“We think it’s bad,” Jon Gruden said of the Achilles injury to wide receiver Brandon LaFell. A few weeks ago LaFell was active for the first time as a Raider and immediately following the trade of Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, LaFell became Derek Carr’s top target.
This week, he was to be relied upon even more heavily with the knee injuries to Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. Midway through the third quarter, LaFell would join Nelson and Bryant on the injured list. He suffered a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Soon he was carted to the locker room and it is feared to be a ruptured Achilles which would end his season.
This put the Raiders receiving corps at Seth Roberts, Dwayne Harris, and two rookies in Marcell Ateman and Saeed Blacknall both making their first appearances as pros.
As much difficulty as the Raiders were having scoring before this, the thinned out receiving corps made it that much more difficult.
Withe Raiders down 21-20 late int he game and after several changes of possession, they would get one more shot. With 1:53 remaining, they starting at their own 20-yard-line looking to move into scoring range.
The first pass went to Ateman for nine yards. It was his third catch in the game and the third of his career. A short pass to Jared Cook would pick up the first down. Two plays later, Ateman would get open up the left sideline and Carr would drop it in over his shoulder for a 32-yard catch. A huge catch to be certain.
“Ateman set us up for victory,” said Gruden. “He went up and made a big play.”
From there, Seth Roberts caught a short pass that he took for 20 yards and rookie kicker Daniel Carlson came on for the game-winning 35-yard field goal.
Credit to Roberts for his heroics, but for Ateman to make that play at that time in his first ever NFL game was huge.
“Ateman, gosh we needed somebody to make a play,” Gruden said of his rookie receiver. “We lost Brandon LaFell to an Achilles injury and Martavis and Jordy and we’re shorthanded. Somebody had to step up, we had a long way to go and that was the signature play of his career, that helped us win a football game. I’m happy for him.”
It’s practically a miracle the Raiders were able to pull out a win with one of the worst looking receiving corps you’ll ever see. Which I guess in part tells you just how bad the Cardinals are.
The Cardinals were the last of once appeared to be the easy part of their schedule which also featured the 1-win Colts and 49ers. With the win they improve to 2-8 on the season with a rough final six games. And they will do it with a ragtag group of receivers.
Bryant’s PCL injury and LaFell’s Achilles injury would appear to have both out for the rest of the season. Leaving the hopes for the Raiders’ receiving corps in the hands of Roberts and Ateman for now with the hopes that Nelson won’t be out too much longer with his bone bruise.
“It’s almost tragic what’s happened to our receiving corps here, but we’ll have to do everything we can to see who’s available and what contingency plan we need to put in place.”
Last week they worked out several receivers and ended up simply calling up Blacknall from the practice squad. Now they’ll again see what they can come up with to find bodies to run routes on short notice.