OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — For everything that has gone wrong for Oakland this season, from a four-game losing streak to the defensive coordinator getting fired to the offense regressing, the Raiders somehow find themselves in contention in the mediocre AFC West.
Oakland got a boost Sunday when it eked out a 21-14 win over the Denver Broncos despite losing star receiver Michael Crabtree to an ejection for his role in a brawl and nearly squandering a 21-point lead to a last-place team.
“It’s just a lot of relief,” said Carr, who threw two TD passes . “And now, we sit where we sit and we know what’s ahead of us. It was just a lot of relief getting this win, getting back on the right track, and hopefully we can go on a run.”
With Kansas City (6-5) losing for the fifth time in six games, the Raiders (5-6) are now tied with the Chargers for second place and only need to win their own games to take the division title thanks to this latest win.
It was a wild one, starting with the first-quarter brawl between Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib that overshadowed a week of turmoil for both teams. Denver fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and made another quarterback change to give Paxton Lynch the start, and Oakland fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
The fight was a continuation of a dispute that started last season when Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain off during the season finale. Crabtree missed the first game between the teams this year but wasted little time seeking revenge.
On the second play of Oakland’s second drive, Crabtree aggressively blocked Talib on a running play and drove him to the ground on the Broncos sideline. Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain off his neck while they were tangled up, and a brawl ensued . Guard Gabe Jackson pushed an official while trying to join in and got ejected, along with Crabtree and Talib.
“I guess his initiative was to come out there and fight today,” said Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who said Crabtree “sucker-punched” him on the previous play. “I guess it wasn’t to play football.”
Here are some other takeaways from the game:
PAXTON’S PROBLEMS: The switch to Lynch provided no spark for the Broncos. He threw for just 41 yards on 14 attempts while taking four sacks before leaving with an ankle injury. Trevor Siemian came in and threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter. But coach Vance Joseph wasn’t ready to commit to a quarterback for next week.
“This was the first week I had played with all these guys in a while,” Lynch said. “It felt good out there to get out there and play with them, but obviously this isn’t the result we all wanted.”
STEPPING UP: With Crabtree ejected and Amari Cooper out with a concussion, the Raiders had to rely on some lesser-used receivers. Johnny Holton and Cordarrelle Patterson both stepped up with big plays. Holton had a 47-yard catch on a deep throw to set up Oakland’s third touchdown and Patterson had a 54-yard, catch-and-run on a late third down that allowed Oakland to run out the clock.
“We just stepped up and did what we are supposed to do,” Patterson said. “We know what we can do that’s why when people go down its next man up.”
HISTORIC SKID: It has been a long time since things have been this bad for the Broncos . Their seven-game losing streak is their longest since a franchise-record nine-gamer in 1967.
“I am just irritated man,” linebacker Shane Ray said. “I don’t like losing. My teammates don’t like losing. … We are doing everything that we possibly can try to do to be better and fight for our teammates, and you know it is frustrating when these losses come like this.”
BEAST MODE: Oakland kept giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch even if it didn’t lead to much success. He had 26 carries for 67 yards, averaging just 2.6 yards in his busiest day since coming out of retirement this season. But he scored on a 1-yard TD and added 44 yards on three catches.
BIG HIT: The Raiders were upset about the hit that sidelined Cooper. On a pass over the middle, safety Darian Stewart ran up from his deep position and delivered a big hit that knocked Cooper out. Cooper stayed on the ground for several minutes before a cart came out on the field. He ended up walking off on his own but is in the concussion protocol.
“It was a vicious hit, the kind we’re trying to remove from our game quite frankly,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “I’m sure the league will take a hard look at it.”