Raiders

Alex Smith exits with concussion in Chiefs' win over Colts

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AP

Alex Smith exits with concussion in Chiefs' win over Colts

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS -- Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes in relief of the injured Alex Smith to help the Kansas City Chiefs hold off Indianapolis 30-14 on Sunday.

It was a rough game for the Chiefs, who lost Smith twice after hits to the head and finished the game withCharcandrick West as their only healthy running back.

Smith was checked for a concussion in the first half and cleared to return, which he did in the second quarter. He left again early in the third quarter after Clayton Geathers shoved Smith's head to the turf as the quarterback tried to slide underneath the tackle.

Smith was then diagnosed with a concussion and did not return.

"You call it the way that you've practiced it and you go in and let them go and let them play," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.

Somehow, both quarterbacks kept the Chiefs' offense in sync.

Foles' 14-yard TD pass to Travis Kelce early in the second quarter made it 10-0. Smith made it 17-7 at halftime with a 13-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin, and after Smith's second departure, Foles hooked up with Tyreek Hill on a 34-yard scoring pass for a 24-7 lead.

This time, the Chiefs (5-2) prevented Andrew Luck from pulling off another comeback - similar to the previous time these teams met in January 2014.

Luck has three come-from-behind wins this season and tried to deliver another one Sunday. but never got close enough to make it a serious threat.

Foles was 16 of 22 for 223 yards with no interceptions.

Luck finished 19 of 35 with 210 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and one fumble lost for the Colts (3-5).

"I struggled," Luck said. "I think every offensive player in the room felt like we let each other down."

SOCIAL MEDIA CONCERN

The social media traffic about the hits on Smith came from all corners. Some fans questioned whether Geathers intentionally drove Smith's head into the turf to knock him out of the game. Former Colts linebacker Gary Brackett wrote on Twitter that whoever cleared Smith to return should be fired, while the television announcers questioned the play call because of Smith's previous injury. Even Smith's wife, Elizabeth, piped in - questioning how many hits it takes to draw a flag. Smith took several hits to the head in last week's game that weren't called.

TROUBLE WITH TRAVIS

Travis Kelce exposed an old flaw in the Colts' defense, covering tight ends. The Colts struggled with that all of last season, and Kelce took advantage again Sunday. He matched his season high with six receptions in the first half and finished with seven catches for 101 yards, both season highs.

SLOW START

After better starts each of the past two weeks, the Colts reverted to their old form against the Chiefs. Not only did they trail 17-7 at halftime, they were lucky it wasn't worse given that Kansas City had a 4 1/2-minute advantage in time of possession in the first half, settled for a 33-yard field goal and missed a 28-yarder.

INJURY REPORT

Chiefs: In addition to Smith, starting running back Spencer Ware missed the second half with a concussion. Ware started in place of Jamaal Charles , who was inactive because of swelling in his surgically repaired knee. Left guard Parker Ehinger also left in the second half with a right knee injury and did not return.

Colts: The Colts began the game without three starters and got hit even harder during the game. Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis and right tackle Joe Reitz both left with concussions and did not return. Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton returned after hurting his hamstring, but struggled. And receiver Phillip Dorsett left with an undisclosed injury on the second to last play of the game.

Blame game: Carr opens up after taking criticism for Raiders' rough season

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AP

Blame game: Carr opens up after taking criticism for Raiders' rough season

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr has been criticized more this season than any other time in his professional career. That includes his rookie year, when youth and a lackluster supporting cast excused tentative tendencies and poor yards per attempt. Can’t knock Carr’s hustle from 2015 or last year, when he was a legitimate MVP candidate.

Those seasons set the bar sky high. July’s $125 million contract extension put it over the moon, and Carr has limboed under.

Carr hasn’t been bad, but hasn't been as good this season. That’s tough to argue. Neither have those around him, but they’re drawing far less ire. Why? Quarterbacks and head coaches (and coordinators) take the Ls.

Carr seems fine with that, comfortable as a human shield when times get tough. He tried to set up a force field after Sunday’s 26-15 loss to the Kansas City, which put the Raiders near playoff extinction.

His message: blame me.

Carr has done that before, several times in fact. It rang hollow through the fan base this time, despite a plea uncharacteristically twinged with anger and frustration.

