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The Morning After: Raiders at Cardinals

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Oakland Raiders v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

There goes the inside track for the 1st overall pick with this win, but I couldn’t care less about that. It’s not that I don’t want the top pick if it’s there for them, it’s that this team needed a win more than they needed to pick at the top of next year’s draft. There is only so much embarrassment players can take, and this team was at their wit’s end with it.

Even if it does mean that the Raiders just threw away their chance at that top pick, this win is worth it. They still are going to get a great pick out of this awful season either way anyway, and their schedule is so brutal the rest of the way that the odds are still good that they will get that top pick anyway. This game was their last, best chance at another win this season and they needed it even if it was just for morale’s sake.

What an exciting win it was too, even if it really never should have been as close as it ended up being. The Raiders absolutely dominated time of possession but they just could not capitalize on all that time with the football. They had almost an entire quarter of football longer with the football with 36:01 of TOP compared to 23.59 for Arizona.

With that huge of a difference it should have never came down to a last second field goal, but it was a very exciting way to finish. Watching the players celebrate the win like it was a championship game tells you all you need to know about how much it meant to them. To lose the lead in the 4th quarter, and survive the Cardinals having two possessions that they just needed a first down win, made this win pretty miraculous.

One aspect of this game that really stood out was the Raiders commitment to the running game. Doug Martin had a very good first half with 52 yards on 10 carries, and Jalen Richard also had a very productive game with 11 carries for 61 yards. Even DeAndre Washington got in the mix for the most action he has seen all season, though his 39 yards on 12 carries wasn’t great compared to Martin and Richard’s productivity.

Look at all those carries though, 33 total for the game. That was actually 2 more running attempts than Derek Carr’s 31 pass attempts, which is about as balanced of a game as it gets. That isn’t possible in most of the games this season with the Raiders falling behind and having to try to throw their way back into games, but the offense definitely plays smoother when they are not forced into being one dimensional.

Derek Carr had an up and down game overall with 19 of 31 passing for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he stepped his game big time on the final drive. His 32 yard pass to Marcell Ateman (shout out for the heroic debut for the rookie WR) was one of his prettiest passes of the season and was right on the money. Then the perfectly executed play to Seth Roberts on 3rd and 10 to make the game winner field goal a chip shot was the cherry on top.

The thing about Derek Carr’s game that stood out the most to me was the fire between him and coach Jon Gruden though. It transported me back to the days of Gruden and Gannon with all the fighting on the sidelines those two did. When have we ever seen Carr react that way on the sidelines? Never.

That is actually the most uplifting sign of the whole season because that is the type of connection that Gruden has been looking for ever since Gannon, and it’s the fiery mentality that Carr has been missing in his career. He needs that killer instinct to materialize to get back to that 2016 version of himself, and something finally broke free this game that hopefully can be used to bring the best out of Carr again.

You know what else happened this game that the Raiders absolutely need more of? They won the turnover battle! They actually had two interceptions this game and they got 14 of their 23 points off of them. To make that even better, they didn’t turn the ball over either. Everybody knows how important winning the turnover battle is in the NFL, but even just getting some turnovers at all is a major improvement for this Raiders team.

Even though there are plenty of fans out there pissed off at this Raiders win considering the impact on their draft position, it still feels great whenever the Silver and Black gets a win. Especially so with an exciting, last second win like this. I don’t blame people for wanting the better draft position, but winning is something that can have a positive impact in all areas of the team.

These young players especially needed to know how great a win like this feels, they needed the chance to celebrate with their NFL teammates and to relish in the positive vibes. There probably won’t be a lot of them from here on out with the Ravens, Chiefs, Steelers, Bengals, Broncos, and then Chiefs again as the remaining games.

Next week they have the Ravens who might be starting their rookie QB Lamar Jackson for the 2nd straight game with starter Joe Flacco injured and possibly being moved to the side for the young 1st round QB Jackson to take the reins. That is going to bring the headache of having to account for a QB capable of running all over the field on them so they will need to prepare for that added aspect.

We will see if this win against the Cardinals has any lasting positive affects pretty clearly playing against a tough, blue collar team like the Ravens next. They are a team that loves to beat up and demoralize their opponents through sheer physicality, something this Raiders team could benefit from emulating themselves.

For those of you worried about the draft position, you probably won’t have to worry too much with that brutal schedule remaining. However, if the Raiders start to finally put things together and play well then that’s a good thing anyway. It’s the time of year where you see the heart of the team when they only have pride to play for. This win against the Cardinals was all heart, it will be interesting to see if they can maintain that heart the rest of the way with some brutal match-ups remaining.