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Raiders Week 15 recap: DC is money once again

Kicker Daniel Carlson showing he’s worth what Raiders are paying him

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns
Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (2) and holder/punter A.J. Cole (6) celebrate Carlson’s game-winning field goal against the Browns on Monday.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns went for the good ol’ eye for an eye tactic by trying to ice Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson by calling a timeout just before his initial 48-yard field goal attempt. The tactic worked marvelously for Las Vegas just before halftime when old special teams dog and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia called time and Cleveland kicker Chase McLaughlin missed his 47-yard attempt.

A slick move by a career special teams man and with fellow kick squad coach Mike Priefer leading the Browns in Kevin Stefanski’s stead (COVID-19), why not steal the maneuver?

So there Carlson was, lining up for the game-winner — again — after his first kick was good as the Brownies called timeout. Four seconds left, both the Raiders and Browns postseason aspirations hanging in the balance. The only thing missing was Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice blaring on the PA system at FirstEnergy Stadium.

But DC2 once again was money as he drilled the ball right down the middle for the game-winner in a rollercoaster 16-14 Raiders’ win. Not only did the big boot lift the team to .500 at 7-7 and keeping the postseason aspirations alive for another week, it goes to show Carlson is every bit worth the four-year, $18 million extension ($10.2 million guaranteed, with a $4 million signing bonus) he signed two weeks ago. And the Auburn-product didn’t even flinch when iced. There’s a good reason for that.

“For me, it was, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta be ready,’” Carlson casually said in the postgame press conference. “These guys are gonna get me in range. It might be a chip shot, it might be a long one, who knows? But I’ve gotta be ready. It was fun to be able to do my job and get the win for us.”

Sarcastic tweet above aside, once the determined defense got Derek Carr and the Raiders offense the ball back with 1:50 left to play, the quarterback knew all he had to do was get Carlson the opportunity to swing his mighty leg, and it would be ball game.

“In my brain, when we got that ball back, I know what yard line I got to get Daniel to have a chance. And Daniel has proven [that] over and over again for me,” Carr said after the win. “People want to talk about the comeback wins and all this kind of stuff ... but it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t make the kick. ... He’s a super confident player; good friend, too so that makes it cool. I don’t really watch the ball; I watch his reaction.”

Throwing six passes and completing five of them, Carr methodically drove Las Vegas down the field taking pure onus of whether or not the Raiders were flying back to the desert winners or losers. Not even an iffy holding penalty on left tackle Kolton Miller deterred Carr from giving Carlson his chance to shine. The 10-yard infraction was followed by a 12-yard pass from Carr to tight end Foster Moreau. Then a 15-yard pass from DC4 to wide receiver Zay Jones. That completion put the Raiders at the Browns’ 30-yard line and Carr spiked the ball, set it up for Carlson, and bada bing, bada boom.

Las Vegas Raiders v Cleveland Browns
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) knew he had to make up for that late interception. And did he ever as he got the team in position for Daniel Carlson’s game-winning kick against Cleveland.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The victory erases what would could’ve been a game-sealing interception from Carr as Las Vegas unraveled after Cleveland got the strip sack on the Raiders quarterback. Momentum had swung in the COVID-19 ravaged Browns favor, but the defense rose to the occasion — something the unit did numerous times in the game earlier — one final time to give the offense the ball back for one final hurrah.

Carr may have been only watching for Carlson’s triumphant yell after the kicker’s right foot smashed the ball true, but several teammates followed the flight of the kick all the way through and into the back of the goal post net.

But no matter whether they eyed the game-winning boot or not, there was nary a thought Carlson would miss. And just like the other components of the Raiders, several things need to go right, all moving parts to be in sound unison, for that decisive kick to happen. There’s long snapper Trent Sieg needing to get the ball to the holder. That would be punter A.J Cole III, who caught the snap, placed the ball down smoothly. And then there was Carlson who took the approach and connected.

Like Carlson, Cole inked a four-year extension the same day the kicker did with the Raiders. His deal is valued at $12.4 million with $5.9 million guaranteed. The punter proved equally as valuable against Cleveland as Carlson did belting four punts for 177 yards (44.3 yards average per boot) to pin the Browns offense deep. Then there’s Sieg, who was the first of the special teams trio to get extended, earning a cool $3.42-plus million over the course of three years.

On the year, Carlson is 31 of 34 (91.2 percent) and the 48-yard winner against Cleveland was his seventh made kick from 40 to 49 yards out. The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder is 24 of 27 on extra points (88.9 percent). Cole, on the other hand, sports a league-leading 50.6 yards per punt average and a total of 2,832 yards on 56 boots, showing exactly why he earned a Pro Bowl nod.

It’s a well-compensated and well-performing special teams batter. One that the Raiders have the utmost confidence in, no matter the situation.

“I think our team has a great belief in Daniel,” Raiders interim head coach (and special teams boss by trade) said after the Raiders win. “They see the way he practices. They have a great belief in the battery from Trent to A.J. and then to Daniel. They get to see them in practice, they get to the way they work, see the way they handle themselves in meetings and carry themselves when it’s a miss, and the way they carry themselves when it’s good.

“I think we all thought we were going to have a good chance to go out there and kick a 48-yarder. I’m excited that he made both.”

There’s an extremely high probability if the Raiders are to make one final mad dash to the playoffs, Carlson’s leg will be a deciding factor. And it will be another opportunity to prove DC2 is money.