All of the toys came out of the box to play for the Raiders on Sunday.
You can start with quarterback Derek Carr. You wind him up, and he finds receivers who are open all over the field. He might be fun for his coaches to play with, but he’s the guy on the Raiders who gives anxiety attacks to opposing defensive coordinators. Carr is only 24, so they’ll have plenty to worry about for years to come.
From Carr, you move on to the combo Tonka truck-speed racer who has become the quarterback’s favorite high-percentage target, and that would be his running back, Latavius Murray. Every time Carr sticks the ball in ’Tay’s gut, he catches it easily. Once he gathered it in Sunday, Murray pummeled a New York Jets defense that entered the afternoon rated as best in the NFL at stopping his ilk. They left humbled. Three minutes before halftime, Murray had run for more yards than the average Jets defenders had allowed for entire games.
Taiwan Jones rolled the play of the day for the Raiders’ offense, accepting a flare from Carr and speeding down the sideline highway for a 59-yard touchdown. Andre Holmes and Michael Crabtree grabbed the place and show money with touchdown receptions from Carr.
By the time shadows covered the O.co Coliseum field on All Saints Day, 10 Raiders had caught passes from Carr, whose yardage totaled 333. Raiders runners gouged the Jets for 118 more, 113 of them by Murray on 20 plunges and slashes. It was a holy day of ball distribution for the Raiders, who obtained an important Week 8 victory by beating the Jets 34-20.
The victory represented a two-game swing in the AFC wild-card standings. At 4-3, the Raiders are tied with the Jets for the best record among the conference’s non-division leaders, though the Raiders now hold this particular tiebreaker edge.
Oakland’s defense played well, too. The Raiders held the Jets to 74 yards on the ground. The visitors’ Chris Ivory entered the afternoon among the league’s leading rushers. He left with only 17 yards in 15 carries. Three of the first four times Ivory carried the ball, the Raiders knocked him down on his side of the line of scrimmage. It never got much better for him.
But it was the Raiders’ offense that most looked like it belongs in the playoffs, with Carr zipping it to both ends of the Crabtree-Amari Cooper ticket while also finding time and space for Murray and Holmes and Jones. The cast of what seems to be about a dozen playmakers from the toy box of Oakland offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave figures to keep him happy for future Sunday afternoons this fall.
“Coach Musgrave always talks about starting a fire, being creative on offense, feeding off that energy, that offensive players are creative,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said afterward. “They need to make things happen, to make positive things happen. I think we’ve got some good skill people that are doing just that. They’re making people miss tackles, and they’re executing beautifully.”
One of the Raiders’ most interesting plays on the day was one that didn’t click. The first time they got the ball, Carr sent Cooper deep down the left sideline, one-on-one, against the Jets’ Darrelle Revis. In the battle of the newest receiving star in the league against one of the game’s best corners over the past decade, it appeared Cooper had him beaten. Even if Carr missed him, which he did, the throw served as a calling card that the Raiders were going to go right at the Jets’ best. And even if the Carr-Cooper connection didn’t hook up with the same effect of recent weeks, the Raiders set off so many other explosions that it didn’t really matter
Murray broke two tackles on a first-quarter, 26-yard run that helped set up the Raiders’ first touchdown, a short fade from Carr to Holmes. Carr delivered to a wide-open Crabtree, who broke two tackles to get into the end zone on a 36-yard touchdown play. It was Holmes again who broke free down the sideline and Carr who hit him in perfect stride for 49-yard touch.
Electrifying as those plays were, speed back Jones’ 59-yard score in the third quarter was even better. Jets linebacker Demario Davis scoped out the backup Raiders tailback, who took the swing pass from Carr in the flat. Tackling him in space proved to be more difficult. Davis couldn’t close it down, and Jones went on to lose two more tacklers. The score cascaded to 28-6, and the game was pretty much over.
“As time has gone on, he’s become more of a believer that we really do believe in him,” Del Rio said of Jones, who has had his ups and downs during his five-year career with the Raiders. “As a football team, that’s the No. 1 thing for us, is just to believe.”
The Raiders play at 4-4 Pittsburgh next week in another game with massive playoff implications. Del Rio said the team’s goal has been to win the AFC West. That might be tough, but they look like a team that deserves playoff talk.
“We will continue to keep the pedal down, keep grinding, and look to be better,” Del Rio said.
With all their toys, they’re making it more and more fun to watch.
Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo