By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders took on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday Night Football in a game that both teams needed to win. The Raiders had fallen into last place in the AFC West, but were a win away from climbing back into the race. The Dolphins were fighting to win and catch up to the Buffalo Bills in what is turning out to be a surprisingly tight AFC East race. When the game was over, it was the Raiders that finally bounced back from a tough streak in which they lost five of their past six games. Oakland not only climbed out of last place, but also jumped over the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos to move into second place in their division. Here is a look at the Raiders’ team grades after this big win.
One of the primary reasons the Raiders offense has struggled in recent weeks is due to the injury suffered by quarterback Derek Carr, and his subpar play since returning early from that injury. However, there was no sign of his struggles in the win over the Dolphins, as Carr threw for 300 yards for the third game in a row, while completing 70 percent of his pass attempts with only one interception. The Raiders are 4-1 this season when Carr throws one interception or less in a game, and are 0-3 in games with multiple picks. Carr did fumble the ball twice, but the Raiders didn’t lose either one.
Carr’s top target in this game was his tight end, Jared Cook, who had season-high numbers in targets (9), receptions (8) and yards (126). It was the second time this season that Cook had over 100 receiving yards. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree combined to catch seven balls for 98 yards. However, the biggest pass play of the game was a 44-yard touchdown strike from Carr to second-year receiver Johnny Holton in the second quarter.
Marshawn Lynch has not given the Raiders the weapon many fans dreamed of this season. But after serving a one-game suspension from running off the bench during a fight and shoving a referee, Lynch scored two touchdowns in this game, which made all the difference in Oakland’s win. Lynch only had 14 carries for 57 yards, but did run for the two touchdowns, including a long run of 22 yards.
The Raiders defense has caused every loss this season due to their injury-riddled secondary and their inability to stop big plays. With Jay Cutler returning to the Miami offense, there were worries that these struggles would continue. Cutler had a great game, throwing for 311 yards and three touchdowns and completing 80 percent of his pass attempts. He even brought the Dolphins to within three with 22 seconds left after a five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. The Raiders defense almost blew the lead again, but the ensuing onside kick went their way.
At the end of the game, the Raiders gave up 309 passing yards and 86 rushing yards despite the Dolphins trying to find a new lead back in Kenyan Drake. Oakland did record one sack and TJ Carrie recovered a Drake fumble.
Special Teams: A
After the Dolphins scored on their long touchdown drive at the end of the game, the Raiders special teams had to cover an onside kick, and did so to hold on for the win. This was a huge play that the Raiders hope will allow them to turn their season around. In the kicking game, Giorgio Tavecchio was perfect on the day, with two field goals, including a long of 53 yards, and three PATs. Marquette King punted the ball three times, pinning two of them inside the 20.
The Raiders were winning the game 27-16 in the fourth quarter, and needed to run the clock out to pick up the much-needed win. With the Raiders on the 49, they tried to run the ball twice, but gained no yards. There were just over two minutes left and the Raiders needed to run more time off the clock and then punt the ball if they didn’t pick up the first down. Instead, the Raiders called a long pass play and Derek Carr threw the ball deep down the field on a play that resulted in an interception. The Dolphins then had time to score another touchdown and put the game within three.
All season, the Raiders have been throwing the ball when they should be running it and calling plays that make little sense when they do have the lead. It almost cost them another loss in this game.
The Raiders won and moved into second place in the AFC West with a 4-5 record. This is because the Broncos lost in a blowout to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Chargers (3-5) were on a bye week. It also helps that the Chiefs fell to the Dallas Cowboys, and the one team that the Raiders have the tiebreaker over is only two games up in the AFC West with plenty of time remaining this season. The Raiders now head into their bye week after a big win, and have a chance to try to get healthy in their secondary before they return for their toughest game of the season, a home contest with the New England Patriots on Nov. 19.