3 Takeaways from Raiders' Week 15 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2021

3 Takeaways from Raiders' Week 15 Win

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders are back in the AFC playoff mix.

    After losing to the Washington Football Team in Week 13 and then getting blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs last week, it appeared Las Vegas' season could be over. However, the Raiders took care of business on the road against a Cleveland Browns team ravaged by COVID-19 absences and are back to .500 with three weeks to play.

    The final stretch won't be an easy one, as the Raiders finish with the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts on the road at the Los Angeles Chargers. The team heads into Christmas weekend still alive, which is a feat, given the turmoil the Raiders have endured this season.

    It wasn't easy or pretty, but Monday's win in Cleveland might be the spark Las Vegas needed to finish the season strong. Here's what else we learned during the Raiders' 16-14 victory in Week 15.

Raiders Were Fortunate to Face a Depleted Browns Team

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    The Raiders can only play the teams in front of them, and they were thrown a proverbial curve ball when the NFL decided to move this game from Saturday to Monday—a move abut which Las Vegas was unhappy.

    "Health and safety is always No. 1, but it's tough," Raiders team owner Mark Davis said, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN. "Maybe Cleveland should travel here. That would make it more fair."

    Still, the Raiders are fortunate that roughly a third of Cleveland's active players were unavailable. Had players such as Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Jedrick Wills Jr., Jadeveon Clowney, A.J. Green and Ronnie Harrison been on the field, the Raiders are probably sitting at 6-8.

    Even against a decimated team, the Raiders were just 6-of-13 on third downs, netted a mere 16 points and failed to record a sack or a takeaway. It took some late-game heroics and a last-second 48-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson to come away with a victory.

    A win is a win, though, and the Raiders will take it. Now, they need to carry momentum back home for a divisional showdown with Denver.

This Team Has to Limit Avoidable Mistakes

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Given the fact that Cleveland was out multiple starters, this game shouldn't have been as close as it was. The Raiders helped to keep Cleveland in the game with mistakes, and many of them.

    In all, Las Vegas was flagged seven times for 65 yards. One holding call came on the Raiders' go-ahead drive and nearly kept Carlson out of field-goal range. Then there were the ball-security issues.

    Derek Carr made a terrible decision on Las Vegas' second-to-last drive, chucking a deep ball to a well-covered Zay Jones that was intercepted. That miscue was nearly a game-killer, but the Browns went three-and-out and gave the ball back just inside the two-minute warning.

    The Raiders also fumbled five times, though only one of those resulted in a turnover. A strip-sack of Carr set up Cleveland's first touchdown of the game.

    The Raiders have to do a better job of limiting avoidable mistakes—like pre-snap penalties, holding calls and fumbles—if they hope to win any of their final three games. This is a talented roster, but it isn't good enough to overcome sloppy football against healthy teams also in the playoff hunt.

Derek Carr Has a Knack for Clutch Drives

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Again, the Raiders still managed to win, and they did so thanks to another clutch drive by Carr. Las Vegas took over with only 1:50 remaining in regulation and down a point. Carr successfully drove the offense from his own 29-yard line to the Cleveland 30 to set up Carlson's game-winner.

    Carr had to overcome the holding penalty, one 3rd-and-7 situation and a running clock, as Las Vegas was without timeouts. He did it all calmly and with the air of a veteran who has been in the situation before.

    And Carr has been in this situation many times and often succeeded. While he may be widely viewed as a mid-level starter, he has a knack for leading game-winning drives.

    According to ESPN Stats & Information, Carr has now led 28 game-winning drives since entering the league in 2014. No quarterback has led more in that span.

    The takeaway here is that Carr is a capable signal-caller who can deliver in pressure situations. The Raiders may be looking for a new head coach while turning over parts of the roster in the offseason. However, they should feel confident about heading into 2022 with Carr under center.