Five thoughts off the Raiders' thrilling 31-30 win over the Chiefs on Thursday night:
1. What is a fractured back to Derek Carr? The Oakland franchise quarterback proved his mettle and resolve Thursday night when he led his Raiders to a huge win vs. a Chiefs squad that has dominated the AFC West recently. Carr went 29-for-52 with 417 yards and three touchdowns—and a few Amari Cooper drops—against a Kansas City defense that held up until the end. Carr’s performance kept the Raiders in the playoff hunt, because a 2-5 start likely would have doomed Oakland in a hyper-competitive division.
2. Thank goodness for the 10-second runoff rule. Jared Cook came up just short of the goal line with about 18 seconds left, however was initially ruled in. The refs got it right upon review, but the only fair thing to do was to run off 10 seconds. It could be argued that the game would have been over had the refs got the call right initially. After all, could we expect the Raiders to line up quickly, with no timeouts and get in into the end zone immediately? This was an instance where the spirit of the rule was properly enforced.
3. The NFL has no idea what a catch is. This is not a new or revolutionary idea, but I didn’t expect to have to say it now. Tyreek Hill caught a 31-yard pass late in the third quarter that, by schoolyard rules, would be a catch. But he didn’t control the pass all the way to the ground. The ball was clearly jarred loose by the field as he went to the ground out of bounds. We have been told for years that you must control the ball all the way to the ground, but Hill did not and it was still ruled a catch. It’s not necessarily that Hill’s catch wasn’t a catch, because it should have been considered as such. It’s more that Hill’s catch is so often ruled an incompletion and smart football fans don’t know what the difference is.
4. It’s great to see Amari Cooper return to the NFL. Yes, he’s remained in the league; we just haven’t heard from him since last season. Cooper entered Thursday night’s game with 18 catches for 146 yards and one score to go along with seven drops in six games—which is criminally underwhelming for a receiver of his caliber that had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons going into 2017. Did he get away with an offensive pass interference on his first touchdown? Maybe, but I don’t think so. And his second score was all speed down the near sideline. He finished with 11 catches for 210 yards and drew a huge third-quarter pass interference that put the Raiders at the doorstep again. It’s interesting: the 2015 receiver products can’t hold a candle to 2014. In 2014, we had Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson. The year after we got Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor and Phillip Dorsett.
5. I’m as excited as anyone for Marshawn Lynch’s return to football. The NFL is more fun, and less predictable, with Lynch in the game than when he was retired. He does great work in the community and Oakland has a bigger buzz around it than any 3-4 Raiders team has delivered before. That said, he can’t be running off the sideline onto the field getting involved in fisticuffs with his team in a tight 17-14 contest in the first half. This isn’t me being a narc. In fact, I think you should always stick up for teammates—even when they’re wrong. But the 22 men on the field have to handle that, and you have to trust your teammates will if you’re on the sideline. Lynch hurt his team in the short term and long term by running onto the field to get into the fight, and he knows these Oakland Raiders aren’t better with him in the locker room.