OAKLAND – The Raiders showed up for work on Sunday. That’s a positive development over last week, when Cincinnati flat embarrassed them at home.
The Silver and Black didn’t just punch the clock and compete. They showed strength against a perennial playoff contender.
The offense found early rhythm and maintained it. Quarterback Derek Carr was on point. Charles Woodson found a way to play through injury.
Each effort represented progress over a week ago. None of it mattered without victory’s validation.
The Raiders got one, in dramatic fashion. They gave up a 10-point fourth quarter lead but got it back late with an excellent two-minute drill.
Carr got them into trouble with an interception in the fourth quarter of a tie game, which helped Baltimore establish its first lead. A few minutes later, he totally redeemed himself.
He completed an 80-yard comeback drive with a 12-yard touchdown to Seth Roberts. Roberts was invisible all day, but sneaked open on a slant and Carr hit him with a bullet at the goal line.
The 37-33 victory over the Ravens was formally cemented with an interception from Neiko Thorpe who was picked on a times but made some big plays in this game.
This win was a character builder, proof that the Raiders can hang with solid teams and find a way to win in difficult circumstances. The same could not be said of last year’s team, which routinely wilted under pressure.
Not on this day. The offense took it 80 yards on eight plays to win the game. The Silver and Black are 1-1 heading into a two-game road trip starting next week.
While most will remember the late-game heroics, the Raiders put themselves in position with a strong offensive showing.
The offense generally moved the ball well, sparked by receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree winning battles in coverage. Both men exceeded 100 yards receiving. Latavius Murray was efficient as a rusher.
Carr spread the ball around well, connecting with 10 receivers on a day where he completed 30-of-46 passes for 351 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
That interception hurt, but it didn’t kill the Raiders.
The Ravens turned that pick into a Justin Tucker field goal with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining that put the Raiders behind for the first time all afternoon.
The Raiders pass defense continued to struggle without much rush or coverage. The Ravens were content to pick on No. 3 corner Neiko Thorpe. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had time to do so. Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck and Aldon Smith rarely got to the quarterback in passing situations. That, and interior runs in the gap injured defensive tackle Justin Ellis normally controls, kept the Ravens in it.
It wasn’t enough, as the Raiders won a shootout with some explosive offensive plays when it mattered most.
Cooper shakes, bakes on big play: Rookie receiver Amari Cooper started Sunday’s game with consecutive drops. He caught the next one on a big, big play. Cooper ran 10 yards and broke inside. Cornerback Jimmy Smith bit inside while Cooper broke for the sideline when Carr’s pass was in the air.
Cooper caught it, turned of the afterburners and completed a 68-yard touchdown reception.
Cooper had a good day, with seven receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown.
Woodson toughs it out: Veteran safety Charles Woodson was questionable for Sunday’s game with a dislocated right shoulder, but worked his way into the starting lineup against the Ravens.
He played free safety over Larry Asante, with Taylor Mays at strong safety. Woodson was clearly hindered by his shoulder, with limited tackling ability. He struggled to wrap people up, but his presence allowed the Raiders to play with a single-high safety. That was Nate Allen’s role before he torn the MCL in his right knee last week against Cincinnati.
Woodson wore a harness to help keep the joint in place. The ailment is something he might have to play with all season.
Injury update: Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden got hurt in the third quarter and was taken straight to the locker room, apparently with cramps.
Hayden was able to return to the field later in the third quarter. Khalil Mack also had to get stretched out in the second half and missed some important snaps.
Head coach Jack Del Rio will update injuries after the game an again during his Monday press conference.
Sitting it out: Rod Streater was the team’s leading receiver in 2013. On Sunday he was the odd man out and clearly the No. 5 receiver on the depth chart. The Raiders had just four receivers up with injury problems at safety.
In addition to Streater, offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Matt McCants, fullback Jamize Olawale, defensive tackle Justin Ellis, cornerback Dexter McDonald and end Benson Mayowa were inactive against the Ravens.
What's next: The Raiders started this season with two straight home games, and embark on a road trip of equal length next week. They’ll travel to the Cleveland Browns, who picked up a win behind quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Raiders haven’t won in the Eastern time zone in years, but need to show well in a winnable game.