OAKLAND, Calif. — And here I thought the lunacy ended when someone yelled to send in the main clown and Marshawn Lynch went and got himself ejected for shoving an official while trying to protect a player …
From the other team.
In an NFL season already coated with unpredictability, with weekly scores that have brought both raised eyebrows and expressions of astonishment, the Raiders on Thursday night just might have outdone all the madness.
And in the process, righted a ship taking on enough water that any playoff hopes were nearly immersed in four straight defeats.
That streak is over and the Raiders are winners for the first time since Week 2, having used as improbable a final scoring drive as it was bizarre, the result a 31-30 victory against the Chiefs at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
It was an AFC West battle the Raiders had to absolutely win if they harbored any real ideas about both contending in the division and advancing to the postseason for a second straight year, but how victory arrived was the stuff of fiction.
“We’ll find a way,” said Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio. “We’ll find a way. We came in and everybody was going to bring their best to the party.
“Why? Love. Why we love this game. We talked about loving each other, loving the opportunity to compete. Loving the challenges that are a part of what we do. A lot of it was about love.”
Somewhere, Nicholas Sparks is weeping as he develops his next leading man in the soon-to-be released “A Scoring Drive to Remember.”
The stat sheet will tell you it was an 11-play, 85-yard march that covered 2 minutes, 25 seconds.
It only felt 10 times longer.
The final play, after the final play, after the final play, after the final play, saw quarterback Derek Carr hit wide receiver Michael Crabtree with a 2-yard scoring pass.
But within a previous span of 23 seconds, the Raiders had one touchdown overturned when it was deemed tight end Jared Cook was down at the 1, another via offensive pass interference penalty in the end zone and earned two additional snaps following incompletions in the end zone and defensive holding calls.
I’m not sure had placekicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed the extra-point that officially gave the Raiders their win, many of the 55,090 in attendance would have had healthy enough blood pressure to endure overtime.
Look. It wasn’t going to come nice and tidy and clean, even with all that love flowing from the home sideline, not from a Raiders team whose defense did little correct all evening.
It never did defend Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill (eight catches for 125 yards and a 64-yard TD) and allowed 425 yards and an average of 7.1 per play.
Even when they played balls correctly and took smart calculated risks and were in perfect position, the Raiders did things like safety Keith McGill II letting an interception bounce off his hands and into those of Albert Wilson for a 63-yard touchdown.
It was crazy, man.
But it’s also true that when the Raiders had to make a stop in order for all the tomfoolery to begin those final few minutes, Khalil Mack and Denico Autry combined to sack Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith and force a punt.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Mack, “but we got it done.”
That’s when an offense that more than found itself Thursday went into action and began its march behind Carr (417 yards passing, three TDs) and wideout Amari Cooper (210 yards, two scores).
It did so without Lynch, the starting running back ejected in the second quarter when he ran onto the field after Carr was hit late by Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters.
In a sign of pure stupidity, Lynch grabbed the jersey of line judge Julian Mapp before letting it go with a shove.
Lynch then went and checked on, yes, Peters.
The two grew up together in Oakland and are the best of friends, so much that the latter markets an underwear line under the Beast Mode brand of the Raiders star.
It was as though Lynch, who will likely now face at least a game suspension and fine, was protecting Peters as much as he was his quarterback.
But that’s the sort of weird night it was.
We aren’t midway through the NFL season and it already has been one wild, uncertain roller-coaster of a ride.
The Raiders on Thursday night offered their own trip aboard Space Mountain, the final few twists and turns altogether wacky.
But they might have also saved a season.
Or at least stopped taking on water for now.
Ain’t love grand?
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.