Words cannot do Thursday night’s meeting between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs any justice. This game has already placed itself at the top of the NFL’s “Best Games of the Year” category. Truly a performance that any football fan could’ve enjoyed with so much drama and under the national spotlight no less.

Many times it looked like Oakland was facing disaster, and at one point, Marshawn Lynch was ejected after running onto the field and shoving an official after a skirmish broke out between players on both sides. Then, down only by six before halftime with a chance to bring the game within three only to have a sure-footed Giorgio Tavecchio pull a 45-yard field goal wide right.

A back and forth affair

It seemed like the action was back and forth between these two AFC West rivals with the Raiders’ defense once again struggling.

Safety Keith McGill had a sure interception deflect off his hands into the waiting arms of Chiefs receiver Albert Wilson to score a 63-yard touchdown on a third and twelve. Then the Chiefs nailed a 37-yard field goal to go up 30-21 heading into the fourth quarter. Oakland’s offense also had some misses as Jared Cook squabbled a would-be touchdown that could have pulled Oakland to 30-28 midway through the fourth quarter only to have the ball bounce off his hands and no penalty flag was thrown, though a defender held him by the waist.

The Carr & Mack Show

Derek Carr threw for 417 yards and three touchdowns but more impressive than these numbers was how Carr handled himself when the pocket closed in around him. At one point, Carr stepped up and avoided pressure to sprint for 15 yards as he took matters into his own hands.

Two other times he eluded Chiefs defenders and hit open receivers to extend the drive. Carr didn’t look skittish like he had in past games. He stepped up and delivered for Oakland when they needed it most, which was most of the night. There were times Carr could have gone down in the pocket but escaped, and on a side note, Carr ended Thursday night’s matchup having suffered zero sacks. But perhaps the most important play was when a right-handed Carr was asked to roll left and throw across his body to Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone. Perfect strike, perfect ending.

Looking back, what made Carr’s heroics possible was a defense that played with a “bend don’t break” mentality. Led by Khalil Mack, this defense did something truly awe-inspiring, and that was allowing zero points in the fourth quarter to a Chiefs team that had scored 74 of its 164 points on the season in the fourth quarter of games.

It seemed all but over when Oakland was forced to punt from its own goal line with 4:40 left in the game and Oakland down by six. Raider fans had visions of the previous week, when the Chargers marched down the field and stuck a dagger in the form of a game-winning field goal in Oakland’s heart, dancing in their heads. But no. After holding Hunt to five yards on two carries, Mack and Denico Autry went to work on third down. Mack beat the tackle around the edge while Autry bull rushed his tackle straight back and both Raider players collided at Alex Smith, dropping him for a 12-yard sack. Mack was consistently getting pressure on Smith all game, despite nothing to show for it statistically; still, he delivered the big play when it was needed most.

King Crab, Coop, and Co.

Oakland’s wide receivers made a meal of Kansas City’s secondary. Cordarrelle Patterson’s skills were on display as he had a one-handed grab on a third down to keep the drive alive. Amari Cooper was lined up in the slot and had quite a day, racking up 210 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Insanely enough, Cooper could have had even more yards if it weren’t for the drops coming back to bite him on a couple bombs from Carr.

Cook, as before mentioned, had a drop in the end zone but came up with a huge grab to set Oakland up at the one yard line with eight seconds to go, even though another Oakland receiver was running his route with him and the Chiefs had three defenders there. Cook also hauled in 107 yards though the air including a 14 yard reception to convert a fourth and eleven on Oakland’s game winning drive. Michael Crabtree, for his part, was held in check most of the night with only 24 receiving yards until he decided to win the game at the pylon with a knee dragging catch to cap off the game winning drive.

The run game was held mostly in check all night with Oakland’s smaller backs only amassing 64 yards on the ground but it was enough to keep the Chiefs’ defense honest. DeAndre Washington ran with authority, bouncing off defenders to find the end zone in a big touchdown to open the second half. Washington and especially Jalen Richard, played a vital role in the passing game helping Carr get out of trouble as they were a mismatch against the slower Kansas City linebackers. Richard racked up 45 yards through the air on four catches.

Also, NaVorro Bowman was an instant impact player for Oakland’s defense, racking up a team leading six tackles with five assists. It seems Bowman is the veteran presence that was sorely missing and moving forward, could end up being a “season-saving” acquisition if he improves on Thursday’s performance.

What is the old adage? “Players make plays.” And Oakland’s players did exactly that on Thursday night. Even when things weren’t going Oakland’s way, this team showed a fight and grit that many fans were afraid had departed from this squad weeks ago in Washington. This was truly a sign that better days are ahead for the Oakland Raiders and their fans. In my opinion we can now put to rest the ghosts of seasons past and look forward to a bright future, or rather, a Silver and Black one.

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