OAKLAND — On a day when Michael Crabtree was thrown out and Amari Cooper was knocked out, Derek Carr led the Oakland Raiders to a 21-14 win over the Denver Broncos, moving the club to within a game of the top spot in the AFC West.
With the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs losing for the third time in as many weeks and the Raiders handling the Broncos, Oakland (5-6) moves into a tie with the Chargers for second place in the West.
“To be able to do that, it’s just a lot of relief,” Carr said after the win. “And now we sit where we sit and we know what’s ahead of us. So, it was just a lot of relief just getting this win, getting back on the right track. And hopefully we can go on a run.”
With rain falling intermittently throughout the afternoon, Carr connected on 18 of his 24 passes, delivering a pair of touchdown strikes. Carr amassed 253 yards through the air, while Marshawn Lynch totaled 111 yards from scrimmage.
Courtesy of Carr’s second touchdown pass of the day, the Raiders barreled out to a 21-0 lead at the 6:22 mark in the third when the quarterback found Jalen Richard on a six-yard scoring play.
The touchdown had been preceded by a 47-yard bomb to Johnny Holton. The second-year receiver now has four catches on the season — three of which have gone for at least 47 yards.
The Raiders had commanded a 14-0 advantage at the half thanks to a touchdown strike from Carr to Amari Cooper and a one-yard rush for Marshawn Lynch.
The nine-yard touchdown for Cooper, which capped the club’s 80-yard drive and had been set up by NaVorro Bowman’s interception in the Denver end zone, the Raiders first pick of the season.
At the 4:39 mark in the second quarter, Cooper was knocked out of the game after a nasty collision with safety Darian Stewart. Cooper’s helmet collided with the side of Stewart’s body, resulting in an unnecessary roughness penalty for the Bronco and leaving the receiver motionless on the field.
“Anytime I throw a ball and I feel like I had anything to do with it, it rips my heart out,” Carr said. “I’m not even going to lie, I had to hold back the emotions of him getting hit thinking that it was my fault.”
The Raiders brought out a cart and stretcher for Cooper, who eventually limped off the field with the help of a staffer on either side.
Cooper was ruled out at the half with a concussion. While Del Rio didn’t have any updates after the game, he did have harsh words for Stewart.
“It was a vicious hit,” Del Rio said. “The kind we’re trying to remove from our game, quite frankly. You see less and less of those. I’m sure the league will take a hard look at it. Those are the kind of impact hits that don’t need to be a part of our game right now.”
Chain-gate Round II
Early in the first quarter, a fight broke out after Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib got locked up as the Raiders receiver ran his route.
Crabtree, who had his chain snatched away by Talib last season, once again appeared to lose his necklace, resulting in a shoving match that engulfed the Broncos sideline and carried over into the end zone in front of the Black Hole.
“I think they have a little bit of a history with the chain snatching from years back,” Del Rio said. “And I think there was an additional chain snatch from what I understand.”
Crabtree and Talib were both ejected — along with Gabe Jackson who pushed an official amid the chaos.
“Bottomline is we can’t afford to lose one of our top receivers and then out starting guard because he went over there to help his buddy,” Del Rio said. “We can’t get two guys tossed like that.”
The scene ended in bizarre fashion, as Marshawn Lynch guided Talib through a sea of Raiders along the home sideline before the Broncos cornerback made his way up the tunnel.
1st of the year
On the guest’s first drive of the second quarter, the defense recorded its first interception of 2017 when Bowman hauled in a Paxton Lynch pass — deflected by Reggie Nelson — in the end zone, as the linebacker was laying on his back.
The pick snapped a run of 357 passing attempts from opposing quarterbacks without a Raider interception.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Del Rio said with a laugh as he reflected on the historically futile streak. “Even later in the game we still had both hands on a ball that ended up not only not being intercepted but caught by the other team. It’s just — I’ve never seen it.”
Downing in trouble
Gameday began with an incendiary report from CBS Sports, placing rookie offensive coordinator Todd Downing squarely on the hot seat.
“He is unlikely to be back with the team in 2018 at this point and the situation could come to a head before then,” CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote.
Players have reportedly grown “frustrated” with the quarterbacks coach turned OC, who’s not popular in the building at large.