The Raiders (10-2) just took over the No. 1 spot in the AFC playoff picture with Sunday’s 38-24 win over Buffalo, but that would be a fleeting memory if they lose to the Chiefs (9-3).
“Tough set of circumstances,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said before Monday afternoon’s walkthrough practice.
The Raiders’ six-game winning streak started in Florida, where they had back-to-back games against Jacksonville and Tampa Bay and swept the trip.
After spending a week there, Oakland beat Super Bowl champ Denver on national television.
Mexico City and the high altitude was next — players still mutter about the long ramp up from the field — and after beating the Texans there, the Raiders handled Carolina after a short week and then the Bills.
Spencer Ware ran for 131 yards and a touchdown and Oakland native Marcus Peters grabbed one of Carr’s five interceptions this season.
Like the Raiders, the Chiefs have been clutch and/or lucky, with their four fourth-quarter comebacks just two shy of Oakland’s six.
Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. returned to practice Monday for the first time since training camp, as the team designated him to return from injured reserve.
[...] rookie safety Karl Joseph missed practice with a toe injury and was wearing a walking boot, but Del Rio said “he still has a shot” to play Thursday.
Mack had the most Pro Bowl votes of any defensive player with 279,466, as initial results were released Monday.
Five other Raiders led their positions in the AFC: tackle Donald Penn, guard Kelechi Osemele, fullback Jamize Olawale, safety Reggie Nelson and punter Marquette King.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw five game-winning touchdown passes during either the fourth quarter or overtime in a single season Sunday, per Elias Sports Bureau (h/t ESPN Stats & Info).
The game-winning drive started early in the fourth quarter and lasted just 40 seconds before the Raiders snagged the lead. Carr capped the drive off with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper to give Oakland the advantage for good.
The Raiders totaled 29 unanswered points over an 11-minute, 43-second span during Sunday’s contest to earn the victory. They came back to win after trailing by at least 15 points in the second half for just the second time in franchise history, per Elias Sports Bureau (h/t ESPN Stats & Info). The club previously did so in 1963 against the San Diego Chargers.
Oakland’s third-year signal-caller has been at the center of the team’s resurgence this season, throwing for 3,375 yards, 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions through 12 games. Carr has also improved his quarterback rating each season since he joined the league, sporting a 100.3 mark thus far in 2016.
Carr’s play under center has assisted in pushing the team’s record to 10-2 through 12 games. Oakland currently sits tied with the New England Patriots for the best record in the AFC.
The Raiders currently possess a one-game advantage over the Kansas City Chiefs for the lead in the AFC West and will square off against them at Arrowhead Stadium next week.
With a win, Oakland could clinch its first playoff berth since the 2002 season, when the team lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. The Raiders would also place themselves on the inside track for the AFC West title with three weeks remaining.
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In the NFL, it’s difficult to keep an exceptionally explosive offensive team under wraps.
The Buffalo Bills found out the hard way after leading the Oakland Raiders 24-9 midway through the third quarter. After Bills running back Mike Gillislee scored his second touchdown, his teammates celebrated, almost excessively.
Clearly, head coach Rex Ryan didn’t show his team the Raiders’ film, which illustrates how lethal the offense can become when rallying for a comeback. Then again, maybe the Bills couldn’t stop what they expected to happen next.
As witnessed in the previous weeks, the Raiders didn’t execute for all 60 minutes, but they put together enough plays in the clutch to reverse momentum and seize the victory in the final quarter.
The Raiders racked up 29 unanswered points within 20 minutes, which devoured the 15-point lead the Bills built over the course of two-and-a-half quarters.
Despite allowing 212 rushing yards, the Raiders overcame their defensive deficiency and completely clamped down the Bills offense in the final 24 minutes of the contest. Buffalo’s offense lost its rhythm, and Oakland’s defense successfully forced three-and-outs and punts to chip into the Bills’ time of possession.
The Raiders’ latest triumph highlights their ability to win in spite of showing a weakness up front. With an offense able to score in droves, a methodical approach doesn’t fare well when combined with turnovers against the Silver and Black. Oakland took the lead 30-24 and the defense forced a turnover on the Bills’ side of the field, which put the game on ice.
How did the Raiders fare in a micro view across the positional groups?
In its season-long game of limbo, Oakland fell behind by 15 points before scoring 29 unanswered to beat Buffalo 38-24 Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum.
Make it interesting, so fans are worn out and sleep well.
The Raiders knew that, but still put their foot square in the trap, falling behind 24-9 with 9:01 left in the third quarter.
Oakland scored 29 points in a span of 11:43, coming back to win from at least 15 points down for just the third time in franchise history.
