By Sam McPherson
Anyone who claims they saw this one coming is lying.
The Oakland Raiders won their first game of the 2014 NFL season Thursday night at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, and all it took was the best effort the offense has seen all year—followed by a defensive stand that was just good enough.
With the 24-20 win, the Silver & Black are off the hook and will avoid historic comparisons for the next five weeks. They realized in this game they have two true players to build around on offense—players noted here in this space a few weeks ago, of course—and the team probably also realizes it was somewhat lucky on defense at the end, too.
Wins are wins, though, and Oakland now has their first victory since November 17, 2013. The Raiders may finish 1-15, but at least they won’t finish 0-16. Congrats, 2008 Detroit Lions … you can pop the cork now: You are still the only 0-16 team in NFL history.
Derek Carr did what he needed to in order to win this game: He led his offense on its longest drive of the season so far, in the fourth quarter, to come from behind and score the go-ahead touchdown with under two minutes remaining.
His numbers for the game weren’t great: just 18-of-35 for 174 yards and one TD. But he didn’t throw an interception, and he didn’t panic, either. Carr also ran for some first downs on that key drive in the fourth quarter that won the game. He was everything a field general needs to be, and the Raiders have their QB of the future—everyone knows it now.
Carr will now be able to relax more and more each week, with the proverbial monkey off his back. GRADE: A
The Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead in this game, because they finally gave the ball to Latavius Murray. The young running back had four carries for 112 yards and two TDs before leaving the game with a concussion, but without him, Oakland never would have won the game.
The Silver & Black also owe this game to fullback Marcel Reece, who carried the ball seven times on the final drive for 34 yards. Without his rushes, that final drive never happens. He also caught an eight-yard pass from Carr on the drive. Overall, the Raiders marched 80 yards in 17 plays, taking up 7:21 of game time—the team’s longest drive of the season, in a year when they just haven’t been able to do that at all.
And to do it against the Chiefs defense, without Murray, was just incredible. But the Raiders looked like they expected to do it in this one. James Jones caught the game-winning TD pass from Carr to cap the night off for the offense in style.
With 351 total yards, it was a good night for the Oakland offense—and a turnover-free one, too. GRADE: A
Oakland gave up 5.0 yards per play and 313 yards total. The Raiders defense did not force a turnover. But they held the Chiefs to a 2-for-14 effort on third downs, and this enabled the Oakland defenders to spend less than 30 minutes on the field—reversing the trend they’d established for themselves all season.
It was that kind of night for the Silver & Black, and then they still almost blew it at the end. How? By giving up a fourth-down conversion after getting called for three different penalties and then almost celebrating too much on a third-down sack to get caught offsides.
The Raiders were a little lucky that the officials bailed them out by allowing a time out to be called even though two Oakland defenders were ten yards offsides while the Chiefs were getting set to snap the ball. That’s a call teams rarely get in their favor, but it may have preserved the win for the Silver & Black tonight.
All in all, it was a good enough effort in all the ways the Raiders defense has been maligned this season. And they won the game in the end. GRADE: A-
Denarius Moore fumbled away a punt deep in his own territory in the first half with the Raiders holding that 14-0 lead. It could have been disastrous, but the Chiefs only got a field goal out of it. Marquette King again boomed the ball, this time six attempts for 49.3 yards per kick, pinning the Chiefs deep repeatedly. And Sebastian Janikowski made the kicks.
Moore’s blunder was really the only black mark on the team’s effort all night, really, until those final few defensive plays noted above. GRADE: B
Celebrate Good Times
Yes, the Oakland Athletics still play that Kool & The Gang song after a home win, and now the Silver & Black can pipe it loud through the stadium PA system, too. There will be no ugly 0-16 smear on this season for the Raiders now. They can concentrate on football a little bit more, knowing they have one win under their collective belts.
Now, the team can enjoy this win for a few days and take some time off to savor it. But soon, it will be back to work for the Oakland Raiders, and something tells us the team will be all smiles at the next workout.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.