Can you believe we are officially halfway through the season already? Even better, can you believe the Raiders are currently sitting at 6-2 and atop the AFC West? They tried to give away this latest game with their constant penalties but even a record setting day of sloppiness wasn't enough to cause their doom.
The penalties were absolutely absurd though. They were so bad that calling it "pulling your hair out frustrating" is actually an understatement. Time and time again the Raiders had a big play, only to follow it up with an idiotic penalty. Big gain from Jamize Olawale down to the 3? Delay of game. Big play from Crabtree in OT down to the Tampa 23? Personal foul and false start. The fact the Raiders still won the game despite the sloppiness is one of the strangest, most wonderful plot twists in a football game I can ever remember.
Now Jack Del Rio and the coaching staff actually have to fix this moving forward and not just say "It's unacceptable". We have seen the affects of a coaching staff talking about fixing things but not actually doing anything about it during the Dennis Allen era and it was ugly. This is a new team and Jack Del Rio has been awesome for the Raiders, now is the time to show his true worth and actually fix this issue and not let it stick around hobbling Oakland the rest of the season.
It is pretty crazy to think of how badly they would have beat up Tampa Bay had they not had all of the penalties. They outgained them 626 yards to 270, an astounding 356 yard difference. Heck, they gave up 200 penalty yards on their record setting 23 penalties on the day which was only 70 less than the actual yards they gave up to Tampa's offense.
This was one of the most frustrating wins ever because of those penalties, but it also was extremely fun to watch Derek Carr obliterate the Bucs with a new franchise record of 513 yards passing with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. His one blemish on the day was his fumble but that was from a hit that he had no idea was coming.
It wasn't just a franchise record though, it also was tied for the 9th most yards passing in NFL history with Phil Simms. In just his 3rd year starting Derek Carr is already an MVP candidate that has a top 10 passing game in NFL history! There is no longer any doubt that he is the franchise QB we hoped he would be, and in fact he is starting to become even better than we could have even hoped he'd be.
Even if you didn't get to watch this incredible performance you'd be able to tell how impressive it was just by looking at the boxscore. He completed passes to 10 different targets and 8 of them had 2 or more receptions. Half of his completions went to either Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper though, they are the best receiver duo in the NFL without question.
Amari Cooper especially had a great day with 12 receptions for 173 yards, and that's even despite dropping what would have been a 50+ yard game winning reception late in the 4th quarter. The guy was unstoppable, and it honestly feels like he is just getting started for the season right now.
Michael Crabtree's best play of the day was a 45 yard catch and run that should have set up an easy field goal on the Raiders first drive of overtime. That play deserved to be part of a game clinching drive but penalties forced a longer field goal attempt anyway and Janikowski missed the 52 yard field goal. The way Crabtree snagged the pass that was over his head and behind him yet still kept his feet and took off was incredible. That would have been my favorite play of the game if Janikowski hits the field goal.
Instead, favorite play easily has to go to Seth Roberts' game winner on 4th down. It was another play where Jack Del Rio showed guts in going for it on 4th and 3 with less than 2 minutes left in overtime and Roberts keeping his feet on the whiffed tackle by 2 defenders was a thing of glory. After watching the Raiders battle so hard while shooting themselves with penalties time and time again it felt like a dream to see Seth Roberts take off on the 41 yard game winning touchdown.
Another amazing young player who feels like he is just getting started on what he is going to do the rest of this season is Khalil Mack. Mack had started off slow but now has 4 sacks in his last 3 games after getting to Jameis Winston twice in this win. It really seems like he is finally breaking through having to deal with the opponents spending so much time gameplanning against him, hopefully he can keep this momentum going the rest of the season.
The defense in general in this game was very good, outside of the penalties of course. They didn't have more sacks because Winston was very elusive but they were getting pressure all day long and the secondary was hitting hard. If this is the defense that shows up the rest of the way, sans the penalties, then the Raiders will be a contender after all.
Last but not least, an extra special kudos to Donald Penn for getting his revenge against the team that should have never cut him. Penn was a pro bowl player for Tampa but one bad year cost him his job there. In his first game back he not only got the win, he also caught a touchdown against his former team as the cherry on top for him. That had to feel great, no doubt about it.
The next game is the biggest of the season because it's against the Denver Broncos and it's in Oakland. The Raiders are 1-2 at home this year and 5-0 on the road so it's actually scarier that it's the home game vs. the Broncos coming up first. If the Raiders want to start being looked at as a real contending team, this is the game that can prove it for them.
It's going to be a nationally televised game against the defending champions who also are 6-2 on the season. It's the type of game where legends are made and could catapult the Raiders into being universally considered elite for the 2016 season. Losing to Denver won't break this Raiders team, but winning it could take them to near the top of the power rankings across the board.
Denver is going to come in feeling like they should dominate the Raiders, it's just like the Chiefs game where the rival teams won't show respect unless you make them. Get ready for it, because a Raiders win will have them 7-2 and alone at the top of the AFC West going into their bye week. It really doesn't get much better than that, but they have to win the game first.