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From tears to smiles: Raiders win 3rd straight game

Updated December 4, 2022 - 8:33 pm

In what seems like a lifetime ago, Derek Carr stood at the postgame podium at Allegiant Stadium three weeks ago and bared his soul in a way that brought him to tears.

By the time he stood at it again Sunday, fresh off a 27-20 win over the Chargers to stretch the Raiders’ win streak to three games, his smile revealed everything that has happened in between.

“To see the way we’ve responded since then, it’s a proud moment for me,” Carr said.

It has allowed the Raiders the opportunity to play for something meaningful in the final stretch of the season, and just as they are beginning to play their best football.

“We’re confident in ourselves,” safety Duron Harmon said. “We’re confident in our process.”

From the buttons Carr and Davante Adams and the rest of the Raiders’ leaders pushed last month after an embarrassing loss to the Colts to send them reeling to a 2-7 record, to the response of their teammates after being challenged to care more, the cause and effect of those frank and pointed words are impossible to argue.

“Things needed to be said,” Carr said. “Things needed to be handled.”

That the Raiders have crawled back to a 5-7 record with a winnable game against the wounded Rams on Thursday guarantees them nothing in the grand scheme of things.

In fact, it would be foolish of them to dream even just a little bit right now. There is too much work ahead and too many teams above them in the standings to be so audacious. As it stands, their chances of making the playoffs is at 15 percent.

But that goes both ways. And it would be equally irresponsible not to look at things with a sense of purpose, rather than defeat. Even with a record still two games under .500.

“The reality is, nothing’s been decided,” coach Josh McDaniels said. “It’s really just about playing and coaching your best football. If you can do that, and improve, I really believe that the teams that are ultimately the teams that are going to keep playing are the ones that play the best after Thanksgiving. And so that’s our goal.”

Remember this: Should the Raiders beat the Rams, it would leave them at 6-7, or exactly where they were at this point last season. Lest anyone forget, the Raiders rallied for four straight wins to punch their ticket to the playoffs.

It all goes back to what was said by Carr and others after the Colts’ loss.

“For me, I think it was just the frustration and the anger of certain things,” he said.

Back-to-back overtime wins over the Broncos and Seahawks showed a willingness and ability to make the critical play at the critical time on both sides of the ball.

“Everybody is stepping up and making the plays at the right time,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said.

The list starts with:

Adams, who finished with eight catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns;

Josh Jacobs, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the third straight game — and sixth this season — with a rugged 144 yards on 26 carries;

Defensive end Chandler Jones, who broke out with three sacks;

The rest of the defense, which held quarterback Justin Herbert and a powerful Chargers offense to one touchdown;

The improving offensive line, which didn’t allow a sack and gave Carr time to throw for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

The only downside? Another slow start that had the Raiders in a 10-0 hole.

“We’re playing a better brand of football right now. Complementary,” Adams said.

It had to start somewhere. And in the Raiders’ case, it arrived at their lowest moment.

“It was a quick three weeks, wasn’t it?” Carr said, smiling. “Man.”

“Man” is right.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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