It wasn’t pretty, but the Las Vegas Raiders will take it.
Daniel Carlson kicked three field goals and the Raiders controlled the ball and the clock with Josh Jacobs and the running game in a 16-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns in wind, sleet and snow on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
“We ran the ball a lot of different ways,” Coach Jon Gruden said. “From a single-back set, from a two-back set, double tight end set. Derek Carr even got involved. It was a great job of protecting the football and running the ball and possessing the ball, which was a key ingredient in winning.”
The weather wasn’t quite as severe, but it was a bit reminiscent of the 1980 AFC Divisional playoff game in which Raiders safety Mike Davis intercepted a pass by Brian Sipe in the end zone to save a 14-12 victory over the Browns, and the Silver and Black went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV.
This time, the Raiders (4-3) broke a 6-6 tie when Derek Carr led the Raiders on a 75-yard drive in 15 plays that took nearly nine minutes, throwing a four-yard pass to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow for the only touchdown of the game with 14:53 left in the final quarter.
Replays showed that the ball touched the ground, but the play was upheld because officials felt Renfrow retained possession throughout as he went to the ground.
“Absolutely,” Renfrow said when reporters asked if he thought he caught the ball. “I thought I got my hands underneath it. It turned a little bit at the end, but I thought I caught it initially and the ground kind of made it shake a little bit, so it was a touchdown.
“ … Whatever it takes to win, that’s what we prefer. It’s different every week. This week, the defense did such a great job of getting the ball and not letting them score and we were just able to capitalize on it. Every week is different.”
The Browns (5-3) got one first down before the Raiders held and Carr took the Raiders down the field again to the Cleveland two-yard line. The Browns held on three runs by Jacobs before Carlson kicked a 24-yard field goal for the final points with 4:24 left.
Jacobs took the blame.
“That’s my fault,” Jacobs said. “I feel like always when we’re on the goal line, it’s on me. I don’t care if it’s a free hit or anything like that. I told the guys it was on me. I’ll try and come out this next weekend and improve on it.”
Following the kickoff, Cleveland drove down the field, but the Raiders stiffened inside their 20, and Cody Parkey’s 37-yard field goal attempt to make it close was blown wide left and Las Vegas took over with 1:54 left.
Carlson had a similar miss from 41 yards on the first series of the game when the wind that blew more than 30 mph pushed his kick into the left upright and it bounced away.
“Pregame it wasn’t quite as windy,” Carlson said. “I had a really good pregame trying to figure it out. Then we got out there and I really aimed basically at the right upright. That was basically by far the windiest game I’ve ever played in, I think most of this team has ever played in.
“Just aimed at the right upright, hit it, basically an A-plus ball. Just didn’t factor in that wind quite enough. Luckily was able to learn from it and have a good operation, good holds, good protection and put some points on the board the rest of the game.
After the miss by Parkey, who kicked a field goal of 38 and 41 yards for Cleveland’s only points, the Raiders ran out the clock by giving the ball to Jacobs five times for 28 yards before Carr took a knee on the final play with 20 seconds left.
Jacobs, who was held to 17 yards on 10 carries last week in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ran 31 times for 128 yards including a 16-yarder in the final minutes, while Carr scrambled for 41 yards on six carries including an 18-yarder to set up the last field goal, and Devonte Booker added 29 yards on five carries including an 11-yarder.
The Raiders rushed for 208 yards to 101 for the Browns and controlled the ball for 37 minutes 43 seconds, while the Browns had it for only 22:17. The Silver and Black also converted 8-of-14 times and third down, and the only two attempts they made on fourth down.
“I think it’s about time we had a run game like that where we finished with like 200 yards as a team,” said Jacobs, who praised his offensive line. “It just feels good to be that dominant. To me, it felt good, it reminded me growing up playing football in Oklahoma. You get weather like that. So I was good.
“I came out early, me and Alec (Ingold) walked around the field, I was like, “I’m good for it. It started raining and it just made the game more fun because I knew we were going to run the ball.”
Carr was limited to 112 yards passing while completing 15-of-24, but proved he could win in cold weather, a knock which has followed him much of his career.
Tight end Darren Waller caught five passes for 28 yards, Renfrow had four catches for 26 yards and the touchdown, while veteran tight end Jason Witten had two big catches for 21 yards.
“I’m really proud of our offensive line,” Carr said. “I wish I could talk about them for like 30 minutes. I’m just proud of those guys and what (offensive line coaches Tom) Cable and (Greg) Olson are able to prepare those guys for anything and any situation. It’s pretty unbelievable, what they’re able to do. It shows that we have good football character.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield of the Browns, a week after throwing for five touchdowns, was limited to 12-of-25 for 122 yards.
Mayfield threw what appeared to be a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry on the first possession of the third quarter, but the call was overruled when replay showed the ball touched the ground.
Carr also lost what looked like a touchdown on a 13-yard pass to Henry Ruggs III when he was ruled Ruggs did not get his second foot down and Carlson kicked a 30-yard field goal to tie the score 3-3 with 5:17 left in the first half.
The Raiders defense played its best game of the season and it was a genuine team effort, as linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Corey Littleton in addition to cornerback Nevin Lawson each had five total tackles, while safety Johnathan Abram and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins both made four.
Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner had three tackles in addition to making a big pass breakup in the end zone on the final Cleveland drive.
The Raiders had given up at least 24 points in each of the first five games this season.
The Silver and Black are on the road again next Sunday, playing their AFC rival Los Angeles Chargers at brand-new SoFi Stadium at Hollywood Park.
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