Oakland had the division-leading Chiefs on the run, with a chance at a highlight victory to take away from an otherwise lowlight of a season.
Kansas City staved off upset, overcoming the Raiders’ 17-point fourth quarter with a late touchdown of their own. But Week 13 brought much to excite for a team that has lost three All-Pros, including perhaps the best defensive player in the league, over the past three months.
Derek Carr had another strong showing in the face of an increasing inexperience on the outside, throwing for 285 yards and three scores, each in the second half. The fifth-year pro and three-time Pro Bowler has certainly had better numbers, but 2018 is starting to look like his best year of work — considering the supporting cast.
Carr’s second-half heroics would, on most occasions, have been enough. But this time around, he was working around a trio of lost fumbles.
fumbling away a job
Since Marshawn Lynch was shutdown with a groin injury in October, Oakland has gone to a running back-by-committee approach. Doug Martin leads the team in carries (105), but Jalen Richard (36) and DeAndre Washington (24) have each gotten their totes of late.
That committee could be nearing its end, though, after each member lost a fumble resulting in Chiefs scores Sunday. The Raiders signed C.J. Anderson, a Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos, Wednesday, three days after the loss.
Anderson, a 27-year-old Vallejo product and Bethel High School alum, has carried the ball just 24 times, for 104 yards, this season coming off a 1,000-yard campaign a year ago.
Oakland, currently 22nd in rushing yards per game (105.3) and 15th in yards per rush (4.4), will look for a boost into the top-half of the league with the addition of Anderson.
No booth review?
Head coach Jon Gruden successfully challenged a Travis Kelce touchdown in the second half, but Gruden wanted to challenge another, and he had a gripe.
With 12 seconds remaining in the first half, Patrick Mahomes hit his All-Pro tight end on the goalline, near the pylon. Gruden wanted a review, but with less than two minutes left before halftime that decision could only come from the officials. In his plea for a closer look, he threw an illegal challenge resulting in a timeout charged to the Raiders.
He said after the game that he knew the challenge was illegal, but made the decision to throw it anyway in the hopes of sending a message to the NFL. And if all close calls are to be reviewed he had a point.
Kelce, diving to make the catch, appeared to lose control of the ball as it hit the ground.
According to the letter of the law, the play should have incurred a booth review, and though it may not have been overturned that is all Gruden and the Raiders could have asked for. In the end, the call may have swung the decision out of Oakland’s favor.
Emergence of a seventh-`round game-changer
At the start of the season, the Raider offense looked like it would ride big-name receivers Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to success.
Cooper has since been traded, and both Nelson and Bryant have battled injury. That has left tight end Jared Cook to shoulder the load with 54 catches and a team-high 709 yards. But for the past three weeks, Carr has redirected his sights back to the outside and Marcell Ateman, Oakland’s 228th overall selection in the 2018 draft.
Ateman has been targeted 19 times in his three weeks on the active roster, and caught nine passes for 82 yards, and hauled in his first NFL touchdown in midway through the fourth quarter Sunday.
A former Oklahoma State standout, Ateman has shown speed, physicality and strong hands.
If the 2018 season is to result in a cellar finish for the Raiders, they can take solace in the early draft pick it will net. But also in the discovery of a potential diamond in the rough in Ateman.