helps Mack and the entire Raiders defense.

“He’s always been in a good groove, but there are things going well for this defense,” Mack said. “I’m on the other side, and you have coverage going well. (Opponents) try to do all the chipping and those things that play a factor in doing what we do. The fact that he’s rolling right now is not a surprise.”

Carr, Murray treat Raiders' linemen to Warriors game, witness history

Carr, Murray treat Raiders' linemen to Warriors game, witness history

No NFL regular starting quarterback has been sacked fewer times than Derek Carr. Latavius Murray has 11 touchdowns in as many games, with steady production running between the tackles.

These Raiders aren’t dumb. Carr and Murray know their success comes in large part from the big boys up front.

They acknowledged that with an early holiday gift. Carr and Murray bought five offensive linemen courtside seats to Monday’s game between the Warriors and Indiana Pacers.

Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Menelik Watson, Rodney Hudson and Austin Howard all attended that game and enjoyed watching Klay Thompson put up 60 points in a blowout Warriors win.

Afterward the Raiders had a shootaround on the Oracle Arena floor, without much success. Howard missed a dunk, an effort he says was complicated by wearing slacks and dress shoes. Murray missed a layup. “I was fouled,” he said with a smile. Donald Penn missed a free throw, though “my shoulder hurt.”

Then Carr stepped up and buried a 3-pointer much to the remaining crowd’s delight.

Taking care of offensive linemen is common in these parts. Last year Carr bought his line flatscreen televisions. Amari Cooper gave everyone Beats headphones. Warriors tickets were on the docket this year, in addition to a dinner at Carr’s house last week.

The Raiders were able to have a little fun after Monday’s practice as they prepare for a road game at Kansas City on Thursday night.