It was almost the upset of the ages, almost. The 17 points in the 4th quarter was a lot of fun to watch, unfortunately it was the 7 points they gave up to the Chiefs that ended up being the difference in this ball game. Still, even if it was a loss it was still a hell of an effort from Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders.
It’s amazing how year after year, when it comes to this rivalry the records of the teams going in rarely seems to matter. This was the perfect example of that with the Chiefs flying in at 9-2 and the Raiders crawling in at 2-9. Even so, it took every ounce of energy Kansas City had to come out of Oakland with the win, and just one more stop at the end by the Raiders could have made all the difference.
Patrick Mahomes is the real deal and he deserves a ton of credit for this win. After the controversy with Kareem Hunt being released from the team this week, nobody would have blamed him for being a little off. Instead he came up with the dagger plays time and time again to keep drives going for the Chiefs.
His Houdini act on 3rd and 5 on the key drive on their final scoring drive to lead his team to the win was especially devastating. That one play might have won this game for the Chiefs because if the Raiders could have held them to a field goal on that drive it would have been a one possession game on the Raiders final chance with the football.
Oakland decided to take the field goal with 34 seconds left in the game after that drive despite moving the ball pretty well which seemed to leave some fans a little confured. There definitely are some fans that weren’t happy or didn’t understand the thought process of that decision from Jon Gruden but it was actually a smart football decision. It’s something that eventually will become more common to see teams do as football evolves just like choosing to take the ball first in the 2nd half when winning the coin toss has become far more normal than it used to be.
They could have kept trying to get the touchdown but they would have used up most of the rest of the clock doing so, kicking the field goal there gave them the best chance to have the time for two scores. It didn’t work because the Raiders are cursed when it comes to recovering onside kicks, but it was likely their best chance to get the 10 points they needed.
It would have been an amazing upset for the Raiders to win too, it would have been a glorious win in an inglorious season. Derek Carr played great and has really been playing stronger after he had been struggling earlier this season. His stat line of 29 out of 38 passing for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns shows how efficient he was in this game, and if it wasn’t for 3 key running back fumbles it probably would have been enough to secure the shocking upset.
However, those fumbles happened and they couldn’t have been at worst times. The first fumble came when the Raiders were moving the ball right away after the Chiefs first touchdown, they had already gone 34 yards in 3 plays before Doug Martin coughed up the football. Then Deandre Washington’s fumble came at the Kansas City 30 yard line after a big short yardage 3rd and 1 conversion from the Raiders.
As for Jalen Richard’s fumble, that came on a huge 18 yard run that was pretty spectacular until he put the ball on the ground too. His was especially sad considering the phenomenal game he had with just 6 carries going for 95 yards along with 3 catches for 31 yards. Richard has been having a great season when given his opportunities, those opportunities need to be increased going forward but I digress.
The part that was most frustrating about all 3 fumbles was how similar they were to each other, all three came in the middle of a group of defenders swatting at the ball while the ball carriers did not have the ball secured by both arms. They say smart people learn from their own mistakes, but wise people learn from the mistakes of others. Well, the Raiders obviously did not have a wise running back in the group on Sunday then, because all three made that same mistake.
Then to make it all that much worse, time and time again the Raiders failed to capitalize on their own turnover opportunities too. Gareon Conley dropped an easy interception in the end zone that led to the Chiefs getting 3 points later on that drive, and one drive alone featured 3 almost turnovers and a 4th and goal touchdown run. Any of those plays could have turned the Raiders way on that drive, especially the touchdown run that was just milliseconds from being stopped by Frostee Rucker who just couldn’t quite stop Spencer Ware before he got to the goal line.
There were a number of players that are worthy of being highlighted for their play though, including Gareon Conley who played really well in this game overall despite missing that key interception. Conley and Raiders Safety Karl Joseph were two players that were speculated to be on the trading block at the trade deadline, but have really stepped up their game since then. Both players have shown off the talents that made them first round picks for the Raiders and both now appear to be major building blocks for a mostly depleted of talent defense moving forward.
Another player that had a great game and has had a great season all together was tight end Jared Cook. What a steal he has been since the Green Bay Packers made the colossal mistake to let him go. He has been the one consistent highlight machine for the Raiders, especially in this game where he had 3 impressive leaping grabs and finished the game with 7 catches for 100 yard and a TD.
Cook even hurtled a defender after one of the catches, a hugely impressive feat for a guy who is 6’5 and 254lbs and 31 years old. Despite his age he needs to also be considered a building block of the foundation for the Raiders over the next couple of years, or until his play declines because of the inevitable effects of age.
The rookie tackles for the Raiders also had solid games that showed they are improving quite a bit, both Brandon Parker and Kolton Miller played well after their early season struggles. Derek Carr still got sacked 3 times including one strip sack that Parker gave up, but he made up for it by watching the football the whole time after Dee Ford got past him and both smartly and athletically jumping on the ball before anyone else even knew to look for it. This game probably was both Parker and Miller’s best games of the season so far.
The last player I’d like to highlight is Daniel Carlson. That’s right, the kicker. Carlson has been great since signing with the Raiders after a disastrous start to his career with the Minnesota Vikings and is suddenly becoming a possible long term answer at kicker. He was 2 for 2 in this one, but his 50 yard field goal especially showed his potential as it looked like it could have been good from 60 even.
The Raiders should have a hell of a competition next year between Carlson and their own rookie kicker Eddie Piniero who missed this season on IR. Carlson has now come from being a fill in to a true option moving forward. It’s not his job for certain though because Piniero had a very good off-season before being lost for the season too. It is a good problem to have when either kicker looks like they could be solid players moving forward.
All in all this was a great game by the Raiders even if it wasn’t enough to topple the 1st place Chiefs. It had seemed like a likely embarrassment waiting to happen and they competed hard to the very last seconds and almost snatched the surprise victory. There will always be the “A loss is a loss” crowd that sees it as black and white, but if you can look past the outcome you can see this game was something that the Raiders can build off of moving forward.
They will have to build in a hurry because their next game isn’t an easy one either, they play the Pittsburgh Steelers next who are coming off of a last second defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers. They have been playing well this season with a record now of 7-4-1 and will be eager to get back on track after a tough loss to a different AFC West team.
This should be a great chance to see if this game against the Chiefs was an anomaly or if the Raiders have really turned the corner into being a more competitive team the rest of the way. If some how Oakland can end the season playing as well as they did in this past game against the Chiefs it could provide some much needed momentum heading into next season.
It also could give maligned coach Jon Gruden some much needed breathing room after his first season back has been such a monstrous failure. If nothing else it’d be great if the rest of the season was as exciting to watch as this game was anyway. If they had been playing to this level the whole season they wouldn’t have been eliminated from playoff contention yet that’s for sure.