Latavius Murray ran for two touchdowns and Derek Carr threw for two, the last one a 37-yarder to Amari Cooper that the quarterback dropped in as softly as a stork delivers a newborn baby.
Khalil Mack put the cherry on top for the second straight Sunday, with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery on the same play late in the fourth quarter.
The Bills had come out of halftime running, with LeSean McCoy’s 54-yard draw setting up quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 12-yard touchdown run.
Carr, who said he was unaffected by his dislocated pinkie (despite lining up only in the shotgun formation), responded by leading Oakland on a 75-yard drive.
Michael Crabtree scooped up a low 19-yard pass, then broke open across the middle for a 3-yard touchdown catch.
Andre Holmes then made a nice tackle on the kickoff to further lather up the crowd, and the Raiders caught a small break, as they seemingly always do this season.
McCoy, who made the Raiders look silly with 130 yards rushing and 61 receiving, cramped up on first down and missed the rest of the series.
“He was probably just catching his breath,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said.
Rookie Jalen Richard had a 17-yard punt return and then did his best Roger Craig impersonation, high-stepping through tacklers for 21 yards.
Three plays later, Murray flew into the end zone from a yard out to make it 24-23 with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Oakland fans got really loud then, perhaps hoping their passion will make owner Mark Davis forget about his dreams to move to Las Vegas.
After Cooper’s touchdown, Mack pressured Taylor and got a piece of the ball, the resulting floater landing in safety Nate Allen’s waiting arms at the Buffalo 17.
[...] Mack made the fans lose their voices, with 3:20 left, with a strip sack and fumble recovery for the second straight game.
Raiders get help from another undrafted rookie in James Cowser
When the Raiders got back to the locker room after their 38-24 win, they were all feeling good.
Activated last week off the practice squad to take the place of injured third-round pick Shilique Calhoun, Cowser made an impact Sunday.
Cowser went undrafted out of Southern Utah, despite setting an FCS record with 43.5 sacks and setting a Big Sky Conference record of 80 career tackles for a loss.
Another undrafted rookie free agent who continues to make an impact is running back and return man Jalen Richard.
Late in the third quarter, trailing 24-16, Richard fielded a short punt and returned it 17 yards to the Bills’ 38.
On second down, he scooted 21 yards, setting up the Raiders’ second touchdown and helping channel the momentum.
The Raiders were on the ropes, no doubt, having given up 191 yards rushing in 2½ quarters.
“We just kept fighting, and fighting and fighting,” safety Reggie Nelson said after Oakland held the Bills to 21 yards on seven carries in the last quarter and a half.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders made a couple of adjustments “schematically,” but “most importantly, we started doing our job.”
[...] they did it without injured defensive tackles Stacy McGee and Darius Latham, and then safety Karl Joseph, who left the game with a foot injury.
Luckily for the silver and black, they had Bruce Irvin (sack, tackle for loss) and Khalil Mack (sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble, fumble recovery, pass deflection).
Remember, they traded up to the fourth pick of the 2014 draft, but selected receiver Sammy Watkins instead of Mack, who played at the University at Buffalo.
After Mack’s strip-sack Sunday, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie’s son Kahlil tweeted, “I wish y’all coulda seen how happy my dad was when the Bills passed on Khalil Mack after he was so scared when they traded up right before.”
Running back Latavius Murray had 105 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, and now has 11 this season.
Punter Marquette King picked up a penalty flag late in the game and did a little dance to the delight of his teammates.
Game time, from late in the third quarter into the early part of the fourth, that it took the Raiders to turn a 15-point deficit into a six-point lead.
On Thursday, they begin a stretch of three AFC West games in four weeks when they travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs and quarterback Alex Smith, left.
Consecutive games with a sack for Khalil Mack, the longest active streak in the NFL.
You aren’t going to find many anxious fans of the Oakland Raiders at the moment. Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills lifted the first-place Raiders to 10-2 on the season. It’s the first time the Silver and Black have posted that many victories since their run to Super Bowl XXXVII.
If the season ended today, the Raiders would have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs as the top seed in the conference.
However, it’s a good thing the season doesn’t end today. For all the back-slapping and attaboys in the Bay Area of late, there’s a problem in Oakland. It hasn’t cost the team yet, but as the postseason nears and the margin for error evaporates, it could cost the Raiders dearly down the line.
For lack of a better way to put it, the Raiders need to figure out how to find fourth gear before the fourth quarter, because their knack for digging early holes could bury them in the second season.
Much of the talk about Sunday’s win will center on the four unanswered touchdowns the Raiders dropped on Buffalo in the third and fourth quarters. Or the fact the Raiders came back after being down by 15 or more points for the first time since 2000.