"I think we’re all pretty upset. If you’re not, then you’re obviously not putting enough into it," Carr said. "If you’re wanting to point a finger or those kind of things, I don’t think that that’s right either. If you’re upset with yourself and you’re upset that you didn’t win the game...I still stand by how I felt, man. I was hot, to be honest. I put way too much effort into this to go out there and not play my best." 

Fans don’t want apologies. They want to see anger lead to action. And improvement.

That hasn’t happened much during a disappointing 6-7 season falling well below expectations, despite best efforts. The mob wants answers or blood or both. Same might be said of ownership.

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s job is in jeopardy. Head coach Jack Del Rio’s feeling some heat, though that might be a year too early at best, unless things completely unravel down the stretch.

Carr makes a lot more than those two. He isn’t getting fired either way. The guy is a franchise quarterback. He is, however, taking flak. Common criticial refrains include a penchant for check downs and getting unnecessarily flustered in the pocket. Add deep passes to that. He's completing fewer, and was 0-for-7 on passes of 20 yards or more against Kansas City.

“Things come out when it’s not going right,” Carr said. “I think I completed more deep balls last year, throwing it times I shouldn’t have thrown it. Throwing it up, and we all high-five and clap about those things. Again, when you lose, people just have a different way of spinning things.”

Carr is immensely talented, with football smarts and leadership skills. Sometimes good quarterbacks have hiccup years before getting back to normal. He’s 26 years old, with several prime years ahead. Expect him to be a good quarterback for a long, long time.

He could use some help, but Carr isn’t one to chuck others under the bus. He generally leads with positive reinforcement, even when fans hope he’ll channel Rich Gannon.

He looks inward, knowing he must play better to get this team going right.

This is an average team if Carr is anything less that excellent. That may well have been the case last year, when seven fourth-quarter comebacks sparked an incredible 12-4 run to the playoffs.

He hasn’t been as dominant this season, and the Raiders hover around .500. No shocker, there. That fact, combined with lofty expectations, has created some hostility toward the Raiders and their typically popular quarterback.

Carr is still looking to lead the Raiders toward better days this season, even with three games left and unlikely playoff prospects. His key during dark times, doesn’t include a rah-rah speech.

“You don’t really have to say much, True character reveals itself when times are hard or it doesn’t go your way or you think something else should have happened,” Carr said. “Pointing fingers and all those things…again, true character reveals itself. That kind of stuff has a way of working itself out. When you have guys in the locker room coming together saying, ‘What if we did this? Would that be better?’ That’s how we fix things. That’s problem solving. If guys want to be part of the problem, that kind of stuff, that just airs itself out. You don’t need to ask. That stuff will just come out.”

Del Rio hopes the offense will “let it rip,” play fast and a bit cavalier down the stretch. That’s fine with Carr, someone with a Brett Favre streak. It hasn’t been out consistently this season, but Carr promises to go big down the stretch.

“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Carr said. “We’re only promised three more and I can assure you I’m going to go out there and let it rip man, because that’s what the head coach wants. That’s what he’s asking us to do. So, I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have.”

Raiders shut down LB Cory James, pull from practice squad

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USATSI

Raiders shut down LB Cory James, pull from practice squad

ALAMEDA – Raiders weakside linebacker Cory James has battled knee injuries all year. That dates back to the preseason, when he had arthroscopic surgery. He started the first six games before knee issues crept back up. He missed a Week 7 win over Kansas City and the last two games.

The Raiders decided to shut him down Wednesday and let his knee heal. James was placed on season-ending injured reserve, the team announced.

Darius Latham was promoted from the practice squad in a corresponding move. Defensive end Joby Saint Fleur was took Latham’s place on the practice squad.

James has developed into a steady starter. Last year’s sixth-round pick played most every linebacker spot at Colorado State, but the Raiders focused him on the weak side. He had 67 tackles, two passes defensed and a forced fumble in 10 games this season.

James took 15 snaps in a Week 12 win over Denver, but hasn’t played since. A knee that might need another surgical repair couldn’t get him through the year.

Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow will continue taking James’ snaps. He has been a near-permanent fixture in the lineup the past two games. He has 12 tackles in that span, and allowed two receptions for 14 yards on three targets Sunday against Kansas City.

James is firmly in the team’s future plans, one set spot on a defense that could see significant turnover this offseason. The Raiders have to restock that unit, which could have 4-6 new starters next season.