OAKLAND – Here are three things you need to know from the Raiders’ 24-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum:
1. Raiders control path to division crown: Read that headline to the left. It might require a double take but it’s accurate, and a bit beyond belief.
The Raiders can win the AFC West by winning out.
The Raiders won, the Chargers won and the Chiefs lost, setting up a three-way tie atop the AFC West. Each team has six losses at this stage, and the Raiders have a chance to give each rival a seventh. The Raiders play in Kansas City next week and close the regular season in Los Angeles.
They simply have to win those two, and probably beat Dallas and Philadelphia in between. Falling to 9-7 makes things real messy. That remains a tough ask, especially for a team lacking offensive consistency.
The Raiders have quietly won three of their last four to recover from a four-game losing streak earlier this year. They’ve seemed dead and buried a few times now, but the Chiefs are in a tailspin and have given the Silver and Black second life.
“Our goal is to stack these wins up and see how the cards fall at the end of the season,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “We’re not looking toward the future. We’re not thinking about the past. We’re only focus on our current opponent. That’s it. It’s worked for us the past two weeks. Hopefully we can continue to keep it (going) like this.”
2. Channeling last year’s defense:The Raiders gave up a lot of yards and points last year. They had a penchant for performing in the clutch and generating turnovers when trouble’s afoot.
The Raiders had 30 takeaways last year, but have struggled stealing possession this time around. That trend got bucked Sunday.
The Raiders forced two turnovers inside their own 30-yard line that ultimately changed the game. Bruce Irvin strip-sacked Geno Smith in the second quarter, and NaVorro Bowman recovered at the Raiders’ 29. The Raiders stole a scoring opportunity and produced a field goal at the other end.
Khalil Mack made his best play this season late in the first half from the Oakland 4. Smith never felt his presence, and Mack straight-up stole the ball to take more easy points away from the Giants.
“We pride ourselves on getting turnovers,” Irvin said. “We didn’t have many early, but they’re starting to come. We have three in two weeks. They say turnovers come in bunches, and we have to keep pushing for them.”
3. Missing Cooper and Crabtree: Amari Cooper was ruled out of Sunday’s game with concussion-like symptoms and a sprained ankle suffered while beating the Denver Broncos. Michael Crabtree wasn’t allowed to play the Giants, serving a one-game suspension for fighting with Aqib Talib in that same game.
That left Johnny Holton, Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson to pick up the slack. Tight end Clive Walford and Jared Cook offered assistance. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Raiders got the job done. Receivers dropped four passes. Johnny Holton fumbled another and lost it.
That group had some positive moments, highlighted by Patterson’s 59-yard catch and run that established a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter. Holton scored that deciding touchdown, and had a nice, toe-tapping catch to set up another score.
“We did good, man,” Patterson said. “We’re in this league for a reason, we not just here to (mess) around. We come out each and every week and we got to perform. Unfortunately, our No. 1 and No. 2 receivers were down but, like I say, every receiver on this roster can go out and make plays.”
The Raiders will get Crabtree back next week. Cooper remains a question mark as he recovers from injury. The passing game suffers without him, even during a relatively lackluster season. Cooper has game-changing ability, and draws attention from others even without the ball. He also torched Kansas City for 210 yards and two touchdowns earlier in the year, so the Raiders hope he can return for the rematch.