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OAKLAND — Late into the fourth quarter, the biggest upset of this NFL season remained a possibility.
Kareem Hunt or not, the Chiefs far outmatch the Raiders on paper. Even with a leaky pass defense that allowed more yards in the air than any other team entering Week 13, the Chiefs’ offense seemed far too powerful for the Raiders to even contend with.
Yet after rookie Marcell Atman’s first career touchdown catch with just under seven minutes remaining in the game, a nifty back shoulder grab for a 9-yard score, the Raiders only trailed by three.
Yet like earlier in the game, when each of the Raiders’ three running backs lost fumbles, the Raiders couldn’t get out of their own way. Second-year defensive end Fadol Brown jumped offsides just inside Kansas City territory on 3rd-and-5 even as Rashaan Melvin knocked down a Patrick Mahomes deep ball, and the Chiefs were granted another life.
The best team in the AFC made the conference’s worst team pay, and rookie slot corner Nick Nelson lost Chris Conley in the end zone as the Chiefs took a two-score lead with under two minutes remaining. Daniel Carlson’s 44-yard field goal cut the deficit to seven with 30 seconds remaining, but Conley came up big again in recovering Carlson’s ensuing onside kick to seal the game.
“I’m really proud of our coaches, proud of our players. We had a chance,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “We got beat by a hell of a football team.”
All things considered, a 40-33 loss might’ve been the best-case scenario for the Raiders. They fought until the end against a Super Bowl contender, giving themselves and their fans hope for the time being. But they also stayed in contention for the No. 1 pick, and a Cardinals’ win Sunday against the Packers left the Raiders and 49ers as the only 2-10 teams in the NFL.
Here are a couple takeaways from the game.
All three running backs lose a fumble
Doug Martin lost one in the first quarter. DeAndre Washington lost one in the second. Jalen Richard lost one in the third.
Sunday we saw a trifecta of lost fumbles from Raiders running backs, and each came at inopportune times. Martin’s came on the Raiders’ second drive while trailing 7-0, and the Chiefs turned the takeaway into a Harrison Butker field goal. Washington’s came with the Raiders still trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, and the Chiefs again converted the recovery into a Butker field goal.
Richard’s fumble may have been the most costly, coming at the end of an impressive 17-yard run into Kansas City territory. The Raiders had just forced a three-and-out after their own score made it 26-16, and were on their way to turning a game that should’ve been a blowout into a one-score contest late.
“I think I had made a couple guys miss, I was coming back across the middle, the guy that I was stiff-arming actually got me with his other arm while we were going down to the ground,” Richard said. “Just gotta make sure I keep the ball high and tight. Other than that, I feel like I had a decent day.”
The Raiders averaged a stellar 6.1 yards per carry against the Chiefs with 171 yards on 28 rushes – including Richard’s team-high 95 yards on six carries – but three fumbles mattered far more in the end.
Jared Cook continues 2018 tear
Cook continued his Pro Bowl-worthy season, catching seven passes for 100 yards and his sixth touchdown of the season.
His third-quarter score from 24 yards out set a new personal single-season career high, topping his five touchdown catches from 2013 with the Rams. Derek Carr had plenty of time in the pocket, rifling the ball over the middle to Cook in the back of the end zone to bring the Raiders within 10 late in the third quarter.
Even if Cook was the second-best tight end on the field Sunday – Travis Kelce racked up 12 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns – he added to the best season of his career yet again. And as he prepares to enter unrestricted free agency after this season, Cook laughed when asked if he wants to be a Raider in 2019.
“Yeah, of course,” Cook said. “Who don’t want a job? You don’t want a job next year?”
“You’ll have a job,” the reporter said.
And Cook just chuckled as his interview session ended.
The Raiders might have found their kicker
The Vikings waived Daniel Carlson after the rookie missed all three field-goal attempts in a Week 2 tie against the Packers. He finished his two-game career in Minnesota 1-for-4 on field goals after the Vikings made him a fifth-round pick, the first kicker taken in the 2018 draft.
Granted a second chance in Oakland, Carlson has been almost perfect.
After hitting a career-long 50-yarder and a 44-yarder against the Chiefs, Carlson is 9-for-10 in five games with the Raiders. He’s also hit all 12 extra points.
“He’s the real deal, honestly,” Gruden said. ” … He’s found his rhythm here and hopefully he’s the long-term solution for us.”
After Mike Nugent’s injury and Matt McCrane’s inconsistency, the Raiders finally seemed to have found a kicker.