Lake Erie froze over Sunday. Not only did the Raiders win a road game, but they did it in the Eastern time zone.
So what if the Raiders snapped their ghastly streak of 11 consecutive road losses against the Cleveland Browns, as bad a team as there is in the NFL right now. When you’ve been the worst team in the league over the last 12 years, you gotta start somewhere, right?
Still, as much as the Raiders want to consider this to be a defining victory in the Jack Del Rio era, Balls won’t go there. Nothing is defining against an opponent this godawful.
The Raiders gained 469 yards and never trailed in the game. They even took down quarterback Josh McCown five times and took him down hard. The locals chanted for the infinitely more mobile Johnny Manziel in the second quarter, but Mike Pettine said he never considered a change, which shows you that fans do know more than the coach sometimes.
Even with all that, the outcome wasn’t decided until the one-armed Charles Woodson picked off a pass in the final minute.
See, there’s one thing about the Raiders that never seems to change, and that’s penalties. Lots of penalties in all shapes and sizes, 12 accepted ones in all. As much as anything, that’s what allowed the home team to make a game of it.
The Raiders will face a crummy Bears team with a second-string quarterback in Chicago next week. But play flag football again, and they may not be as fortunate this time.
SUPER COOPER: Is it too early for Raiders’ rookie Amari Cooper to hold out for a contract extension?
Basically, Cooper has become the focal point of the Raiders’ offense in a matter of weeks. Yeah, Latavius Murray rushed for 136 yards against the worst run defense in the league, 54 on one play. But that was mostly because the Browns couldn’t crowd the line of scrimmage after Cooper caught passes for 13, 19 and 22 yards in the first four minutes. That also was a reason why quarterback Derek Carr didn’t get sacked in 32 pass attempts.
“A home run waiting to happen,” Carr called the kid.
So impressive was Cooper especially early in the game, he turned Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden into a rookie. He finished with eight receptions for 134 yards, while the other eight targets combined for a dozen catches and 180 yards.
SLIM AND NONE: The Los Angeles Dodgers will clinch the NL West title at AT&T Park with one victory in the next four days, and some Giants’ die-hards would almost rather lose a limb than watch that happen on their home field.
Jake Peavy won’t go quite that far, but he’s the kind of bulldog competitor who takes the challenge personally. Which is why he’s the best pitcher not named Madison Bumgarner to take the ball against Zack Greinke this evening.
“I think I can speak for everyone in this room — that’s not a visual that anybody wants,” Peavy told Balls after a 5-4 win over the Athletics. “That being said, we’re gonna do everything we can do to make the [the race] interesting. Hopefully, we can get a game closer and not be mathematically eliminated. We’re still fighting.”
Even if the Giants were to sweep the series, they would trail the Dodgers by two games with three left to play.
Said manager Bruce Bochy, “I don’t think about [the potential for a Dodgers’ celebration]. We’ll just try to win a game, and if it happens, it happens. We’re in a tough position and we know it.”
TANGLED UP IN BLUE: Peavy arrived less than two seasons ago, but that’s long enough for him to understand the Dodgers-Giants thing.
“When two teams are in the division, and it has been like it has been here the last few years, when you battle each other perennially for the top spot, it creates a great rivalry, a great thing for baseball,” Peavy said. “Obviously, the fans get into it. They get rowdy because the implications are greater almost every time we play. You can’t help but have a little extra motivation. It’s a fun rivalry. It’s a great rivalry.”
And if you’re the defending champs, it’s even better when the other guy pops his Champagne somewhere else.
THANKS FOR COMING: The A’s treated their fans to a clincher of their own — as in worst record in the American League. The loss was their team-record 33rd by one run.
Old baseball saying: Once is an accident, twice is a trend and 33 times means the team owners can care more about themselves than the product.
GO FIGURE: Former teammates Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito threw out ceremonial first pitches before game, and the retired guy (Mulder) came closest to the strike zone.
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