Wide Receiver Amari Cooper and Quarterback Derek Carr
It was weird, it was wild, and it most certainly wasn't your run-of-the-mill NFL game Sunday afternoon between the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After falling behind by 10 points early, then clawing back to go up on the Buccaneers, only to lose the lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Silver and Black flew back to Oakland Sunday evening with a 30-24 overtime win in tow.
With the victory, the Raiders have won both their games during their 10-day trip to Florida, and now own an overall record of 6-2. Next on the docket is a highly-anticipated Sunday night matchup with the Denver Broncos at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, but before we look ahead to the Week 9 clash for AFC West supremacy, here are five takeaways from the Week 8 win over the Buccaneers.
1. Derek Carr had himself a ballgame
As the Raiders hit the halfway point of their 2016 regular season schedule, I think it's time to start talking about Derek Carr as a legitimate MVP candidate.
When all was said and done, and the Raiders had secured their sixth win of the season, Carr's final stat line was staggering to look at; not only had he led yet another game-winning drive – his seventh one since 2015 – he had completed 40 of 59 passes for four touchdowns and a franchise-record 513 passing yards.
"He's a great player, man," said cornerback David Amerson. "He's special. I tell him that all the time. He's a special dude."
And to say Carr was special Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium would be a bit of an understatement, as his performance against the Bucs made him just the third player in NFL history with 500 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game, joining Ben Roethlisberger (2014) and Y.A. Tittle (1962).
Not only do the Raiders find themselves atop the AFC West, but their third-year quarterback is firing on all cylinders, and playing arguably the best football of his young career.
2. The defense came up big at the biggest moments
After a touchdown pass to tight end Mychal Rivera tied the game at 24-24 with 1:38 left in the fourth quarter, the Raiders needed their defense to rise up and stand pat, and throughout the rest of the game that's exactly what the unit did, ending the day by forcing three consecutive three-and-outs by the Tampa Bay offense.
Over the first half of the season, defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group has been the subject of criticism – oftentimes rightfully so – but there's no doubt about it, over the past few weeks, the defense has started to show a marked improvement from top to bottom.
Not only did the Silver and Black hold Jameis Winston to a pedestrian 180 yards through the air, but they were also able to dig in their heels, and pitch a shutout when the stakes were the highest.
"At the end of the day, we want the team rely on the defense's back," linebacker Shilique Calhoun said. "We love for the offense to go out and score, and be aggressive, and dominate as well, but as a defender, as a competitor, you want it to come down to a defensive stop, a defensive sack, a defensive interception. We just go out there with that pride, and that mindset, and we set out to finish the game, and I think that we can do that week in and week out."
While Carr's connection to Seth Roberts technically provided the final exclamation point for the Week 8 win over the Buccaneers, that play would not have been possible unless the defense had held up its side of the bargain.
Sunday's defensive effort wasn't perfect, but the Raiders defense has now put together back-to-back quality outings, especially against the Buccaneers, digging in when they needed to the most.
3. There are still areas to clean up
Alright, we have to talk about the penalties.
Yes, the Raiders won the game, and are still the lead dog in the AFC West, but at the end of the Week 8 clash, the Silver and Black had been called for 23 penalties, resulting in 200 total yards.
To put that in perspective, the Raiders were penalized 20 more yards than Jameis Winston threw for in regulation and overtime.
While a few of the penalties the Raiders were called for were most certainly judgment calls, you won't see many games where a team that is flagged 23 times comes away with a W.
"We're going to have to watch the film," Carr said. "Talk about that, but the refs, I think did a great job, and we're going to have to clean it up on our end."
At the end of the day, 23 penalties is way too many, simple as that, and going forward that is something that that needs to – and will be – corrected.
Like Head Coach Del Rio always says though, it's a lot nicer making corrections after a win.
4. Khalil Mack looked like his usual, dominant self
After all the talk of how Khalil Mack started the regular season a little slow, No. 52 has certainly looked to round into form the past several weeks.
Mack recorded two sacks in Sunday's win over the Bucs – his first multi-sack effort of 2016 – and was a constant fixture in the Tampa Bay backfield throughout the afternoon
In total, Mack finished the day with seven tackles, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, one forced fumble, and the two aforementioned sacks.
The All-Pro defensive end has now registered sacks in three consecutive games, and has five for the season, so look out NFL, as the Raiders hit the halfway point of their schedule, Mack looks to be starting to find his stride.
5. Once again, Seth Roberts seals the deal
It seems like all Seth Roberts does is catch game-winning passes, doesn't it?
With just under two minutes left in overtime, and the Raiders facing a critical 4th and 3, Head Coach Del Rio elected to keep his offense on the field, and once again, his gamble paid off, as Carr found Roberts on a short pass that the wideout took 41 yards downfield for the game-winning touchdown.
"It was fourth down; I just got my depth and saw the ball and tried to stay on my feet, which I did," Roberts said. "When I was running I was trying to see if anyone was behind me. I was looking at the scoreboard, I knew I was clear so I was good."
"Seth is super clutch," Carr added. "We always talk about this, man, but that guy catches game winners all the time, and it's crazy. I told him he went into NFL Street Gamebreaker Mode on that last touchdown. He just didn't want to get tackled."
Carr's right, the former undrafted free agent certainly has a penchant for the big moment, as Sunday's game winner was already the third in his young career.