BALTIMORE – The Raiders played three of their first four games on the road, all of them at least two time zones away.
That would’ve meant doom for the Raiders of the past, but not this crew. They have become road warriors under head coach Jack Del Rio.
They’ve won all three road games, with victories in New Orleans, Nashville and a 28-27 victory Sunday over the Ravens in Baltimore.
This one was as dramatic as it gets.
Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes and Michael Crabtree caught three of them, including a go-ahead score with two minutes remaining.
The defense, gutted by the Ravens most of the second half, held strong and forced a turnover on downs near midfield.
Carr’s comeback drive ended was a thing of beauty, taking yards in chunks when the Raiders desperately needed them. Crabtree’s touchdown catch negated a blown fourth-quarter lead and pushed the Raiders to 3-1 on a season littered with road wins.
Things got interesting late. The Raiders couldn’t hold a nine-point fourth-quarter lead.
Steve Smith cut it close with a 52-yard touchdown catch and run that was the quick strike the Ravens desperately needed. Then DeAndre Washington helped Baltimore out with a lost fumble deep in Raiders territory. Baltimore scored again with a 3-yard run from Terrence West and a successful 2-point conversion.
The Raiders took possession with more than three minutes remaining. That’s when Carr worked some magic. He drove the Raiders 66 yards before throwing his fourth touchdown of the day. The Ravens cut the lead late in the third quarter, going for it on fourth down from the 1-yard line. Quarterback Joe Flacco sneaked it in from that spot, though failed on a 2-point conversion.
That made it 14-12 and marked a momentum shift in a game the Raiders controlled early.
It didn’t last long.
Bruce Irvin strip sacked Flacco and Denico Autry recovered the fumble deep in Ravens territory. The Raiders turned that turnover into points, with a laser from Derek Carr to Michael Crabtree, who held on despite a huge hit from Ravens safety Eric Weddle.
The failed 2-point conversion came back to haunt the Ravens after that touchdown put the Raiders back up two scores at 21-12.
The Raiders took a 14-6 halftime lead with a short drive and a long one.
Jalen Richard’s 47-yard punt return put his offense at the Baltimore 6. Carr and Seth Roberts covered that distance on one play, as the receiver went horizontal to secure the catch and open the scoring.
Baltimore was held to field goals, but then Carr orchestrated a nine-play, 80-yard drive using tempo to work the ball downfield. Michael Crabtree ended it with a 5-yard catch, but the drive was sparked by chunk plays from Amari Cooper and DeAndre Washington.
Lee Smith suffers ankle injury: Raiders tight end Lee Smith suffered an ankle injury in the first half, and it could be significant. He was hit low on a short reception in the flat and fell awkwardly as he attempted to turn upfield.
The exact nature of the injury was uncertain at game’s end, though a break might end his season or keep him out a significant stretch.
Also, linebacker Malcolm Smith suffered a groin injury.
Smith, Irvin raise fists: Raiders linebackers Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin raised fists at the tail end of the national anthem, as they did last week in Tennessee. The act is a form of protest for racial inequality and police brutality against minorities, a movement started by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Smith held his hand over his heart for most of the anthem, before raising a fist near the song’s end.
Who’s missing: The Raiders were down three offensive tackles on Sunday, with Menelik Watson, Austin Howard and Matt McCants out with injury. Rookie Vadal Alexander made his first NFL start at right tackle, and held up well. The Raiders also ruled Nate Allen, Taiwan Jones and Antonio Hamilton.
What’s next: The Raiders will stay at home for a change following three road games in the first four weeks. The San Diego Chargers come to town for the Raiders’ first AFC West matchup.