NFL

Packers win 30-20, officially eliminate Raiders from playoff contention

It would be hard to start a game worse than the Oakland Raiders did on Sunday. Derek Carr threw interceptions on consecutive throws in the first quarter. The first resulted in a quick Green Bay touchdown and the other was a pick-six. Trailing 14-0 to a Packers team that has been rather hot as of late was a less than ideal start for the Raiders.

But thanks to stout play on defense, Carr’s uncanny ability to put interceptions behind him, and a bounce-back performance from Amari Cooper, the Raiders found themselves in the game in the second quarter.

Carr followed his second interception with a 10-play, 75 yard drive and a 10-play, 66 yard drive, both ending with field goals. Then, with less than two minutes left in the half, Benson Mayowa forced and recovered a James Starks fumble. The Raiders then drove 79 yards in 1:02, and Cooper’s 19-yard touchdown catch brought the Raiders within one point going into halftime.

The Raiders kept it up in the second half, taking a 20-17 lead late in the third quarter, but eventually the Packers started to pull away.

As the game wore on, the Packers simply outclassed the Raiders. Packers coaches made the wise decision to spread the Raiders defense out and attack their weakness. After being held scoreless in their previous four drives, the Packers scored at the end of three straight possessions. At the same time, the Packers defense stumped the Raiders offense on five straight series.

And just like that, the Raiders went from owning a lead more than halfway through the third quarter to losing by ten points.

Aaron Rodgers had an ordinary stat line — 22-for-39, 204 yards, one touchdown and one interception. But when it counted most, the former MVP showed why he is one of the best, with a 19-play drive that started late in the third quarter and ended in the middle of the fourth. Rodgers and the Packers couldn’t punch it in from the Raiders’ 1-yard line, but Green Bay held the ball for 8:11 and finished with a 21-yard Mason Crosby field goal to push the lead to 27-20.

Unlike late-game collapses we’ve seen from the Raiders all year, this didn’t look like a team that shot themselves in the foot. The team continued to fight down to the end, blocking a punt and getting an interception when the game seemed all but lost. There’s no such thing as moral victories, and Oakland will neither make it to the playoffs nor finish this season with a winning record. However, there’s no denying that the Raiders are playing a much more competitive and entertaining brand of football right now, which wasn’t the case over the previous three seasons. It’s a start, at least.

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