By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders had lost four straight games and a losing record for the first time in over a year heading into their big divisional game with the Kansas City Chiefs. On the other hand, the Chiefs were in first place in the AFC West and looked to rebound from their first loss of the season last week. Most people expected the Chiefs to come out on fire, and they did, leading 30-21 heading into the fourth quarter. However, the Raiders buckled down and ended up winning the game, 31-30, on a last-second touchdown pass to possibly turn their season around.
Here is a look at the Raiders' team grades for their impressive come-from-behind win over the Chiefs.
Things didn't start out well for the Raiders on offense. Marshawn Lynch carried the ball twice in the game before he exploded in the second quarter with actions that resulted in his ejection after Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters had a late hit on hit on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Raiders players went after Peters, and Lynch raced from the sidelines to get involved as well. However, it is unclear if Lynch was going to protect his quarterback or if he was going to defend Peters, a friend of Lynch's from Oakland. Whatever the reason, Lynch chest bumped a referee and grabbed his jersey. This caused the referee to eject Lynch from the game. The veteran running back was later seen watching the game from the stands.
Despite Lynch's antics, this was a solid "A" effort for the Raiders offense, who finally came alive. Carr had his best game of the season, throwing for 417 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks. Amari Cooper, who had done nothing so far this season, caught a season-high 11 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook also had over 100 yards in the game, and Michael Crabtree finished with three receptions and the most important touchdown of the game.
With just over two minutes left in the game, and down by six, the Raiders drove 85 yards down the field. It all ended with Carr completing a two-yard touchdown pass to Crabtree to tie up the game. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who missed a point-after-attempt last week, hit the PAT with no time left on the clock to give the Raiders the win.
The Raiders defense continued to struggle against the Chiefs. The team allowed Alex Smith to throw for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Tyreek Hill eclipsed 100 yards receiving in the game and accounted for one of the touchdowns, while rookie running back Kareem Hunt finished with 117 all-purpose yards as well. The Raiders only sacked Smith once, putting last year's top sack leader Khalil Mack at just 4.5 sacks through the first seven games of the NFL season.
Oakland also gave up 30 points through the first three quarters. However, where the Raiders proved themselves was in the fourth quarter of the game, with the team down by nine points. They opened the third quarter with the ball and scored a field goal to put the game within six. However, the Raiders still had to stop the Chiefs - something they hadn't done much of this game. On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Chiefs ate up six minutes off the clock but had to punt. The Raiders went three and out, and the Chiefs got the ball back with four minutes left in the game.
Last week, the Raiders couldn't stop the Los Angeles Chargers from running out the clock, and the Chiefs had moved the ball well all game. Despite that, they stopped Hunt for no gain on first down, stopped him after a six-yard pickup on second down, and then the only sack of the game came at just the right time to force the Chiefs to punt. That stopped the Chiefs and led to the Raiders' game-winning drive. Oakland's defense stepped up, and that could be a turning point this season.
Special Teams: C+
Last week, Tavecchio missed an extra point after being perfect the entire season, making the fact that the Raiders lost by one point sting even worse. This week, the wheels came off the bus. In the second quarter, Tavecchio had a 53-yard field goal blocked and then, with time running out in the first half, missed a 45-yard field goal wide left. With the Raiders losing by six at the end of the fourth quarter, some could blame Tavecchio for the loss once again. However, he redeemed himself when he hit a 26-yarder to start the fourth quarter and then hit the extra point to beat the Chiefs.
Marquette King continues to play well, only punting three times, but putting one inside the 20 and averaging 48 yards per punt. The return team had just two chances to return anything, and those returns were negligible.
Watching one of your top veterans in Marshawn Lynch self-implode in the game could have doomed many teams. However, Jack Del Rio was able to keep his team focused, and Derek Carr was allowed to work his way back and win the game with a fantastic drive at the end. The Raiders still have work to do this season, but this game was a turning point, and the final defensive stand and final drive prove they have the talent and coaching skills to do so.
Up Next: The Raiders (3-4) now have 10 days off before they play the Buffalo Bills (3-2), and then follow that up seven days later on Sunday night against the Miami Dolphins (3-2). If they can follow up the momentum from this huge win, they will be back on the right side of .500 and will find themselves back in the mix once again.
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