Raiders

Raiders show resilience on game-winning touchdown drive vs. Bears

Raiders show resilience on game-winning touchdown drive vs. Bears

LONDON – The Raiders had a three-score halftime lead and let it slip. The Chicago Bears scored three straight touchdowns in a wacky third quarter when everything that could go wrong did.

The Raiders didn’t fold. They didn’t stress. They marched 97 yards against the ferocious Bears defense and won the game on a Josh Jacobs touchdown run.

The Raiders held on to beat Chicago 24-21 and earned a massive win for the franchise.

The pressure was on in that final drive, but the Raiders never showed it.

Offensive players were confident they could work the ball downfield. There wasn’t much said in the huddle before that long drive began.

Accounts vary, but the consensus was that quarterback Derek Carr said three simple sentences to hone focus.

"This is it. This is us. Our time is now."

Josh Jacobs set the tone on that drive, with a 15-yard run off left guard on the first snap of a 13-play sequence. The Raiders stuck with the run despite the ticking clock and just one timeout.

A fake punt extended the drive – Erik Harris was ruled down upon review after fumbling – and the Raiders took off from there.

Foster Moreau made a huge 23-yard catch thanks to a great play call, and the Hunter Renfrow made a slick move to get the Raiders deep into Bears territory.

Moreau struck again with an excellent 16-yard catch down the left side – Carr threw an absolute dime there – and then Jacobs scored from two yards out by going up and over the Bears defense.

That drive didn’t come out of nowhere. The first half gave the Raiders confidence they could sustain a long drive despite doing next to nothing in the third.

“At the beginning of the game, we were really rolling,” Moreau said. “We just had to find that form again, and we certainly did on that final drive. Momentum is a big thing in football. We had it, and then we lost it in that third quarter. We got it back at the end. The line was phenomenal. Derek made some great throws. We stayed focused, did our job and scored when we had to.”

A common denominator with all of the aforementioned skill players: they’re all rookies showing cool under fire.

“I think we've been talking about our young players since they've been here, the kind of effort that they provide and the smartness that they play with,” Gruden said. “And these are smart guys that are doing a lot of different things. Playing tough positions. Foster Moreau, pass protecting, catching passes down the field. Can't say enough about the rookies.”

That late drive says a ton about this Raiders team. They’re tough and they never quit.

“It just shows you the grit and determination of our young guys,” Carr said. “I consider myself young still, the old guy at 28 on the team. We have a young, good football team.”

[RELATED: How Raiders offensive line contained Mack, Bears defense]

They also have a team gaining confidence through these wins, and learning more about itself each week. Despite all that happened in a crazy game, the Raiders hung tough and put it all together on that final drive.

“It was rough falling behind like we did, but we’re resilient,” left guard Richie Incognito said. “We kept working and kept plugging away and did just enough to get the win.”

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

Why Raiders should make Emmanuel Sanders priority in NFL free agency

So, you want to compete with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs? Well, you're going to need a lot more firepower.

Jon Gruden knows that.

In what was Year 1 of a true rebuild for the Raiders following the teardown in 2018, the Silver and Black showed a lot of promise, with a historic draft class leading them to a 7-9 record. The building blocks are being put in place for the Raiders to march up the AFC West pecking order. While another draft-day haul is needed, Gruden knows he doesn't yet have the offensive weapons to contend with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City. 

Yes, the Raiders have a big question mark at quarterback, but this is about a different area of need -- the team's biggest area of need -- other than the black hole at linebacker. The Raiders need wide receivers. Many of them. They need dynamic playmakers who can stretch the field, make people miss and rack up explosive plays. Players who can answer a lightning strike from Mahomes that left the Raiders stunned and wobbling last season.

They'll likely select one early in the 2020 NFL Draft and maybe another in the third round. But that won't be enough. With $54 million in projected cap space, expect the Raiders to look to the free-agent market to add a veteran receiver to help Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller shoulder the load. 

