GLENDALE, Ariz. — Brandon LaFell caught it.
On third down, the Raiders wide receiver sprinted downfield, turned toward the football, and jumped off his left foot to high-point a 24-yard pass. He stood and celebrated the third-quarter grab, spinning the ball to the turf with his right hand and signaling first down with his right arm.
He then faced a cruel reality.
He couldn’t walk.
LaFell suffered Sunday what the Raiders believe is a season-ending rupture to his left Achilles’ tendon. He is expected to be placed on injured reserve this week. The loss in a 23-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals was a harsh development at a position that, long before LaFell was carted to the locker room, has experienced its share of turnover.
LaFell has worked in the Raiders’ “Z” receiver spot since Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 22. Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant both were inactive with knee injuries they suffered Nov. 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Quarterback Derek Carr finished Sunday with all four unavailable.
Describing the predicament, he referenced the blockbuster film “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“It’s like Thanos snapped his fingers, and they all vanished,” Carr said. “But it’s good. It’s good. I love my guys, and I’m going to ride with them no matter what.”
The Raiders leaned on two rookies in LaFell’s absence.
Saeed Blacknall, an undrafted rookie, replaced LaFell. He saw no targets but was on the field during the critical game-winning drive. Marcell Ateman, a seventh-round pick, started and was more involved, catching four of five targets for 50 yards. That included a 32-yard gain to set up the game-winning field goal as time expired.
“It really does hurt me to see a player like him go down just because he’s been so helpful to me,” Ateman said. “He’s been real with me since he got here (on Sept. 3). He’s a great guy. I’ve just learned a lot from him, how he comes in here and just work and learn the system so fast and dedicate himself to go out there and make plays.
“We was out there making plays before he went down. I just respect guys like him and Jordy (Nelson) and those older guys like that. … It really hurt me to lose a guy like that.”
—The Raiders (2-8) are 2-0 when forcing multiple takeaways. Cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Karl Joseph had interceptions, both of which led to touchdowns. The first was a 23-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook on a sluggo route (slant-and-go) on the offense’s opening series. A 5-yard score from LaFell was the other. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin created a deflection on Joseph’s interception.
— The offense has taken possession at the 50-yard line or better just five times this season. Those drives have led to four touchdowns and one field goal. The first three drives occurred in a Week 4 win over the Cleveland Browns. The other two came Sunday.
—Running back Doug Martin suffered an ankle injury late in the second quarter. He saw no carries in the second half. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard had nine and eight, respectively.
— With four sacks Sunday, Carr has been dropped at least three times in seven of eight games. He’s been sacked 32 times this season, surpassing his previous high of 31 set in 2015. Six games remain.