OAKLAND -- The Raiders had a real shot at leapfrogging into pole position for the No. 1 overall draft pick Sunday afternoon. The 49ers went up big on the Denver Broncos and held their lead, meaning a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday would have made the Raiders the NFL’s only two-win team.
Oakland clearly didn’t want that distinction. The Silver and Black fought hard for a victory and earned one, thanks to excellent quarterback play from Derek Carr.
The Raiders' franchise QB led the team back from two fourth-quarter deficits to beat the Steelers 24-21 at the Coliseum.
Ben Roethlisberger was held out with a rib injury to start the second half, but the Steelers QB returned after the Raiders jumped in front late to lead a go-ahead touchdown drive.
The resulting lead didn’t last, thanks to a touchdown pass from Carr to tight end Derek Carrier with 21 seconds left. It came on fourth down no less, on a do-or-die moment where the quarterback thrived.
The victory wasn’t official until Oakland blocked a field-goal attempt with time expiring -- the Steelers got downfield on one play, with a hook and lateral -- completing a dramatic contest that both teams had a real chance to win. Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell slipped on the final field-goal try, and his low liner was blocked, ending the dramatic affair.
Here are three quick takeaways from Sunday’s game, which improved the Raiders to 3-10 and dropped the Steelers to 7-5-1:
Carr's hot streak continues
Carr hadn’t thrown an interception in seven games entering Sunday. He took some risks against the Steelers, but he was confident in his decision-making.
That’s because Carr was feeling it. He was as accurate and assertive as he has been all season, a positive sign that Carr now is comfortable operating in coach Jon Gruden’s offensive scheme.
Carr completed 25 of 34 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns, and went yet another game without throwing a pick. He was vintage Carr down the stretch, looking like the 2016 version who was a legitimate MVP candidate.
Cook gonna cash in
Jared Cook extended his run of excellent play this season, and set personal bests for catches and receiving yards. The Raiders tight end finished the day with seven catches for 116 yards, and for a while, he was the team’s only productive pass-catcher.
Cook is compiling big numbers despite being an emphasis in coverage, often covered by defensive backs who can keep up with his speed.
Cook is turning in a season worthy of a Pro Bowl nod and a hefty raise this offseason when he hits unrestricted free agency. The Raiders would be smart to retain him and provide some continuity among Carr’s receiving options
The Raiders played fairly well on defense, considering the opponent’s talent level, but hurt themselves time and again with 15-yard penalties. They had three face-mask penalties and a late hit that proved costly in this close game.
Three holding penalties stalled offensive drives as well, giving the Steelers far too many free yards.
The Raiders entered the game right in the middle of the pack in terms of penalty yards, but they were flagged 13 times for 130 yards in this game. The Silver and Black must be at their absolute best to beat a good team, and all the yellow flags hindered their ability to do so.