Raiders show winning ways could be on horizon
The Oakland Raiders have the first piece of evidence that the building blocks are in place for the franchise's future.
For the last 368 days, the Silver and Black yearned to remember what it was like to win. On Thursday night -- and in dramatic fashion -- the Raiders outlasted the Kansas City Chiefs 24-20, for their season's first win. An elusive one at that.
The 17-play, 80-yard scoring drive, which spanned over seven minutes of regulation in the fourth quarter, might be remembered as the moment rookie quarterback Derek Carr took his biggest step forward in an uneven rookie season.
Carr converted on three third downs and a fourth down, setting up the Raiders inside the Chiefs' 10-yard line. The former Fresno State product executed a pump fake and fired a pass to wide receiver James Jones for a 9-yard touchdown. Carr threw his hands up in emotion and sprinted towards the end zone. He celebrated. The stadium erupted.
The defense protected the lead with nearly two minutes remaining to seal the win.
Led by rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, the Raiders swarmed to the Chiefs' ball carriers. Linebacker Sio Moore will get credit for the sack on quarterback Alex Smith during the final drive, but it was Mack finishing up the tackle to bring down Smith.
In typical Raiders fashion, the duo were foolishly flagged for celebrating, but fortunately veteran defensive end Justin Tuck called a timeout to preserve the lost yardage.
"We have a new face on offense, which Derek could be the face of the future," Raiders owner Mark Davis told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport before the game. "We have a face on defense with Khalil Mack. Gabe Jackson might be a player. We have something to start building around. I don't know that we've had the ability to say that over the past few years."
Add running back Latavius Murray and cornerback DJ Hayden to that short list.
Murray only had four carries before a concussion in the second quarter sidelined him, but it was all he needed to ignite Oakland's offense. Murray, who finished with 112 yards and 2 touchdowns, pulled away from safety Eric Berry on a 90-yard run to the end zone in the second quarter. CBS Sports' next-gen statistics clocked Murray running at 21 mph. For a 6-foot-3, 230-pound running back, Murray has the raw talent and ability to be a big part of this team moving forward. With aging veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew clearly lacking the burst they once coveted, the team turned to fullback Marcel Reece in the fourth quarter. Expect the Raiders to see what they have in Murray during the team's final five games.
In addition, Hayden is starting to show some of the potential that made him the top overall cornerback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. Hayden, whose career has been plagued by injuries thus far, flashed his closing speed making a critical tackle on third down in the first quarter, forcing a punt. Hayden chased down running back Jamaal Charles from the backside to make the play. Aside from a holding penalty and getting tangled with cornerback Charles Woodson on one play, it was a good night for Hayden.
Despite Tony Sparano squeezing the potential out of this team, it's unlikely he will be named head coach this upcoming offseason, as FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer alluded to on America's Pregame.
Glazer also pointed out the top candidates considered in the search are former Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden, current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh or Stanford head coach David Shaw. A group of die-hard Raiders' fans took out a newspaper ad, lobbying for current Bengals offensive coordinator and former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson to assume the duties, as well.
Whoever ends up with the job has some solid pieces in place.
And on a night where the Raiders' Hall of Famers were in attendance to honor Ray Guy's ring ceremony, they showed winning ways could be on the horizon.
*Four days after an emotional win against the Seattle Seahawks, the Chiefs couldn't bottle up more come-from-behind magic. Over the last two weeks the Chiefs had beat the Buffalo Bills and Seahawks trailing in the fourth quarter and appeared they were on track to do so again against the Raiders. The defense's bottom fell out as the Raiders kept chipping away. The loss snaps a five-game winning streak and any positive momentum leading into their Week 13 clash as they host the Denver Broncos.
*After a severe lull in the Chiefs offense, Smith sparked up two scoring drives in the second half. Smith's veteran savvy took advantage of a defense that was caught substituting out linemen, hooking up on a 19-yard touchdown to Anthony Fasano. Smith's favorite target was running back Jamaal Charles, who was targeted seven times out of the backfield. Charles is easily the Chiefs most dangerous offensive threat.
*There's a lot to like about Carr's game. While he was deservingly excited with the outcome, he showed poise in making pre-snap adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Carr completed short, quick throws to nullify a ferocious Chiefs' pass rush. He also threw with plenty of velocity on a big-time NFL completion to Jones in the third quarter. Carr slid in the pocket and fired a 17-yard pass to Jones breaking in on a post route.
*Much should be said about the Raiders' motivation in their play, despite becoming the 13th team since 1978 to start their season 0-10. Sparano has had this team competing ever since taking over the job in Week 5.
*The ageless wonder Charles Woodson had his best game of the season. Woodson had a big-time sack in the second half and even assumed punt return duties after Denarius Moore muffed a punt. Woodson became the first player in NFL history to record 50 interceptions and 20 sacks.
*Rookie running back De'Anthony Thomas has carved out a nice role for himself. While Thomas doesn't get a load of touches, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson uses the speedster as a decoy.
*It took the Chiefs nearly 55 minutes to get their first sack of the night. Linebacker Justin Houston threw Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson to the side for the sack on Carr. Houston, playing in the final year of his rookie deal, is the league's leading sack leader (13.0) and very deserving of a new contract.