Up next on the schedule for the Oakland Raiders was a visit from the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were coming off a 28-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Raiders were coming off a 35-32 win over the Carolina Panthers. I had some concerns about this game. The Bills had a great running game and their 10th ranked defense really knew how to get to the quarterback. Buffalo kicker Dan Carpenter sent the opening kickoff through the end zone and the Raiders started at their 25-yard line. A five-yard run by running back Latavius Murray and a neutral zone infraction on the Bills gave the Raiders a first down at the 35. Three plays later, quarterback Derek Carr connected with wide receiver Amari Cooper across the middle. Cooper turned on the speed and was pushed out of bounds at the Buffalo 14-yard line. But that play would be brought back by an illegal formation penalty on right tackled Austin Howard. Austin, how many freaking times have you lined up at your position? 50,000? Maybe more than that. There’s no excuse for a penalty like that. That was a killer for the Raiders and Marquette King punted the ball away.
The Bills took over at their 16 and quarterback Tyrod Taylor took to the air on first down. He found wide receiver Sammie Watkins standing all by himself and that play went for 16 yards. Two passes to running back LeSean McCoy and another one to Watkins gave the Bills a first down at the Oakland 31-yard line. From the 31, Taylor completed a pass to wide receiver Justin Hunter and the Bills were knocking on the door as the lethargic Raider defense didn’t know what was going on. But on third and goal from three, linebacker Bruce Irvin finally woke up and sacked Taylor for a loss of six yards. Carpenter came into the game and his 27-yard field goal attempt was good. With 8:02 to go in the first quarter, the Bills led 3-0.
From the 25, Latavius Murray got things off to a good start with a 22-yard run. That was followed by a 22-yard pass to tight end Mychal Rivera. At least the offense looked like they knew what they were doing. At least they did for those two plays. But a holding penalty and a dropped pass by Cooper stalled the drive at the Buffalo 29. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski blasted the ball through the uprights and the score was tied 3-3 with 6:07 to go in the first quarter.
Return man Brandon Tate fielded the kickoff at the two and he was brought down hard at the 20 by wide receiver Andre Holmes. The Bills picked up right where they left off and Taylor had all day to find a receiver. Completions to tight end Gerald Christian and Tate easily moved the Bills to midfield. Then the running game started to work for the Bills. McCoy ran off right tackle for a gain of eight yards. Then Michael Gillislee got in on the act and he got loose for a gain of 29 yards. Two more runs by Gillislee and McCoy put the ball at the one-yard line. Two plays later, Gillislee walked into the end zone for a touchdown. Carpenter made the point after and the Bills led 10-3 with 13:23 to go in the second quarter.
The Raiders punted on their next possession and then a shocking thing happened. The Raiders actually forced the Bills to punt. With 7:08 remaining, the Raiders took over at their 39. An 11-yard run by Murray netted a first down at the 50. On third and four from the Buffalo 46, Carr went deep for Cooper. He couldn’t make the catch. That’s because cornerback Stephon Gilmore was all over him. Gilmore was flagged for pass interference and that gave the Raiders a first down at the 21. That’s when two more drops happened. First, Carr found wide receiver Seth Roberts across the middle. He got his hands around the ball, but couldn’t hold on. Then, Carr fired a perfect strike to Michael Crabtree in the end zone. The ball hit him right in the chest and he dropped it. As he was walking back to the huddle, he looked like he wanted to kill someone. On third and seven from the eight, Carr threw for Crabtree in the end zone again. It was incomplete and Crabtree started jawing back and forth with some of the Bills. That got him a 15-yard penalty and moved the ball back to the 23. But that was no problem for Janikowski as his 41-yard attempt was good. With 2:50 to go in the second quarter, the Bills led 10-6.
The Bills ended up punting on their next possession and the Raiders found themselves at their 15 with 30 seconds to go. Passes to Cooper, Crabtree and Murray got the Raiders into field goal range with five seconds left. Janikowski trotted onto the field and his 47-yard field attempt was good. At halftime, the Bills led 10-9.
I was really hoping the Raiders would make some adjustments at halftime. Taylor had all day to find his receivers and McCoy and Gillislee had gaping holes to run though. The Bills started the second half at their 34 and on first down, McCoy ran through another gaping hole for 54 yards. On the next play, Taylor ran untouched up the right side for a touchdown. Wow! That was quite a “drive!” Two plays, 66 yards and one touchdown. Carpenter made the point after and the Bills led 17-9 with 14:03 to go in the third quarter.
The Raiders ran three plays on their next possession. Unlike the Bills, they didn’t gain 66 yards. They gained one yard and punted again. King shanked the punt and it only went 28 yards. The Bills set up shop at their 46 and a defensive holding penalty on cornerback David Amerson got them a free trip into Raider territory. An 11-yard pass to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and some more good running by McCoy had the Bills at the 24-yard line. An eight-yard run by McCoy and passes to Watkins and Goodwin moved them to the two-yard line. From the two, Gillislee took it the rest of the way for a touchdown. Carpenter made the point after and the Bills had what I thought was a commanding 24-9 lead.
