The Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Cleveland Browns 16-14 with a dramatic 48-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson as time expired, keeping the team’s playoff hopes alive for one more week. Saturday’s originally scheduled matchup was rescheduled for Monday afternoon due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Browns organization.
The Browns were the shorthanded side in this matchup as they were without roughly 20 individuals including both players and staff due to COVID-19, and were most notably without starting QB Baker Mayfield, backup QB Case Keenum, and head coach Kevin Stefanski. In Mayfield and Keenum’s absence, QB Nick Mullens started his first game of the season and special teams coordinator Mike Preifer handled head coaching duties.
“Real excited for our guys to win a game in that fashion,” interim Raiders head coach Rich Bisaccia said after the game. “To play with the effort that they played with all the way to the bitter end even when it looked like probably it was going to go the other way… Well done by our players. Real excited for them.”
The Raiders have struggled to get going early in games this season, but that wasn’t a problem for them on Monday. The Browns punted on the first drive of the game after safety Johnathan Abram ran free off the edge and blew up a Nick Chubb carry deep in the backfield. Then, on the Raiders’ first drive, the offense went 58 yards on 11 plays and capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass from QB Derek Carr to WR Bryan Edwards.
The Raiders defense continued to make plays on the following Browns possession. CB Brandon Facyson punched loose what would have been a big gain down the sideline to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, forcing an incompletion and a punt.
A long, 46-yard defensive pass interference penalty put the Raiders in Browns territory early in the second quarter, but a holding penalty and a Bryan Edwards fumble recovered by WR Hunter Renfrow for a loss of yardage ended the drive.
The Raiders defense remained stout and forced a punt on each of the Browns’ first four possessions. Johnathan Abram repeatedly made timely tackles and Browns QB Nick Mullens struggled to connect with his receivers downfield.
The Raiders pushed the ball into the redzone late in the first half but stalled out. Daniel Carlson would convert a short field goal to extend the Raiders’ lead to 10-0.
Mullens and the Browns offense manufactured a quick drive to get in field goal range before halftime, but kicker Chase McLaughlin could not convert from 47 yards away. The Raiders headed to the locker room with their defense pitching a shutout.
A drop by WR DeSean Jackson stalled the Raiders’ first drive of the second half, but the Raiders defense kept up their stellar performance and forced yet another punt to get the ball back in Carr and the offense’s hands.
After Carr failed to gain a yard on a third-down QB sneak, the Raiders ran a fake punt, snapping the ball directly to safety Dallin Leavitt, who picked up the necessary yard. Shortly after, however, Carr was sacked and stripped, losing a fumble that the Browns would recover. Carr was injured on the play but walked off under his own power and would return to the game.
The Browns would get down to the Raiders’ six yard-line after a 24-yard run from Nick Chubb. Chubb would punch in the touchdown three plays later to make it a one-score game at 10-7.
The Raiders responded with an 11-play, 52-yard drive that ended with a 40-yard field goal from Carlson, extending the Raiders’ lead to 13-7 early in the fourth quarter.
Mullens and the Browns would orchestrate a 14-play, 80-yard drive that would burn over eight minutes off the clock, capped off by a 6-yard touchdown from Mullens to TE Harrison Bryant. After an extra point, the Browns took their first lead of the game up 14-13 late in the fourth quarter.
Carr, trailing for the first time all game, would be a little too aggressive on the next drive, overthrowing a deep ball to WR Zay Jones that was picked off by CB Greedy Williams. But a stop by the Raiders defense would give Carr another chance to retake the lead late in the fourth quarter.
“It was heartbreaking. I was running down there as fast as I could, laid out for the ball. Their guy made a great play,” Jones said about the interception after the game. “To be honest I was a little defeated. I came back to the sideline and I was frustrated, and Derek grabbed me and said, ‘I’m coming right back to you and you’re going to win this game for us.’ It just reignited a fire in me.”
Carr would work quickly and get a completion to TE Foster Moreau before finding Jones deep down the field to get Carlson into field goal range. Carlson’s kick from 48 yards away was right down the middle and the Raiders won as time expired, surviving a hard fought game in Cleveland under unique circumstances.
“Our team has a great belief in Daniel (Carlson),” Bisaccia said. “They see the way he practices. I think they have a great belief in the battery from Trent (Sieg) to A.J. (Cole) to Daniel.”
The Weeks Ahead
The Raiders improve to 7-7 and find themselves in lock step with four other 7-7 teams in the AFC. The Raiders are still on the outside looking in, and the Pittsburgh Steelers currently hold a 7-6-1 record, so the Raiders will still need a considerable amount of help down the stretch to earn a playoff spot. But a loss in Cleveland Monday would’ve all but ended the team’s playoff hopes.
The Raiders have a short week as they prepare to host the Denver Broncos (7-7) on Sunday, Dec. 26th. Needless to say, the matchup with the Broncos and the following games against the Colts and Chargers will all be virtual must-wins for the Raiders as they fight tooth and nail for one of the AFC wild card berths.
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