It took seven weeks but the explosive Amari Cooper has finally arrived in Oakland for the 2017 season.
Aided by the best game of Cooper’s young career, the Raiders (3-4) overcame a pair of overturned touchdowns in the closing seconds with Michael Crabtree snatching the game-winner on a second un-timed down for a 31-30 Thursday night thriller victory over the Chiefs (6-1).
With a win that featured Oakland erasing four separate deficits, including a nine-point disadvantage at the start of the fourth quarter, the Raiders kept alive hopes of a Wild Card bid, as well as an AFC West title.
Three times, it appeared the Raiders had scored a lead-taking touchdown with fewer than 20 seconds remaining in the game. But, first, a review showed that tight end Jared Cook‘s posterior had him down at the one-half yard line before rolling into the endzone with 18 seconds left on the clock.
In accordance with league rules, 10 seconds were run off the clock after the overturned ruling.
Once again, it appeared that a perfect throw from quarterback Derek Carr had netted Oakland a lead, with Crabtree snaring a fade over a stumbling Marcus Peters. But a flag thrown brought the announcement that Crabtree had shoved the Kansas City cornerback with three seconds left.
Then, a drop by a wide open Cook in the endzone was rescued with Ron Parker flagged for defensive holding. And Cordarrelle Patterson‘s inability to wrangle a pass before stepping out of the back of the endzone was bailed out by Eric Murray‘s defensive holding on a first un-timed down.
Finally, on a sprint out to the left, Carr hit a kneeling Crabtree just inside the front pylon — with no flags. The call on the field “stood” after a review, and Giorgio Tavecchio, who had missed a 45-yard field goal attempt and had a 53-yarder blocked, snuck the extra point just inside the right upright to seal the win.
Long before going in the direction of the sure-handed Crabtree for the winner and the leaping 6-foot-5 tight end to set it up, Carr and offensive coordinator Todd Downing made a concerted effort to get Cooper involved early, going at the two-time Pro Bowler on Oakland’s first offensive play of the game — albeit a pick up of just 12 yards.
The third-year receiver entered the fray with just 146 receiving yards and one touchdown through the first six games of the season. Less than seven minutes into this game, Cooper had hauled in a pair of catches for 50 yards and a score, including a 38-yards touchdown catch on a flea flicker up the left sideline.
Cooper finished his huge evening with a career-high 210 yards on 11 catches with two going for touchdowns. Cook added six catches and 107 yards — two of the game’s final three completions for 42 yards.
The Chiefs secondary wasn’t the only one having difficulties.
Like Kansas City’s struggles slowing Cooper, the Raiders couldn’t reel in the lightning quick Tyreek Hill, who piled up 125 yards on six catches, including a 64-yard score.
On 25-of-36 passing, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith accounted for 342 of the game’s 759 passing yards — Carr: 417 on 29-of-52.
With all the offense, however, the game swung on one of the few big defensive plays. The game’s only sack, as it were, produced by the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.
On a third and four, with just under three minutes left in the game, Mack ran right through Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher sending Smith retreating to Denico Autry, who met up with Mack for a drive-ending sack to set up an 11-play, 85-yard Oakland drive spanning the game’s final 2:25.
The Raiders get 10 days of preparation before beginning a two-game road trip in Buffalo. The Bills (3-2) host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) Sunday.
Marshawn Lynch was ejected with 6:12 left in the first half. After an unnecessary roughness late hit by Kansas City corner back Marcus Peters on Derek Carr, Lynch entered the field of play (from the bench) where he shoved an official. Lynch will likely be fined and possibly suspended. … The loss snaps Kansas City’s four-game winning streak over the Raiders, and 12-game winning streak against all AFC West opponents. … NaVorro Bowman, whom the Raiders signed three days ago (Monday)made the start as the defense’s designated play caller. He finished with a game-high 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and a quarterback hit.
Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Raiders beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.