Raiders off to 3-1 start after thriller in Baltimore

The Raiders are off to a 3-1 start, their best since the 2002 season. Better yet, they’ve won three games on the road that they probably would have lost a year ago.

The Raiders had no business to eke out a 28-27 thriller against the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday. They were outgained 412-281 and guilty of a dozen penalties. If they go on to become AFC champions, we’ll look back at this day as a turning point.

Goes to show you what a hot quarterback like Derek Carr and ballsy head coach like Black Jack Del Rio can do for a team.

Carr hooked up with Michael Crabtree on the game-winner, a perfectly thrown ball to the back of the end zone with less than three minutes on the clock. His career-high fourth TD pass of the game finished a six-play, 66-yard drive. He didn’t throw an interception.

Kind of makes you wonder why coordinator Bill Musgrave and his group didn’t play with that kind of urgency a lot earlier.

“Smart, tough and accurate is what we have in Derek,” Del Rio said afterward.

Early in the fourth quarter, Del Rio made the biggest call of the game.

On fourth-and-1 at the Ravens’ 20, Black Jack rolled the dice again rather than attempt a field goal. The homeboys not only lined up offsides but also jumped the snap — dumb-de-dumb-dumb — and the 5-yard penalty gave the Raiders a gift-wrapped first down.

Moments later, the Carr-to-Crabtree combination struck again. The Raiders would need the extra points, it turned out.

“I’m gonna have the courage era to what’s right for the football team regardless of the situation,” Del Rio said.

Bully for Black Jack. He’s gonna guess wrong one of these days. The wolves will howl when he does. Until then, give the guy credit. In a league where too many coaches are content to cover their butts, he’s on a roll.

NOT SO FAST: Now get ready for the incessant talk about the Raiders as legit AFC contenders.

Balls won’t go there, though. Not until they beat the Denver Broncos, anyway.

Lest we forget, the Silver and Black have been gouged for 34, 35 and 27 points already. The Ravens ranked 25th in yards gained and 24th in points scored at the start of the day.

Still, while the defense continues to bend like a tree in a tornado, it has made enough plays to get it done. None was bigger than the hit by safety Reggie Nelson, who turned Ravens’ wide receiver Kamar Aikin into Kamar Achin’ to snuff out the final threat.

In his second start, rookie middle linebacker Cory James (12 solo tackles) was active again. Hey, there even was a Khalil Mack sighting. He had three hits on the quarterback and first sack of the season.

Maybe not a quantum leap but another step forward for sure.

WHICH GIANTS SHOW UP NEXT? The Giants got into the wild-card play-in game by the hairs on their chin chin chins. In game No. 162. On the final day of the regular season.

Now raise your hand if you know which team will show up in New York on Wednesday night.

Will it be the team with the best record in the National League at the All-Star break? Or the one with the 30-42 record since then?

Somebody? Anybody …?

Maybe manager Bruce Bochy’s bunch are experienced and savvy and cocky enough to flip the switch whenever necessary. Sure looked like it last week, when they won five crucial games at home. Included was a sweep of the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, bless ’em.

The Orange and Black have cut it close and thrown a big party before, you know.

In 2010, the Giants clinched the West Division title at AT&T Park on the final day of the regular season. Fifteen games later, they were World Series champions.

Those Giants entered the postseason on the crest of a wave. They closed the regular season with a 19-10 record and plus-46 runs differential in September and October.

But this is now …

Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Buster Posey and Sergio Romo are a lot older. (And so is Pablo Sandoval, for that matter.)

Unlike six years ago, when Tim Lincecum, Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Bumgarner were lined up for the ALDS, the rotation is a bit out of kilter this time. Bumgarner will take the ball against the New York Mets in the best-of-one series, another one of Major Baseball’s dim-bulbed ideas. That would leave his team at a distinct disadvantage if it were to meet the favored Chicago Cubs in the next round.

But would anyone put it past three odd-ball Giants to turn back the clock one last time?

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