Andria’s Analysis this week reviews the Thursday Night barn-burner between the Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs and a peek at the upcoming visit to Buffalo to face the Bills.
Thursday Night Football has been a subject of debate for a few years now. Questions surround the game, not the least of which is how entertaining a Thursday night contest can really be. There have been a few this year that have done their best to silence the doubters, and the Oakland Raiders hosting division arch-rival Kansas City Chiefs put another check in the W column for Thursday Night Football.
First Half Woes
In a steel cage death match, the Raiders fought until after the end of regulation to defeat the Chiefs in a 31-30 win, with an unprecedented three 0:00 plays that finally scored the game winner. It was a moral victory as much as anything. The game started and the team was looking miles away from the flat, lifeless Raiders of late. Then halfway through the first quarter, quarterback Derek Carr threw a dime to Amari Cooper, all but erasing his lackluster performances. He followed that up by a second AC/DC touchdown to cap off the first quarter.
Oakland’s red zone defense held the Chiefs to a field goal and a touchdown in the first quarter, giving the Raiders a 14-10 lead. But the second quarter was a different picture. It looked like Todd Downing was up to his new-old tricks going into halftime. The Raiders didn’t score for the entire 15 minutes, while the Chiefs put up 10 more points and go into halftime with a 20-14 lead. So they went into the locker room trailing. The coaches needed motivation; they needed to light a fire; they needed the players to pull their guts out and leave them on the field. And they did just that.
Second Half Foes
The Raiders drew first blood in the second half, when Derek Carr handed off the ball to an eager DeAndre Washington, rushing for a touchdown at 10:45 of the third quarter. The Chiefs bounced back with a touchdown of their own and added a field goal to close out the third quarter with a 30-21 lead over Oakland. But the fourth quarter is when Derek Carr pulled himself up from the previous three weeks, dusted himself off, and got down and dirty.
The offense started heating up when they drove down the field on a 12 play, 67-yard drive culminating in a Giorgio Tavecchio field goal. The Chiefs got the ball back and promptly punted it away, giving Derek Carr one last chance to close out the ball game. And Derek Carr did what only Derek Carr does. He drove the team down the field and darted a pass to tight end Jared Cook, ending up on the 1-yard line.
That’s when magic happened and the Raiders showed everyone that there’s no such thing as irrelevant when you’re talking about this team. After three attempts to actually score, all of which were called back because of flags, Carr hit old reliable Michael Crabtree in the left corner of the end zone and scored the game-tying touchdown. An easy PAT and the game was in the bag. The Raiders handed the Chiefs their second straight loss and silenced the talk of scrapping their season.
It’s Best in the West
The AFC West has some of the toughest teams in the league. The teams’ records don’t reflect the full story because they each have to face three rivals twice a year in games that can easily go either way. The talent in this division is practically unmatched by any other division in football. It’s not unreasonable to think that the AFC West might send 3 teams to the playoffs. With Derek Carr firing on all cylinders last Thursday and AC/DC back in black, the team could start their hot streak now.
Next Victim: Buffalo Bills
Buffalo and Oakland have met twice since Derek Carr and Khalil Mack were drafted in 2014. Oakland hosted and won both meetings. It seems like the Raiders have Buffalo’s number, the last few years anyway. This time they’ll be visiting the Bills on their turf.
If the Raiders expect to make it two in a row, they need to contain the run. Luckily the run defense has been much better than expected. Not great, but they are something that they only hoped to be last year: average. The Raiders are ranking somewhere in the top half of the league in most of the stats that count, including red zone defense. Their overall rank is a respectable 17, right in the middle of the pack. After last year’s defensive showing, you couldn’t ask for much more than what this young team is giving.
With the introduction of the new defensive QB, NaVorro Bowman, the game against the Chiefs is possibly just a glimpse of things to come. After all, Bowman brings the one thing to the front seven that they were sorely lacking: Experience.
When the Raiders travel to Buffalo, they may or may not have hometown favorite Marshawn Lynch with them. After his altercation with a ref on Thursday that got him ejected from the game, plus a one-game suspension and $80,000 fine, the team may have to play without Beast Mode. But will it really be that big of a hit to Oakland’s backfield? At this point, it’s not looking like it.
If the Raiders do well in this outing without Lynch, only time will tell what might happen to the veteran running back with a penchant for causing trouble. One thing remains: they can win this game, with or without Lynch. Bring the defense, contain Shady McCoy, and let Derek Carr expose the weakness in Buffalo’s secondary. If you can’t see it yet, you will after AC/DC is done with them.