I was extremely unhappy with the way the Raider defense was playing. They looked horrible and I didn’t see much hope for a win. I wondered about switching channels and watching some of the other games that were going on. But something told me to stick with the Raider game. From the 25, Carr and the offense went to work. Passes to tight end Clive Walford and Roberts got the ball rolling into Buffalo territory. Another pass to Roberts, a 14-yard run by Murray and a pass to Crabtree gave the Raiders a first down at the five-yard line. On third and goal from the three, Carr looked for Crabtree in the end zone. This time, he caught the pass for a touchdown. Janikowksi made the point after and the Bills led 24-16 with 5:17 to go in the third quarter.
I was happy that the offense had finally found the end zone. But my concern was the defense. Could they stop the Bills? To my amazement, they did. The Bills gained just six yards and punted. To add insult to injury, the punt was a line drive and it was fielded by return man Jalen Richard at the Oakland 45. He returned it to the Buffalo 38 and the Raiders had good field position for their next drive. A short pass to Crabtree and a 21-yard run by Richard put the Raiders at the 13-yard line. Richard ran up the right side for a gain of three yards. That was followed by a pass to Rivera and he was dragged down at the one. Murray capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Janikowski made the point after and the Bills led 24-23 with 57 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Surely the Bills could get something going on this drive, right? Wrong. Three plays gained minus five yards and they punted again. The Raiders took over at their 41 and looked to take the lead. On third and ten, Carr went deep for Rivera and he hauled it in for a gain of 22 yards. On second and ten from the Buffalo 37, Carr hooked up with Cooper for another touchdown. Cooper made a great move to get open, caught the ball and dove into the end zone to give the Raiders the lead. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 30-24 with 14:08 to go in the game.
Once again, the Bills failed to get a first down on their next possession and punted. Richard had a really nice return, but what usually happens on long punt returns? That’s right. A flag was thrown for an illegal block in the back. Instead of starting their drive at the 50, the Raiders were pushed back to their 15. They managed to get a few first downs, but ended up punting. The punt was a good one and running back Taiwan Jones got to it before it reached the end zone. He knocked it back and the ball was downed at the four-yard line by Holmes. On first down, the Bills looked to pass. Standing in the end zone, Taylor looked for Goodwin. The problem was that defensive end Khalil Mack got a piece of the ball while Taylor was throwing it. The ball floated into the waiting hands of safety Nate Allen at the 16-yard line. If the Raiders could find the end zone again, they’d have a great chance to put this game away.
Richard ran up the middle for a gain of eight yards. That was followed by a five-yard run by Murray and the Raiders had a first down at the three. Murray got the call again and he cruised into the end zone. Head coach Jack Del Rio decided to go for two to get up by 14 points. Carr tossed a short pass to Roberts and he ran untouched into the end zone for a successful two-point conversion. That put the Raiders up 38-24 with 8:34 to go in the game. After trailing 24-9, the Raiders scored 29 unanswered points. Earlier in the game, Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan and his brother Rob Ryan were laughing it up pretty good. After the Raiders went up by 14 points, those smiles were gone.
The Bills were now in desperation mode and took over at their 25. An offside penalty on the Raiders and passes to McCoy and Goodwin moved them to the 48. A 12-yard pass to Goodwin and a scramble by Taylor netted a first down at the Oakland 40-yard line. Another scramble by Taylor and a three-yard run by the overrated Reggie Bush moved them to the 28. On third and 15 from the 33, Taylor tossed a short pass to McCoy and he took it up the left side for a gain of 16 and a first down at the 17-yard line. Then, Mr. Mack made another appearance. He sacked Taylor for a loss of five yards. The ball came loose and Mack recovered it at the 23.
With three minutes to go, all the Raiders had to do was get a first down and the game would be over. They came up one yard short and King punted. But the Bills were flagged for roughing the punter and that gave the Raiders a first down. But there was another penalty on the play. King was flagged for picking up the flag and dancing with it. That drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. I have been watching football since 1971 and I don’t think I have ever seen a player pick up a flag and dance with it. Whatever. King is a very unusual person. All that mattered was the Raiders had won another game. With that 38-24 win, they improved their record to 10-2. The loss dropped the Bills to 6-6.
For the Bills, Tyrod Taylor completed 18 of 35 for 191 yards and one interception. He also rushed for 30 yards on three carries and one touchdown. LeSean McCoy led the team in receptions with seven and receiving yards with 61. The ground game was running on all cylinders and the Bills racked up 212 yards on 30 carries. McCoy led the way with 130 yards on 17 carries. Defensively, defensive tackle Kyle Williams led the team in solo tackles with seven.
For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 19 of 35 for 260 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Crabtree led the team in receptions with seven and receiving yards with 74 and a touchdown. Unlike the previous two weeks, the Raiders actually had some good gains on the ground. They finished the game with 139 yards on 32 carries. Latavius Murray was the leading rusher with 82 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. Props to the offensive line too. They did a great job of protecting Carr and they didn’t allow a sack. Defensively, linebacker Perry Riley led the team in solo tackles with eight. Khalil Mack also made his presence felt again with four solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He also deflected a pass that resulted in an interception.
Well, that was a hard fought win and I for one was completely shocked at how the defense turned things around in the second half. I just wish they could play a complete game instead of falling behind early. But, the bottom line is they won the game. The road to the playoffs doesn’t get any easier. Up next is a Thursday night game at Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs handed the Raiders their worst loss of the year in week six. If the Raiders hope to remain in first place, they’ll have to get a win in front of the rowdy Arrowhead crowd. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy