ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders went into a three-day break secure in the knowledge that their goals and aspirations remain alive following a 31-30 win over the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night.
Staring a five-game losing streak in the face, quarterback Derek Carr instead lead the Raiders on an improbable 85-yard, 11-play drive for the win, throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on an untimed down to tie the score. Giorgio Tavecchio's successful extra point closed the show.
"Games like this, going down to the wire and knowing that the outcome is in the balance, the excitement of being in a position like that is something I just can't get enough of," Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. "I absolutely love it. It's something about being in the NFL, playing and coaching as long as I have, you just appreciate these moments."
The Raiders offense awoke from a four-game slumber with 505 yards and Carr completing 29 of 52 passes for 417 yards and touchdown passes of 38 and 45 yards to Amari Cooper as well as the game-winner to Crabtree.
There were an NFL high eight lead changes, and the defense gave up 425 yards to the Chiefs, with Alex Smith passing for 342 yards including long touchdown strikes of 64 yards to Tyreek Hill, 63 yards to Albert Wilson and 10 yards to tight end Travis Kelce.
It ended a five-game losing streak for the Raiders against the Chiefs, and vindicated Carr in a sense since his numbers in previous games were much lower than against any other team.
"Yeah, 2-5 did not sound good," Carr said. "That made our stomach hurt. This is a big win for our team, especially with all the adversity we've been through. The opportunities were there and we made them.
"Obviously, the last month, we've all not had our best games, not had our best days. But our practices have been crisp. Everyone is working hard, taking notes. We're doing the things we did last year when we won 12 games and then some."
If there was a plan to turn Carr loose and unleash the Raiders' firepower with downfield throws, the coach and quarterback were keeping it to themselves.
"I thought we executed the game plan well," Del Rio said.
Said Carr: "Honestly it just depended on what the defense showed us. We always had shots dialed up based on what we'd think they do. As we've learned, teams change when they play us because of the weapons that we have. Today, for whatever reason, we were able to hit the shots that we wanted."
Withdraw the missing persons report. Amari Cooper is alive and well after 11 catches and 210 yards, the latter the second-best in franchise history (Art Powell had 247 in 1963).
Cooper had 146 yards all season going in to the game.
"You guys are going to think I'm crazy but there was no difference," quarterback Derek Carr said. "We put him in positions to make plays. We knew there were certain things that we liked. Nothing changed in his demeanor or his mentality or anything like that. We know what we have here and if we stay the course and grind through the tough times. ... I just felt good for him."
Although Del Rio and Cook denied it, Cooper said the Raiders intended on being more aggressive downfield.
"We have a lot of playmakers at the receiving position," Cooper said. We went into this week saying we want to take more shots, more explosive plays."
Running back Marshawn Lynch was ejected with more than six minutes left in the first half and the Raiders trailing 17-14 for making contact with an official on a play in which he left the bench to break up a fight.
After Derek Carr was hit by Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters and drew a flag for unnecessary roughness, Raiders linemen took exception. Lynch sprinted onto the field -- he was hoping to get Peters out of harm's way -- and in the resulting scrum put his hands on an official.
Peters is from Oakland and the two are very close -- "family" as Peters put it.
"I was disappointed that he ran out because I knew that we had a 15-yard penalty and we were going to be in good shape," Del Rio said. "I didn't get a chance to have a conversation about it. I told him you can't leave the bench like that. That was about it. Next thing I knew, he was being tossed."
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman played 60 of 62 snaps and although there were plays he missed, he also led the team with 11 tackles and immediately lent a veteran presence to a unit that sorely needed it.
Bowman signed with the Raiders Monday, participated in three practices and estimates he spent 40 hours scouring the playbook.
"Everyone in the world knows I've only been here three days," Bowman said. "They're probably wondering, 'How does he do that?' It's just my commitment to the game, my family understanding it and giving me peace and quiet, the time to study away from them. This is why you want to study and come out and do so well and execute because people are sacrificing so much."
Del Rio couldn't have been more impressed.
"He calls the defense, he plays just about the whole game," Del Rio said. "I just absolutely love the football player in him. He's a hunting dog. He brought experience during the week. He was a steadying influence, kind of a determined influence on the sideline. I thought he did a remarkable job."
REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS
--PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus - QB Derek Carr made downfield throws of 20 yards or more 10 times, three times more than in any other game. He finished 29 of 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns. He got Amari Cooper involved early and often, as the slumping receiver was targeted 19 times and had 11 catches for 210 yards. Tight end Jared Cook had six catches for 107 yards. There were no sacks. There were still a handful of off-target throws Carr hopes to get rectified.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- DeAndre Washington led the Raiders with 33 yards on nine carries and was most impressive on a tackle-breaking 4-yard scoring run. Jalen Richard had 31 yards on nine carries and Marshawn Lynch nine yards on two attempts before being ejected for contact with an official. In all, there were only three first downs rushing and 88 yards in all -- including a 15-yard scramble from Carr.
--PASS DEFENSE: D -- Alex Smith pretty much had his way with the Raiders, completing 25 of 36 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Tyreek Hill streaked past David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown run and Albert Wilson got loose for a 63-yarder, getting a break when Keith McGill's deflection went straight to him and he caught it in stride. The Raiders did pressure Smith on occasion, and Khalil Mack and Denico Autry came up with a huge sack to set up the Raiders' game-winning drive.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Chiefs had 93 yards rushing and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Rookie Kareem Hunt had 87 yards on 18 attempts. However, 34 of those yards came on one early carry. On the reset of his runs, Hunt averaged 3.1 per try. The presence of NaVorro Bowman helped shore up the Raiders' rushing defense.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Marquette King punted the ball to the Chiefs 1 only to have Kansas City drive 99 yards for a score. Giorgio Tavecchio had a 53-yard field-goal attempt partially blocked and was wide left from 45 yards for his first missed kicks of the season. He did connect from 26 yards and made the game-winning conversion. There were no kick returns of note by either team.
--COACHING: B-plus -- Whether it was by game circumstance or plan, the Raiders let it fly on offense and the results were stunning based on losses in the last four games. The team was clearly together in terms of conquering not only the adversity of those four games but the adversity that presented itself throughout the course of the night. Defensively, a little too much man-to-man that allowed the Chiefs to get big plays. A head-scratcher of a third-and-10 call that Carr was hit on what looked like a quarterback draw. Head coach Jack Del Rio lost a timeout with a questionable challenge late.