But that second accomplishment is also a concern. The Raiders are perfecting the art of the fourth-quarter comeback because they keep losing the first three stanzas.
While speaking with Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury-News, starting left tackle Donald Penn said the Raiders need to start working on getting out of the gate faster:
We’ve got to start fast. We’ve got to be better on our first drives. That’s something we’re going to work on, and that’s something we’re going to look at this week. We’ve got to get better, and the good thing here is everybody wants to get better.
The problem is Penn said that in September. Not much has changed since then.
The Raiders kicked off the season with a wild 35-34 win in New Orleans, a game in which they trailed 17-10 at intermission. The next week, the Atlanta Falcons shut the Raiders out in the first quarter of a seven-point home loss. In a win over San Diego in Week 5 (just as against the Bills in Week 13), the Raiders headed to the half down a single point.
It’s a theme that has continued throughout the season. Per NFL Team Stats, the Raiders rank a handful of spots higher in second-half scoring than in the first. More often than not, the Raiders haven’t been in the lead as the first half ended, and Sunday’s win over the Bills was Oakland’s sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the year.
Now, this is the point where a lot of people are probably rolling their eyes and thinking, “so?” If the Raiders are 4-2 in games in which they trailed at the half and they’ve won 10 games already this year, who cares if they come out of the gate slowly from time to time?
Well, general manager Reggie McKenzie does. Even while lauding the team’s ability to pull out the close ones earlier this week while speaking to Scott Bair of NBC Bay Area, McKenzie said the necessity of late heroics wasn’t easy on the old ticker:
As many heart attacks as I’ve had, I absolutely do. It goes without saying that you can feel it. They have an air about them, that they know they’re going to win. That’s good to be around.
I’m a bottom-line guy. Just give me a safety and I’m good. It’s all about winning football games. The good thing about postgame is that you can find something to practice for the next week.
The Raiders will have a short week to try to work out the kinks. On Thursday, they travel to Kansas City to face a Chiefs team they fell behind to early in their last loss in Week 6. If they drop that game, the Raiders would fall from the No. 1 seed in the AFC all the way to No. 5.
And that’s the thing: All the success the Raiders have enjoyed so far this season has brought with it increased expectations. Just an appearance in the playoffs isn’t good enough now. The Raiders are expected to make a run.
If they are going to do that, Oakland can’t let up even a little. Maintaining its AFC West lead and home-field advantage is critically important. Coming back against Buffalo at home is one thing. Coming back on the road at, say, New England is another entirely.
In fact, the next time the Patriots lose a game at Gillette Stadium in which they lead at halftime will be the first.
This isn’t meant to be nitpicking, nor is it a proclamation that the sky is falling for the Raiders. As their record demonstrates, the Raiders are a good football team. In a year when every team in the league has flaws, the Raiders are capable of winning the AFC.
But Oakland needs to spend the next month figuring out how to get on track earlier in ballgames. With games still left against Kansas City, Indianapolis, San Diego and Denver, if the Raiders don’t, that top seed will disappear.
On the road in the playoffs, against the best of the best in the AFC, a slow start will lead to a fast postseason exit—and a disappointing end to the best season of football in Oakland in a while.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter: @IDPSharks.
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Continue for updates.
Smith Working to Return from Suspension
Monday, Nov. 5
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Smith is setting up a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a “high-ranking official” to make his case that the league should reinstate him. On Sunday, Rapoport reported Smith had done all of his necessary meetings and extended his rehab by 60 days but did not yet have a meeting on the books.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cited a source who said a decision on Smith is expected to be made soon.
Smith Has Had Myriad of Issues During Career
Smith had originally planned to return by the end of November.
“I’ll be back in two weeks, you can ask me all the questions then,” the 27-year-old said on Dec. 4, per Janie McCauley of the Associated Press.
The league will first need to reinstate him, and Goodell will have to consider his entire off-field history.
Smith was arrested five times in a span of three years, most notably for a hit-and-run with a DUI. That arrest in August 2015 led him to be released by the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he spent the first four years of his career.
He signed with the Raiders in 2015 and appeared in nine games, totaling 3.5 sacks. In his career, Smith has 47.5 sacks in five seasons and was named first-team All-Pro in 2012.
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Raiders’ tough offensive line reminds Otto of the good old days
Jim Otto, the Raiders’ Hall of Fame center, said the Raiders’ tough offensive line reminds him of the good old days, “back when you would break your hand, spit on it, rub it on your pants and go back out and play some more,” he said.
Otto, 78, is looking forward to talking to Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and the rest, but it will have to wait.
[...] they had to take my knee out and put it back in.
“These running backs keep surprising teams every week,” Otto said.