Sports Xchange - Tuesday 5th December, 2017
A 24-17 win over the New York Giants got their record back to .500 with their second consecutive win and fourth in the last six games since digging a hole early on with four straight losses.
They also tied the fading Kansas City Chiefs and streaking Los Angeles Chargers atop the division, with all three teams at .500 with a quarter of the season to go.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio rejects any characterization that the division is weak because of the .500 records held by the three leaders.
"It's a good division, a strong division," Del Rio said at his weekly press conference Monday. "It's one that we've had, I would say, a down year in terms of us hitting a dry spell for a stretch, the Chargers hit a dry spell to start the year, and the Chiefs are in one now.
"We're all good teams and we're all alive right now. We all have an opportunity."
The Raiders' mission is clear -- beat the Chiefs Sunday in Kansas City to sweep that series, do no worse than split their NFC East games at Philadelphia and in Oakland against Dallas, and then finish on the road in Los Angeles against the Chargers with a win.
That would put the Raiders on top at either 9-7 or 10-6 because of an edge against either of their division opponents based on tiebreakers.
"It's the NFL -- you know, crazy," quarterback Derek Carr said. "You have to stay the course. There's a lot of adversity that happens over the season. You wish you could just go out, win them all, and do it in a good way. But that hasn't been our road this year."
Carr acknowledges the Raiders haven't always made it easy on themselves.
"It's been a little bit more difficult because of ourselves," Carr said. "We're in a situation that all of our goals are still in front of us. Everything we want to do is right there. We realize that. Coach Del Rio said it best -- our team is growing. Every year is a new year. We're learning how to prepare, recover, repeat. As long as we can get hot right around now, this is the time to do it."
The Raiders will have wide receiver Michael Crabtree back after serving a one-game suspension, but the status of Amari Cooper -- who had 11 receptions for 216 yards in the first game against the Chiefs -- remains to be seen.
Cooper sustained a concussion and an ankle injury against Denver, and it's believed the ankle is the bigger issue at this point.
"We're just remaining hopeful," Del Rio said. "We'll see how the week goes."
--Running back Marshawn Lynch had 101 yards on 17 attempts, the first time a Raiders back broke 100 yards this season and the first for Lynch since October 2015 when he did it for Seattle against the 49ers.
Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman was with the 49ers that day.
"To see him running the way he's running for so many years, I know exactly what the defense is facing," Bowman said. "That's a hard tackle."
Bowman was the Raiders' co-leader in tackles with nine and has been an upgrade to a team that has won three of five games since he arrived as a free agent after being released by the 49ers.
"I mean, it's obvious," linebacker Bruce Irvin said. "The guy flies around, takes control of the huddle. You see the difference, how the defense was before he was here, and to now. He's a great competitor, a great leader, and I'm just happy to have him."
A week after recording the Raiders' first and only interception of the season, Bowman recovered a fumble forced by Irvin.
NOTES: WR Michael Crabtree was reinstated to the roster following a one-game suspension for his fight with Denver cornerback Aqib Talib. ... DT Darius Latham, who served a four-game suspension earlier this season for violating the NFL policy on substances of abuse, was waived. ... CB David Amerson missed his fifth consecutive game with a foot injury. ... LB Nicholas Morrow replaced Cory James (knee) at starting weak-side linebacker. ... WR Isaac Whitney played 15 snaps on offense and nine on special teams in his NFL debut.
REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS
--PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Derek Carr, shorn of his two most productive wide receivers, was 22 of 36 for 287 yards and a 9-yard scoring pass to Johnny Holton. Cordarrelle Patterson had a 59-yard catch and run to set up a touchdown. Tight end Clive Walford came out of nowhere with four receptions for 57 yards. Carr was fortunate in that the Giants dropped two interceptions. Pass protection was solid.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Marshawn Lynch became the first Raiders back to break 100 yards, finishing with 101 on 17 carries. He had 60 yards on his first three ties, including a 51-yard scoring run. It was tough going the rest of the way. He was stuffed on one fourth-down run, but converted one later. Gabe Jackson had big blocks on a 9-yard scoring run by DeAndre Washington and a key rushing first down by Washington on the final drive.
--PASS DEFENSE: B -- No interceptions, but two forced fumbles on pass rushes by Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. Denico Autry also had a sack. Only Geno Smith's mobility kept it from being worse for the Giants. For the second straight week, they gave up yards and points late to a passer who was average at best. Dexter McDonald broke up third-down passes on consecutive series. TE Evan Engram had seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- Orleans Darkwa had just 32 yards on 14 carries and the Giants were held to 2.7 yards per attempt overall, with Smith providing a 10-yard run for the lone gain in double figures. NaVorro Bowman and Nicholas Morrow, the latter an injury substitute for Cory James, had strong games with nine tackles each.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- Marquette King placed two of his four punts inside the 20, including one that was downed at the 1-yard line. Cordarrelle Patterson has been one of the best in the NFL at covering kicks. A blocking error forced King to take a loss deep in Raiders territory, but his decision to not punt the ball paid off as the defense forced a turnover. Three mishandled punts by Jalen Richard were somehow not costly.
--COACHING: B -- A very strong start on both sides of the ball, with the offense going 60 yards on three rushing plays to start the game and the defense going three-and-out on the first three possessions. The Raiders have held together when all appeared lost at 4-6 and are tied for first place. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing played to the strengths of substitute receivers and the Raiders put up 401 yards of total offense. Defensive improvement has been obvious under John Pagano.
Get a daily dose of Oakland Times news through our daily email, its complimentary and keeps you fully up to date with world and business news as well.