Running Back Jalen Richard
For the first time since 2000, the Oakland Raiders have won six games in a row.
After a sluggish start Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Silver and Black roared back with 29 unanswered points, handily beating the Buffalo Bills 38-24 to improve their record to 10-2.
With the win, the Raiders remain in sole possession of first place in the AFC West with a critical Thursday Night Football matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs just under 96 hours out.
However, let's take a little time to relish in the Week 13 win, and take a look at five takeaways from the impressive victory over the Bills.
1. The Raiders cornerstone players rose to the occasion
The Raiders have two – well, at least two – bonafide superstars on their roster in Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, and Sunday afternoon, the dynamic duo did exactly what superstars do; in the biggest moments of the game, they each played their best, rising to the occasion, and exerting their will when it was absolutely necessary.
After coming out of the gates a little sluggishly, Carr and the offense roared back in the second half, rattling off 29 unanswered points to put the game out of reach for Rex Ryan and the Bills.
At game's end, the Raiders third-year quarterback had completed 19 of 35 passes for 260 yards, and a pair of touchdowns, looking completely in sync in the latter stages of the game.
However, No. 4 wasn't the only player hearing MVP chants Sunday afternoon at the OACC, as Khalil Mack also enjoyed another dominant outing, finishing his day with seven tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit, one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
In short, it was just another impressive day at the office for the All-Pro defensive end, as the Bills offensive line couldn't really find a way to limit him all afternoon.
"He's special, man," said safety Nate Allen of Mack. "He's the real deal. I think he is the best guy coming off the edge right now in the league. We're just happy to have him on our side. He can do it all. He can drop. He can came off the edge. He's just a specimen."
Mack was spectacular once again Sunday, and so was Carr, and as has become routine, when things got dicey, and the Raiders needed a big play, they were able to count on two of their franchise cornerstones.
2. Down early, no problem
It seems like the Raiders have made a habit out of coming back in games – Sunday's win was the Silver and Black's sixth comeback victory of the season – but regardless of the score, or how much time is left on the clock, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's group hasn't been fazed by having their backs up against the wall.
"We know we've been there before, and we understand that it's a long game; there's no sense in putting our heads down, or thinking too much," tackle Austin Howard said postgame. "We just had to make sure that we went out there, kept our heads up, stayed positive, and just kept moving."
And the Raiders offense certainly kept moving; putting up 29 straight points in the blink of an eye to turn a 15-point deficit into an impressive two touchdown win over the Bills.
While I'm sure that the Raiders would like to not fall behind early in games, whatever the team is doing is working right now, as the Silver and Black have won six consecutive games, and look like a team without an iota of fear in their makeup.
3. This offensive line is special
Elite, dominant, otherworldly; there are a plethora of adjectives to describe the Raiders offensive line, and what they've been able to accomplish thus far in 2016.
Once again, the big fellas up front kept Carr clean all afternoon, not allowing a sack, and to be honest, not really allowing much pressure at all to come into the vicinity of the Raiders Pro Bowl quarterback.
"Honestly, I've said this before, our running backs, they help us pass protect, our tight ends help us pass protect, and also Derek, he gets that ball out pretty quick," Howard said. "He makes very quick decisions, so all of this kind of works into how we are able to go out there and have success in terms of keeping him clean out there."
Not only did Carr have more than ample time to operate behind the line of scrimmage, but the Raiders were able to reignite the run game as well, finishing the Week 13 outing with 139 yards on the ground – their best output since their Week 9 win over the Denver Broncos.
The offensive line is routinely called the engine that makes the offense go, and that sentiment could not have been truer Sunday afternoon, as the big boys in the trenches were able to impose their will against the Bills for a majority of the game.
4. Don't forget about Sebastian Janikowski
When the teams returned to the locker rooms at halftime, with the Silver and Black trailing 10-9, three Sebastian Janikowski field goals accounted for all the points the Raiders were able to muster in the first 30 minutes of play.
While it's easy to look at the veteran kicker's output, and just chalk it up as business as usual for Seabass, those three field goals kept the Raiders afloat and within striking distance when the offense couldn't find the end zone early.
"It's nice to have The Polish Cannon [Janikowski] our side," Carr said. "We know if we can get it past the 50, we always got a shot. He always tells me that."
Even now, in his 17th NFL season, Janikowski has showed no signs of slowing down, and at age 38, the Polish national likely still owns one of the strongest legs in the league. His ability to be a legitimate weapon from nearly anywhere on the football field is a luxury that many teams aren't fortunate enough to have, so bravo Seabass; you keep on keeping on.
5. Thursday Night Football is going to be fun
Even at 10-2 and playing the best football Raiders fans have seen in over a decade, the Silver and Black remain entrenched in a battle for the AFC West crown, as the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs both won their respective Week 13 games.
Next on the docket for Derek Carr and Co. is a Thursday Night Football matchup at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs, with the winner of the primetime clash in the driver's seat of the division.
Head Coach Del Rio stresses the importance of enjoying each win, but rookie linebacker/defensive end James Cowser knows that the Raiders will have to put this win to bed a little quicker than most.
"We have a quick, quick turnaround," Cowser said. "You have to enjoy the wins like Coach [Del Rio] says, but also, at the same time, it's learn and move forward."
Yes, Sunday's win over the Bills is another reason to celebrate, but with a crucial matchup with the Chiefs in just a few short days, the Raiders will be back to work in short order.
Thursday night is going to be fun, and I for one can't wait for kickoff.