Chandler Jones has Raiders coming out party, sets tone for comeback win

LAS VEGAS -- Chandler Jones entered Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers seen as one of, if not the biggest, free-agent signing busts in the NFL this season.

A three-year, $51 million contract for half a sack through 11 games by one of the past decade's preeminent sack artists? No, the Las Vegas Raiders were not getting much on their investment, even if teammates, coaches and Jones himself insisted he was contributing ... just not necessarily on the stat sheet.

He was a gamechanger against the Chargers, though. Three sacks in the first half kept the game manageable as the Raiders fell behind 10-0, only to rally for the 27-20 victory, Las Vegas' third straight win to improve its record to 5-7 heading into Thursday night's game at the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams (3-9).

A personal sigh of relief for Jones to take down Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert three times? Hardly, he said.

"I think it's motivation," Jones said. "It puts a battery in my back, it makes me want to keep going, makes me want to do more, and do more for our team."

Jones, 32, is in his 11th NFL season and his 107.5 sacks since entering the league in 2012 were the most by any player over that time frame. And while he had five sacks in the 2021 season opener for the Arizona Cardinals, Jones had just six sacks in his last 27 games.

Until Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

"We're in a day and age now where numbers are what people compare as good players or bad players, fantasy points, good or bad," said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who went 16-of-30 passing for 250 yards and two touchdown passes with a pick-six.

"The way he's played the run this year, the way he's set the edge, it's been unbelievable. There's a lot more than just a stat, a touchdown or a sack. He's played really good football. Obviously, as a pass-rusher, you want sacks. You want to get the ball out [but] it's not like he's been playing bad football ... so to see that break free for him today was really cool."

Indeed, Jones' dominance on defense was as breathtaking as the shows put on by running back Josh Jacobs, who rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown, and receiver Davante Adams, who caught eight passes for 177 yards and two scores.

Then again, without Jones' first-half tour de force, perhaps the Raiders' offense would not have been in a position to excel later.

"Early in my career, I was all about accolades," Jones said. "Not saying that I don't care about it now, but my main focus is winning, opposed to the statistics ... if I had zero sacks for the season and we went and won, that would be huge for me."

So was there a learning moment?

"What I did learn is when you chase it, that's when it goes worse," he said. "You sit back and let them come to you, everything will be fine ... they come in bunches -- sacks, tackles for loss, just pure dominance over position groups, like you saw today. You've just got to be patient."

Especially against a rookie left tackle in the Chargers' Jamaree Salyer, a sixth-round pick out of Georgia.

As such, Jones, who now has five games in his career with at least three sacks, became just the ninth player since 1999 to reach 500-plus career tackles (502), 100-plus sacks (111) and 120-plus tackles for loss (121).

In last week's overtime win at the Seattle Seahawks, Jones was credited with eight QB pressures. This after having six in his previous five games combined and 13 all season up to that point.

"I've been having fun all season," Jones said. "It's just that quarterbacks are starting to fall now. So, hopefully, we can make that a week-by-week thing, where pressures and QB hits turn into sacks."

"When you walk off the field with three sacks, and could have had five ..."

Jones' voice trailed off, but not his intentions.