What a game for the Raiders Sunday in Oakland. And what a very different experience in how it played out. In many ways it was like night and day from the first three weeks. And that turned out to be a very good thing.
In each of the Raiders’ first three games, they scored on their opening drive, never trailed in the first half, didn’t score more than 13 points in the first half, took a lead into the half, and lost the game in the 4th quarter.
In this one they did none of those things. They went three-and-out on the first two drives, trailed 9-7 early in the second quarter, trailed at the half 17-14, and took a lead in the 4th quarter.
They would lose that lead in the 4th quarter and even see the Browns pull away, taking an 8-point lead.
With 4:20 remaining, the Raiders went on a drive, needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie it. That means it was four-down territory. They would get as close as the 6-yard-line only to see the drive end with Derek Carr throwing wide of Amari Cooper in the end zone for a turnover on downs.
That looked like it could be the game ending play. With 1:51 remaining, the Browns took the ball at their own 9-yard-line, needing just one first down to seal it. In third and two, Carlos Hyde ran it and was ruled to have picked up the first down. It again looked to be over. Then the call was reversed. And with 1:28 remaining, the Raiders would get the ball back at their own 47-yard-line.
That’s plenty of time and not far to go. But the odds were not in the Raiders favor. It’s a position Derek Carr found himself on several occasions in their big 2016 season. That year, Carr led the Raiders to nine come from behind wins, seven of which were 4th quarter comebacks with five game-winning touchdowns.
Remember those? It seems like a long time ago now considering what the Raiders looked like throughout the 2017 season and how they fell apart in the second half of each of their first three games this season.
This game was already shaping up to be a complete departure from those first three games this season, so there wasn’t a feeling when the Raiders took the field that they were going to blow it the same way they did. But again, they needed to get the ball in the end zone twice to come away with a win, so no easy task. But not entirely unfamiliar for Carr.
“I’ve been through a lot of things in five years,” said Carr. “The start of this year and half of this game has been some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever had to deal with, because it’s frustrating thing. I feel the best — physically, mentally, all of those things that I ever have. But then I screw something up somwhere along the way. I’ll tell you this though — one thing I just said and looked to our guys and said fight. Whatever we do we’re going to fight. However this thing turns out, whether I throw three more picks or we go win this game, I promise you I’m going to fight.”
Carr rallied his team, took the field, and drove the Raiders down the field and finished it with a touchdown pass to Jared Cook from 7 yards out. They then lined up for two and he went to Jordy Nelson out left for the tie. Former Raiders cornerback TJ Carrie was all over him and Nelson showed incredible strength and concentration to wrestle the ball in for the completion and the comeback was complete.
The improbable comeback sent the two teams to overtime tied at 42-42.
Once again, Carr drove the Raiders down the field and into scoring position, with the biggest play going to Amari Cooper for 36 yards — a play that put Coop over 100 yards on the day. A sack made the field goal a 50-yarder and for a moment Gruden considered punting it. But Carr convinced Gruden to give the new rookie kicker a shot. Matt McCrane, signed this week, came out to attempt the field goal off the dirt and for the second time in the game, he missed it wide left.
The Browns would get the ball with the opportunity to win it on a field goal of their own, but went three-and-out to give Derek Carr another shot to be the hero.
Passes to Jared Cook for 24 yards and Coop for 14 yards helped drive the Raiders back into field goal range at the 25. An 11-yard run off a pitch to Marshawn made that field goal a lot less of a gamble considering the two misses by the rookie McCrane earlier in the game. McCrane converted from 29 yards out and the Raiders got their first win of the season in similar fashion to most of their 12 wins in 2016.
“For our team to close one out the way that we did, it did feel like old times,” said Carr.
As for Derek Carr, he threw the ball all over the yard, putting up 437 yards and 4 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. He had two receivers go over 100 yards — Coop (114) and Jared Cook (110). They were the leading receivers in the first two games of the season, so it was a welcome sight to see them show up again and in the same game. Having two standout receivers happened fairly often between Coop and Michael Crabtree.
The last time the Raiders won a game in overtime was October 30, 2016. That game Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree both went over 100 yards. And as you might recall, it was Seth Roberts who made the game-winning 41-yard touchdown catch.
Also just like in 2016, the Raiders offense had to score a lot of points to pull it out. They put up 45 points in this game after averaging 17.3 points over the first three weeks. This game alone brought up their points per game for this season to 24.25. They averaged 26 points per game in 2016.
Disclaimer: It’s important not to get ahead of ourselves here. This is one game. It’s a positive to see this team come back and win against a tough Browns squad. It does not signal the start of a playoff run. It merely shows shades of something they had not yet shown and got them their first win. The next step would be getting a lead and keeping it and not having to worry about giving anyone heart problems.