NFL

NFL in London: Jacobs and Raiders silence 'Return of the Mack'

By Sports Desk October 06, 2019

There was supposed to be a deafening rendition of 'Return of the Mack' in London on Sunday, but Josh Jacobs and the Oakland Raiders' offensive line found the mute button.

All the build-up to the first NFL game at Tottenham between Oakland and the Chicago Bears centred around star pass rusher Khalil Mack - who was shipped to the Windy City just over a year ago - and his reunion with the franchise that let him go rather than paying him the $141million he received across six years from his current team.

Great pass rushers are, according to Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, "hard to find" and yet he had Mack, the man who came into this contest as analytics website PFF's top-ranked edge rusher in 2019. Since he was acquired, the Chicago defense had led the league in takeaways and sacks and conceded the fewest points.

Gruden had done his best to ignore 'Return of the Mack' all week, telling reporters he had no desire to discuss it, but his game-planning showed it was lodged firmly in his head, like that annoying song on the radio that lingers throughout the day.

Mack was double-teamed constantly, running plays were directed away from him and quarterback Derek Carr got the ball out quickly or rolled to the opposite side of the field to negate his threat.

By half-time, the Raiders were 17-0 up and threatening a beatdown having accumulated 208 yards of offense on a much-vaunted defense.

No one could hear 'Return of the Mack'. Instead it was running back Jacobs, the man selected with one of the picks Oakland acquired in the Mack trade, who was making all the noise having scored the first touchdown.

Then came the key change from Oakland's second offensive play of the second half. Carr's toss to Jacobs failed to find its intended target and a mad scramble for the ball ensued. Who came up with it? Khalil Mack. You knew that he'd be back.

The man who had been compared to NBA superstar LeBron James by team-mate Prince Amukamara for his ability to raise the game of those around him had provided a spark.

Suddenly the Bears were alive - Allen Robinson caught two touchdown passes and made another obscene catch, Tarik Cohen took a punt return 71 yards and Sherrick McManis forced a turnover by punching the ball out on the goalline. With less than eight minutes to go, Chicago were 21-17 ahead.

However, the most important series of the night was still to come. A 13-play, 97-yard drive dominated by who else but Jacobs, who reached out to score what proved to be the winning score in a 24-21 success.

Mack finished with three tackles, one quarterback hit, one fumble recovery and no sacks. Jacobs, meanwhile, had 26 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

It was music to the ears of Gruden.

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