When is a victory a little like a loss?
When you’re the Oakland Raiders in 2014.
Though, judging by the noise Raiders fans made at O.co Coliseum Sunday afternoon watching their team’s 26-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills, the fans don’t mind at all.
The Raiders went into Sunday’s game positioned for the third pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Just a few weeks ago, the Raiders were winless, hopeless and targeted for the No. 1 overall pick as the justified worst team in the NFL.
But in beating the Bills Sunday – after victories over the Chiefs and 49ers in the previous four weeks -- Oakland at 3-12 now is in position to draft sixth next spring.
Certainly, with just one game remaining against the Broncos this coming weekend, the Raiders are far worse off in the draft order than they were going into the day.
But, they’ve been far better on the field the second half of this season, and Sunday’s victory over Buffalo was another great example.
After the Bills took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on Sammy Watkins’ 42-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Orton, the Raiders took over. Oakland tied things up with a 3-yard pass from Derek Carr to James Jones, then took a 13-7 lead on two Sebastian Janikowski field goals. Janikowski added two more field goals in the third quarter, giving Oakland a 19-10 lead entering the final period.
The set up a wild fourth quarter.
Buffalo cut the lead to 19-17 on Orton’s 29-yard TD pass to Scott Chandler, but the Raiders answered with a 10-play, 80-yard for a TD on Carr’s 1-yard TD pass to Jamize Olawale. Buffalo stayed alive, marching to a TD (after Janikowski missed a 48-yard attempt) to cut the Raiders’ lead to 26-24, but there was just 1:09 remaining, and the Raiders held on for their third victory in five games.
Rookie quarterback Carr again was very good, and combined with running back Latavius Murray to give the offense a 1-2 punch it lacked for most of the season. Carr completed 17-of-34 throws for 214 yards and two TDs without an interception, while Murray gained 86 yards on 23 carries, and Darren McFadden – now backing up Murray – came in to produce 54 yards on nine carries.
The victory marked the Raiders’ third straight win at home since the 2010 season. And it came against a hot Buffalo team (now 8-7) that still had plenty of motivation, fighting for a playoff spot. The Raiders’ win eliminated the Bills from contention.
It certainly has been a surprising turnaround for the Raiders.
As one happy Raiders fan tweeted: “Raiders ruined the Chiefs, Niners and Bill playoff hopes. LMAO.”