No one saw this coming. Anyone who tells you different is lying. You may have predicted the Raiders would salvage their season tonight or you may have just hoped so hard you felt like you had convinced yourself. But the way this game played out and how it ended was nothing short of miraculous.
Just ask the Raiders players.
Even with all the late game heroics and come-from-behind wins last season, Derek Carr said this was without question the wildest game of his career; “Not even close, yes. Absolutely. I can’t even say it better. Yes.”
There were 8 lead changes in this game, culminating in the Raiders taking five shots at the end zone to get the game-winning score. There were a lot of crazy things that happened in this game, but just those five final shots were enough to send you into cardiac arrest.
A pass to Jared Cook from 29 yards out was initially called a TD and then ruled just short of the end zone. A one-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree was wiped out because he pushed off. A shot to for Amari Cooper from 11 yards away had the Chiefs called for pass interference, putting the ball back at the one. A defensive holding penalty on a high pass for Jared Cook as time expired offered another play with no time on the clock. Another defensive holding penalty on an incomplete pass to Cordarrelle Patterson gave the Raiders yet another shot with no time on the clock. And finally Carr found Crabtree at the pylon on a comeback route for the game winner.
It would never have even come to that crazy ending had the Raiders not been playing out of their minds in the game before that. They had no choice. Their season depended on it.
They came in on a 4-game losing streak, sitting at 2-4, staring at the possibility of going 0-3 in the division to start the season and falling 3 games below .500 with no prospect of where their next win would come.
That’s where they were after last Sunday’s heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was the game they were expected to win. Not this one. But they did win this one. In doing so they played at a level we had nearly forgotten they were capable of playing.
“Yeah, 2-5 did not sound good,” said Carr. “That made our stomach hurt. We wanted to come out here and get a big win. This is a big win. For our team, especially with the adversity we’ve gone through, obviously we’ve seen today, everybody saw that we can throw the ball downfield and those kind of things when the opportunities are there. That was something that if we had the opportunities, we wanted to take them.”
Derek Carr torched an outstanding Chiefs secondary, throwing for 417 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was the second highest passing output of his career, and his most passing in a regulation game. His 3 touchdowns matches his output in three games during the team’s 4-game losing streak combined.
His favorite receiver was Amari Cooper who came in with just 146 yards receiving and was leading the NFL in drops (7). And he set a career high with 210 yards receiving on 11 catches with 2 touchdowns which matches a career high. It justifies the faith his coaches and teammates have been saying they had in him even through his rough first six games.
“Just be you,” was the advice Michael Crabtree had for Cooper. “It’s just about everything coming together. Coop a fighter, man. Coop got skills so I don’t worry about Coop and I’m sure he don’t worry about me. That’s why we are so good together.”
Even Jared Cook showed up with 6 catches for 107 yards.
“It’s about resiliency,” said Cook. “No matter if your back is against the wall, no matter how bad you get down you have to keep fighting. That speaks volumes about this team that we were able to keep fighting through tough situations. That should propel us forward into our future games. We know how this feels.”
The return to form on offense is as important as the win itself. Winning a bananas game isn’t worth much more than the record if it looks like a fluke.
You could say the Raiders got lucky at the end with the penalties if you like. And I’m sure there’s a lot of angry Chiefs fans saying that right now. But you absolutely can’t say they got lucky in how they set themselves up for that end.
It was the Chiefs who got a 64-yard touchdown catch off of a tipped pass that should have been an interception. The Raiders caught no such breaks. They overcame having their starting running back ejected in the second quarter and missing two field goals.
They simply played in a way they had become known for last season. Only this time it was against the one team that had beaten them five straight times.
Derek Carr exorcised his demons. As did Amari Cooper. They got no defensive takeaways or big kick returns to set them up with a short field. Even Marquette King’s best punt of the day was answered by a 3-play, 99-yard touchdown drive by the Chiefs.
No, the Raiders earned this one the hard way. The offensive line held strong, Carr’s back, Coop’s back, Crab’s still Mr clutch, and Cook finally showed himself to be the kind of weapon they hoped he would be when they signed him.
Now they are at a much more favorable 3-4 record, one game below .500 and with their confidence back that they are still capable of being an elite team. The defense still has a ways to go, but that’s for another day. Tonight they saved their season.