The Cleveland Browns celebrated last week as they won their first game in almost two years. The Raiders ended their win streak at one game with a thrilling overtime victory in Oakland.
Head coach Jon Gruden got the first victory of his second stint with the Oakland Raiders today, edging out the Cleveland Browns 45-42. In a back and forth battle that verged on emotional abuse for Raiders fans, the team proved they could come back and win a game late. They never quit fighting which may be the biggest vote of confidence the coaching staff can receive. Let’s look at three rapid reactions we can take from this win.
Derek Carr Rekindled the 2016 Magic
Having shouldered much of the blame for the team’s failings this season, quarterback Derek Carr put on a performance reminiscent of his MVP level 2016 season. That year was a collage of late-game heroics and high pressure throws. The drive that tied this game was eerily similar to the week 1 contest in New Orleans that year.
“I just have the same feeling I’ve always had,” Gruden said following the game. “I think you continue to raise the bar with Carr. It’s not good enough yet. He’s a spectacular talent, a great kid. He’s going to be fine in this offense but, you know, we keep raising the bar with him. And try not to ever get satisfied. It’s a pleasure coaching him. He showed a lot of great recognition.”
Carr would finish the game completing 35-of-58 (60.3%) for 437 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. There were times that it was obvious that Carr and his receivers were not on the same page which is a reminder that this offense is still a work in progress. Hopefully, this is the moment the team will look back on at the end of the season as the game that turned their fortunes around.
Marshawn Lynch Is a Beast
Nobody who has ever seen running back Marshawn Lynch carry the rock would be surprised to hear that he is a little difficult to bring down. Lynch has been the most consistent performer on the offensive unit and will continue to be a focal point going forward.
Lynch, given a significant amount of plays to shine, went off for 130 yards on 20 carries. If it is possible to lean on him any more the coaching staff may just do so. It was a tough day on the ground that was covered up in the stat sheet by this 54-yard scamper. Cleveland did a good job clogging up the interior and this “pin and pull” was a great way to get the ball to the edge of the defense. Great adjustment by the coaching staff here.
Defense came up big in big moment
Cleveland seemed to have the momentum and appeared ready to close out the game following the Raiders missed field goal to start overtime. Fans had witnessed the defense unable to put games away over the first three weeks of the season and couldn’t be blamed for thinking the same was about to happen.
The same story appeared to be playing out once more. A critical third down. The Raiders coverage would be effective but the pass rush wouldn’t quite get home. The quarterback would slip out of the pocket and complete a back breaking pass that would lead to another loss. This time, however, cornerback Rashaan Melvin would recover and be in a position to knock down the throw. Cleveland would punt and Oakland would drive for their first win.
A back and forth game that actually saw a couple calls go the Raiders way was the perfect reversal of recent fortunes. Instead of losing a game they seemed to be in control of, they found a way to pull out a victory in a game they seemed to have already lost. It remains to be seen if this is a turning point in the season but it is a major positive step in the right direction.