1st Place in AFC West
Previous Game: Defeated Carolina Panthers (3-8) 35-32 at home
Next Game: vs. Buffalo Bills (5-6) Sun, Dec 4, 4:25 EST
The pinky game. The glove. Luke Skywalker.
Whatever you want to say about Derek Carr’s performance on Sunday, it all fits. The guy is tough and resilient. He’s a leader by word and example. He gets better every game.
Derek Carr is clutch.
And so is Khalil Mack.
After holding a comfortable 24-7 lead at halftime, Carr took a snap awkwardly early in the third quarter. And by awkwardly I mean it bent, cut and bruised his pinky into a dislocated mess. When a guy who has literally done a flip to get a first down runs away from the play, you know it’s serious.
Not as serious as it could’ve been, fortunately. Although he threw a pick shortly after returning, Carr and his silver & black glove showed no ill effects — amazingly — and came up clutch when needed. Like always.
Carolina mounted a furious rally in the third and early fourth, scoring 25 unanswered points while Carr was out of the game and after his early return.
But Carr and Mack wouldn’t let Carolina win this game. With the Raiders down 32-24, Carr marched the team downfield methodically for a TD. He hit Clive Walford for a key first down before hitting Walford with a TD laser in the back of the end zone.
This was a redemptive performance for Michael Crabtree, who’s been clutch all year but had fallen off in recent weeks. King Crab had an 8 catch, 115 yard performance that included a 49-yarder on the final drive. For that one he only fought off pass interference and lost his helmet, but still came up with the catch. No problem. He’s the man.
A couple plays later a Janikowski field goal had the Raiders back on top, 35-32. But Carolina had moved the ball at will and had time left on the clock for a game-tying field goal.
Enter Mack. Well, re-enter Mack. He’d already loudly announced his day with six tackles, one for loss, three QB hits and an absolutely gorgeous display of athleticism on a perfectly read screen pass that he jumped for a pick-six. He’d already been everywhere. And then…
With Carolina needing a play and down to their last gasp, Mack is who made one. He sloughed off a block and an attempted chip by the RB, grabbed Newton’s arm and then pounced on the loose ball. Strip-sack, recovery. Game over.
Mack received the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time in three games (first was against Denver week 9) and was the best player on the field. He’s making a strong case for DPOY.
Just as Carr is making one for MVP. Carr’s finger is reportedly doing well and he’s looking good for Buffalo this weekend. Mack is seemingly getting better every week. The defense needs to tighten up the big plays, but their first half was a thing of beauty.
The Raiders are playing their best football at the most important time of the year. With Buffalo coming to town and boasting the NFL’s top rushing attack at 157 YPG, the Raiders need their 26th ranked run defense to step up.
Every game is important now as the Raiders continue to hold a one-game divisional lead. The Chiefs have a shiny new weapon and an old familiar face for the stretch run, and the Broncos certainly aren’t done yet.
With trips to Kansas City, Denver, and San Diego looming over the next five weeks the Raiders need to take care of business against Buffalo at home to make the road a little easier to travel.