Last week, it seemed by all indications that the key for the Oakland Raiders was to run the ball and use their physical advantages to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s how the Pittsburgh Steelers went about handing KC their first loss of the season, plus the Raiders passing game had been dismal this season leading up to that game.
The most reliable target for quarterback Derek Carr has been Michael Crabtree. But it is built around the combination of Carr and No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper. The Raiders’ four-game losing streak was due to that combination coming up missing in all four games.
Carr missed one of those games and the three in which he played, he passed for a pedestrian 144 yards per game. He also threw three touchdowns to four interceptions and had a passer rating of 69.2. Cooper was downright dismal averaging 2 catches for 13 yards per game with no TD’s.
Carr hadn’t beaten or played well against the Chiefs since his rookie year in 2014. In the ensuing two years, Carr has averaged just 205 passing yards against them. He’s thrown 4 TD passes, 5 INT’s with a passer rating of 67.8.
With those numbers there was no reason to believe Carr would hurt the Chiefs in the biggest game of the season. But he did, throwing for 417 yards, three TD’s, no INT’s for a passer rating of 101.2. And 210 of those yards and two of his TD’s went to Cooper, who caught 11 passes on the day.
In 2014, when the Raiders drafted Carr, they went 3-13 and ended up with the fourth pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. With that pick, the Raiders took Cooper and the two have resurrected a longtime losing franchise.
Together they went 7-9 in their first year and 12-4 in their second year in 2016. And in Week 7 at 2-4 this year, they have saved the season so far with their performances against the Chiefs, upping them to 3-4.
So, forget all that stuff about Marshawn Lynch and the Raiders using their physicality. This offense is all about Carr and Cooper (aka AC/DC) and stretching the field. When they’re clicking, all the Raiders need is one stop in the clutch from Khalil Mack, now Navorro Bowman and company.