Most teams have their punter ready to come onto the field on third down in case the offense cannot move the chains. For the Oakland Raiders that notion has only applied to the opposing team's punter and not their own.
On offense, Oakland leads the NFL in converting third downs into first downs at 59.3% (19-of-32). The Raiders are fifth defensively at 23.8% (5-of-21). The NFL average is 37.4%.
Granted, early in the season figures tend to be either inflated or deflated but third down success has also gone hand-in-hand with Oakland's ability to clock the clock in its first two impressive victories, 31-17 over Seattle at home and 30-17 over Pittsburgh on the road. Defensively, the Raiders are getting the ball back into the offense's hands by stopping their foes on third down.
Offensively, is converting them – and not just the shortage situations. The Raiders are 6-of-15 with two touchdowns in situations of third-and-eight or more. Three of those missed conversions against Pittsburgh came when the game was already out of reach when the priority was simply to hang on to the football.
The Raiders won the time of possession battle in both contests. Oakland had the ball for 34:51 against Seattle and 39:34 against Pittsburgh. Even more impressive, Oakland did it in two different ways. The Raiders tallied 221 rushing yards against Seattle and quarterback Rich Gannon threw for 403 yards against Pittsburgh.So much for time of possession being a meaningless stat. Through the first two weeks of the 2002 NFL season, teams that win the time of possession battle are 20-7 and those who accumulate 35 or more minutes are 8-2.