MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night:
1. Stayin’ alive
The Raiders season could fall apart at any moment. Another loss (or two) would put them out of playoff contention, and they know it. They simply had to beat Miami. Had to. And did.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Raiders found a way to stay on the tightrope. This delicate balancing act will carry forth into a bye and a Week 11 showdown with New England in Mexico City.
They got lucky today, with Kansas City and Denver losing. They vaulted right back into the wild-card hunt and remain alive in a packed AFC West. The Raiders aren’t scoreboard watching just yet. They have business to attend to. Nothing matters if the Raiders don’t go on a winning streak, with precious little margin for error.
They understand the circumstances, and remain committed to clawing their way back after a disastrous start to the season.
“It’s beating a dead horse to say we never thought we’d be here, even at 4-5,” tight end Lee Smith said. “That’s still one heck of a lot better than 3-6. We still have a long way to go but, if we lost in Miami, we wouldn’t stand a chance. If we win out, it still doesn’t guarantee us anything.
“I don’t think we need to focus on winning seven straight. We just have to keep ourselves in it. Every game’s a must win now. We dug ourselves a hole but, if there’s any team in the National Football League that I would want to climb out of that hole, this would be it. “
2. Cook becoming Carr’s best friend
Derek Carr didn’t have a dominant receiving tight end in his first three seasons. That’s why he pushed so hard to get Jared Cook. We’re seeing why that was an important move, because Carr and Cook are now in sync.
That was clear on Sunday night, when Cook hauled in eight receptions for 125 yards, and did it on nine targets. Cook’s in the midst of a productive stretch, with 18 catches for 290 yards in his last three games combined.
He leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. A total of his 26 receptions have gone for a first down.
“He’s a matchup problem,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’ve had our issues defending other guys like that around the league, the last couple of years. This year we set out to get one of our own, I feel like we have acquired one of our own. Tonight was an example of it. He can be a real factor, he can be a matchup problem for people, and I thought he did a great job tonight.”
The Raiders are getting a big return on investment, and Carr is taking advantage of his new guy in the middle.
“It’s just time and hard work,” Cook said. “I don’t think you can have too good a rapport with your quarterback. The chemistry is strong, and it’ll get better the more we play together.”
3. Marshawn goes Beast Mode:
The Raiders wanted to get the run game going on Sunday night, and Marshawn Lynch helped them do that. He had 14 carries for 57 yards and two touchdowns, with some tough, efficient runs mixed with some highlight-reel runs. His best was a 22-yard touchdown jaunt in the first half, and he scored from three yards out later in the fourth quarter.
He’s had an uneven start to his Raiders tenure, but the Silver and Black need his physicality in the backfield. They missed it last week in Buffalo, when he served a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“It’s important to get him going,” Cook said. “He’s so good when he gets involved, and he was pretty productive with the runs he had. We need Marshawn going strong to thrive as an offense.”