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Raiders decide to have fun, outlast Cowboys in overtime

Updated November 25, 2021 - 8:44 pm

ARLINGTON, Texas — Reeling from a three-game losing streak that put them on the brink of another second-half swoon, the Raiders arrived in Texas on Thursday to play the Dallas Cowboys.

But first, they made a pledge to themselves. “Let’s just go have fun today” is how wide receiver Hunter Renfrow put it.

Just like that, the weight of the world the Raiders had been playing under the past few weeks had been lifted.

By the time Daniel Carlson’s 29-yard field goal split the uprights in overtime to beat the Cowboys 36-33, the Raiders had exorcised some major demons and propped themselves back up in the AFC playoff race.

“We’re right there, with a chance and an opportunity,” quarterback Derek Carr said.

Which is a lot more than they could have said four days earlier after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals, which dropped them to third place in the AFC West and on the outside looking in at the wild-card chase.

“You don’t want to say it’s a must win, but I think we felt it a little bit,” Renfrow said. “You know, 5-6 is a whole lot worse than 6-5. To beat a good Cowboys team on Thanksgiving in prime time, it gives us a lot of confidence. Being at 6-5, we have a long road ahead of us, but we took a step in the right direction today.”

On more levels than just the standings.

After three listless offensive performances, the Raiders came alive with 509 yards of offense, including 143 yards rushing, 137 yards on eight catches from Renfrow, three catches for 102 yards from DeSean Jackson and five field goals from Carlson.

At the helm of it all was Carr, who broke out of a mini-slump with 373 yards and a touchdown while avoiding the turnover bug he had been plagued by recently.

“He’s been off sync a little bit. We’ve all been off sync a little bit,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said.

They snapped out of that Thursday, going up 7-0 on Carr’s 56-yard touchdown throw to Jackson and then withstanding every Cowboys punch while always remaining ahead or tied on the scoreboard.

In the process, they overcame the 14 penalties they committed for 110 yards, a second-quarter knee injury to tight end Darren Waller that left him sidelined the remainder of the game, a rambunctious partisan crowd at AT&T Stadium and 375 yards passing from Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

It was everything they had not been doing during their three-game losing streak.

“Real excited for the men in there and the way in which they played the entire game,” Bisaccia said.

The emergence of Jackson, in particular, was significant. It represented his first big performance since the Raiders signed him three weeks ago to replace Henry Ruggs. With his three catches, he also forced three pass interference calls.

“It’s fun to get creative with plays down the field and use his speed,” Carr said. “But that threat is always there.”

So too was a run game that averaged 4.1 yards on 24 attempts, including 87 yards and a touchdown from Josh Jacobs on 22 carries. That helped open things up downfield for Carr to attack.

“It makes everything easier, I promise you,” Carr said. “Whenever you can run the ball like that with the play-action, the shots, the big plays, the run after catch are there. For us to have that kind of run game, we’re gonna need it, especially as the weather gets worse … we’re gonna have to be tough and run the football and have that threat.”

It was one of a handful of positive steps the Raiders took on Thursday. And for now, it breathed new life into their season.

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

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