It took more than a half season for the Las Vegas Raiders to find their stride, with the Thursday primetime stage ahead to give their revival a little limelight.
Following an impressive 27-20 home victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, the Raiders head into the short week on a three-game winning streak. They'll hit the road to face the Los Angeles Rams, who are expected to have a new quarterback under center after claiming Baker Mayfield off waivers from the Carolina Panthers.
When the season started, the Raiders (5-7) were all about quarterback Derek Carr and his reunion with wide receiver Davante Adams, his former Fresno State teammate. But that connection took some time to rekindle itself.
When the Raiders have delivered success, it's been when running back Josh Jacobs has been able to shine. Jacobs had 144 yards rushing against the Chargers, with the Raiders now 5-1 when he gains 100 yards or more.
With 1,303 rushing yards, Jacobs is 457 yards away from breaking Marcus Allen's franchise record set in the 1985 season. He has 10 rushing TDs, five away from surpassing Pete Banaszak's franchise record set in 1975.
"I think (the offensive line) believes in me like I believe in them," said Jacobs, who is on this week's injury report with a quad contusion but is expected to play. "I encourage them guys all the time. I'm their biggest advocate. Even when they do bad, I tell them I believe in them. You can tell they lay it out on the line for me and that's a great feeling to have."
Carr and Adams showed just how much they are on the same page now with a pair of long TD passes that were key against the Chargers. The first was a 31-yard strike to give the Raiders a 17-13 lead early in the second half, before a 45-yard flea-flicker later in the third quarter for a 24-13 advantage.
Carr is 20 passing yards away from reaching 3,000 for the ninth time in nine seasons. Only Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson have accomplished that feat. Adams is 36 receptions away from becoming the first player in NFL history with 115 receptions in three consecutive seasons.
"We're definitely playing a better brand of football right now," Adams said. "(It's) complementary. When the offense isn't doing great, the defense goes out there to do their job and they hold teams to no scoring or stopping (opponents) in critical moments."
The last time the Rams (3-9) played complementary football was in the Super Bowl in February. Chances of a repeat title were doomed early, first by poor play, then by injuries that have devastated the roster.
Initially, it was the Los Angeles offensive line that was banged up. Now the Rams are without the top three players that led last year's title charge: quarterback Matthew Stafford (neck), wide receiver Cooper Kupp (ankle) and defensive tackle Aaron Donald (ankle). None of the three are expected to play Thursday.
That led to Mayfield being claimed Thursday. The 27-year-old started six of the seven games he played in for Carolina after a trade last July, completing 57.8 percent of his passes for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns against six interceptions. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Browns is 30-35 as a starting QB.
The Rams are on a six-game losing streak and their last victory was so long ago, Christian McCaffrey was still a member of the Panthers when Los Angeles defeated Carolina in October.
"I've heard it said before, 'Calm seas don't make good sailors,'" Rams head coach Sean McVay said, trying to be as optimistic as possible moving forward. "And know this: We're growing. I'm not going to allow this to be anything but a growth opportunity. You're going to continue to see us compete to the best of our ability, regardless of the circumstances."
--Field Level Media