The Raiders don't seem like a home for A.J. Green and we can cross former Raider Amari Cooper off the list. Robby Anderson might be a fit, and the Raiders reportedly had interest in him at the deadline, but his price tag might be a tad high for a guy that isn't a true No. 1.

Gruden needs only look to the Raiders' now-former Bay Area neighbor for a free agent worth their while. 

Emmanuel Sanders came over to the 49ers in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos and immediately paid dividends. He was able to lead a young receiver group while being successful running every type of route for coach Kyle Shanahan.

Sanders is most effective in a West Coast type of offense such as the one Gruden runs. The 32-year-old completely transformed his game after tearing his Achilles, reinventing himself as a savvy, veteran playmaker. He's a highly efficient route-runner and has some of the surest hands in the game, only dropping one pass last season.

His arrival in San Francisco took the 49ers' passing game from an attack with puppy teeth to one that could shred defenses in an instant. He played a key role in the development of Deebo Samuel, who became a lethal weapon as the season wore on. Sanders also is a good blocker on the outside, as he showcased during the 49ers' run to the Super Bowl.

Don't let Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrow in Super Bowl LIV taint your opinion of Sanders. With the title on the line, Sanders smoked his man, blew past the safety and was in line to be a Super Bowl hero had the pass been on target.

He's played in three Super Bowls and knows what it takes to get to, and win, the biggest game in sports. His leadership and experience would be as valuable as his on-field production.

Some will argue Sanders' age is a red flag or that the 49ers are destined to re-sign him. Due to the 49ers' cap situation, it seems more likely than not that they will let Sanders walk. At age 32, Sanders is exiting his prime, but he's the perfect veteran receiver to complement Tyrell Williams, mentor Renfrow and the incoming top prospect (s) (CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy) and provide a reliable target for Derek Carr, Tom Brady or whoever is under center for the Raiders in 2020.

[RELATED: Why Raiders would make sense in Darius Slay trade]

The Raiders need to take their offense to the next level. Their offensive line is stout, running back Josh Jacobs is a star and Renfrow and Waller will be long-term staples of the offensive attack. Gruden will expect more from Williams in Year 2 of his contract after the veteran receiver was hampered by injuries in 2019. 

But they need to get more explosive at receiver. No matter who the quarterback is, Renfrow and Waller can't be the only weapons. If that's the case again in 2020, the results will be the same.

A deep draft class at receiver will help the Raiders stock the arsenal, but they'll need another proven veteran as well.

Sanders, who PFF projects to make around $10 million per season, would give Gruden a do-it-all veteran who has ranked as one of the 25 most valuable receivers in each of the past two seasons. And it also would leave the Raiders with money to spend to improve a defense that needs a lot of work.

An offense with Sanders, Williams, Renfrow, Waller, Jacobs and at least one young star from the draft would give the Raiders' offense the pop Gruden has been missing.

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

Derek Carr posts photo with Khalil Mack, adding to Bears trade rumors

The picture of Tom Brady talking to Raiders owner Mark Davis at a UFC fight was burned into Oakland Las Vegas Raiders fans' minds.

What would that mean for Derek Carr? Could he be headed to the Windy City to meet up with an old friend? 

There has been a lot of speculation about Carr getting traded this offseason. Carr had a less than memorable season during the Raiders' last year in Oakland, and a photo on his Instagram just adds to the swirling thoughts.

Carr added a picture of himself and Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, with no caption.

Naturally, the comments section flooded with speculation. 

The two are former Raiders teammates, and despite Carr's "meh" season, he would be an improvement over current Bears QB Mitch Trubisky -- who could also use a change of scenery. 

[RELATED: One NFL exec sees Raiders as Brady's fallback]

Carr's contract could make a trade hard, but this IG post on top of everything else makes us think.

The quarterback will blow out 29 candles on his birthday cake next month which could only help his cause.