The Oakland Raiders are finally in the win column after a shocking 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Though they led for most of the game, the Raiders still needed a late comeback for their first win of the season.
After the Raiders had taken a 17-3 lead in the third quarter, the Chiefs scored 17 straight points and the Raiders were staring 0-11 in the face. It looked like the Silver and Black had managed to choke away a golden opportunity to pick up a win ...
But then something strange happened. Trailing, 20-17, with nine minutes remaining, Derek Carr began completing passes. The running game began grinding out tough yards. The offense began converting clutch first downs. Oakland embarked on a 17-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Carr hitting James Jones for a 9-yard, game-winning touchdown with under two minutes remaining.
The 7:21 march, which included three third-down conversions and one fourth-down conversion, was easily the Raiders' longest drive of the season. They even managed to overcome their own incompetence in the game's closing moments.
Here's what we learned from the game.
1) The Raiders found a running back ... then lost him
Unheralded second-year running Latavius Murray flashed some ability last week against the Chargers (43 yards on four carries) and we heard rumors all week that he'd be a bigger part of the offense on Thursday. Boy, was he ever! Murray scored touchdowns on two of his first three touches -- one a nifty bounce-out for an 11-yard score and the second a one-cut-and-gone, 90-yard burner to put the Raiders up, 14-0.
After just four carries and 112 yards, Murray had finally given the Raiders' offense a spark -- so of course his fourth carry resulted in a concussion and an early end to his promising night. Murray took a hard shot to the head on a run up the gut and didn't see the field again.
Murray's injury is frustrating in the short term, but it's still a very promising sign for the Raiders' future. The aging and ineffective duo of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew are clearly not the answer, so the development of Murray becomes a sign of hope whenever he returns.
2) Jamaal Charles had another big game against Oakland.
This originally read "The Raiders finally slowed down Jamaal Charles." When I wrote that early in the fourth quarter, Charles had a modest (by his standards) 80 yards on 19 carries. But then he got loose on a 30-yard touchdown reception to tie the game, marking the fifth time in his career he's had at least 100 yards from scrimmage against the Raiders.
In his two games against Oakland last season, Charles piled up a combined 343 yards from scrimmage with seven touchdowns. Five of those scores came in a Week 15 drubbing that saw Charles post 195 yards receiving. On Thursday night, he finished with 80 yards rushing and 42 yards receiving.
3) The Chiefs' offense came on too late.
For most of three quarters, the Chiefs were a staggering 1-for-10 on third-down opportunities. They had just 134 yards and Alex Smith had completed only eight of his 19 passes.
With just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Kansas City was facing a third-and-one from the Raiders' 19-yard line, on the precipice of watching another drive smothered away. But this time Anthony Fasano snuck behind the defense and Smith found him for a game-changing touchdown. From that point on, the Chiefs were a different offense. Charles caught his game-tying touchdown four minutes later. Cairo Santos added a go-ahead 25-yard field goal, and just like that, Kansas City had scored 17 unanswered.
The Chiefs were rolling and the Raiders' defense was on their heels. This is why the clock-chewing drive by the Raiders' offense was important beyond just scoring the go-ahead touchdown; it kept the Chiefs off the field until there was only 1:42 remaining. At that point, Kansas City was forced into becoming a passing team -- never a good look for them -- and a big sack (which included the idiotic celebration) helped seal the deal for the Raiders.