Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Nov 2014

Clutch Encounters: Chiefs at Raiders

by Scott Kacsmar

Celebrate good times, come on. The 2008 Detroit Lions have drunk all the Faygo they can handle now that their 0-16 record has withstood a serious challenge from the 2014 Oakland Raiders, which lost 16 consecutive games going back to last season and reached 0-10 this year heading into Thursday night. I cautioned earlier this week that the Chiefs could lose in this spot, but I never imagined these teams would play one of the best prime time games of the 2014 season. We also witnessed a memorable ending, the likes for which this Internet age was built for.

We'll recap the rest of Week 12's close games in Clutch Encounters on Tuesday as usual, but here's a special look at the first Thursday Night Football game to feature a fourth-quarter comeback and game-winning drive in more than two years.

Kansas City Chiefs 20 at Oakland Raiders 24

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 3 (20-17)
Win Probability (4QC/GWD starting with 9:03 left): 0.33
Head Coach: Tony Sparano (5-22 at 4QC and 7-23 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Derek Carr (1-5 at 4QC and 1-5 overall 4QC/GWD record)

On paper, we had a mismatch, with the Chiefs ranking sixth in DVOA compared to Oakland at 30th. On the field, there were just enough elements for an upset to happen. The Raiders defended a good San Diego offense well in Sunday's loss, and now were at home on a short week against a hated division rival. How could they not put up a fight on a night where Oakland honored Ray Guy with a Hall of Fame ring at halftime with several past greats in attendance? The field was a little slick with rain being a problem early. There may not be another matchup in the league between teams with less talent at the wide receiver position, not to mention two quarterbacks lacking deep-ball success. Keeping the score low and limiting the explosive plays from Jamaal Charles, who scored five touchdowns in their last meeting, was Oakland's best chance to win.

Little did we know that Oakland's second-year back Latavius Murray would steal the show with two touchdown runs, including a 90-yard burst after a beautiful cut to give the Raiders a shocking 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Murray entered the game with 54 career rushing yards, but he did just rush for 43 yards last week in San Diego. I mentioned last week that the biggest reason the 2014 Chiefs had not allowed a rushing touchdown all season was that they had faced a league-low two carries from inside the 3-yard line, but Murray even made that look silly with his quickness on scores from 11 and 90 yards away. Unfortunately, Murray left the game in the second quarter after suffering a concussion. He's the first player since 1960 to finish a game with at least 100 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on fewer than six carries.

100-plus Rushing Yards, 2-plus Rushing TD on Single-Digit Carries (Since 1960)
Running Back Date Team Opp Result Runs Yards YPC TD
Latavius Murray 11/20/2014 OAK KC W 24-20 4 112 28.00 2
Steve Broussard 10/5/1997 SEA TEN W 16-13 6 138 23.00 2
Johnny Morris 10/16/1960 CHI SF W 27-10 7 114 16.29 2
Larry Johnson 12/13/2004 KC at TEN W 49-38 7 104 14.86 2
Tim Biakabutuka 9/26/1999 CAR CIN W 27-3 8 132 16.50 2
Napoleon Kaufman 12/19/1999 OAK TB W 45-0 8 122 15.25 2
Brian Westbrook 9/24/2006 PHI at SF W 38-24 8 117 14.63 2
Maurice Jones-Drew 11/1/2009 JAC at TEN L 13-30 8 177 22.13 2
Brandon Jacobs 12/5/2010 NYG WAS W 31-7 8 103 12.88 2
Lenny Moore 10/16/1960 BALC LARM W 31-17 9 118 13.11 3
Joe Marconi 11/6/1960 LARM at DAL W 38-13 9 115 12.78 2
Gale Sayers 12/12/1965 CHI SF W 61-20 9 113 12.56 4
Charlie Garner 10/8/1995 PHI WAS W 37-34 9 120 13.33 3
Larry Johnson 9/11/2005 KC NYJ W 27-7 9 110 12.22 2

Oakland's offense struggled without Murray and only managed one field goal on its next six drives, but they held on to their lead thanks to a defense that put just enough pressure on Smith to deliver bad throws. Smith started 0-for-7 on third-down conversions.

Playing with a lead after halftime was new territory for Oakland. The Raiders entered the week having run just three offensive plays with a second-half lead, all coming on a three-and-out drive against San Diego in Week 6. (According to Pro-Football-Reference, Tampa Bay has the next fewest plays with a second-half lead with 47, and New England has the most with 272.)

Once the Raiders led 17-3 with roughly 20 minutes left to play, Kansas City woke up offensively and started getting the ball to Dwayne Bowe and Travis Kelce. Charles was fortunate his teammates recovered his fumble, and Smith finally converted his first third down with a touchdown to a wide-open Anthony Fasano.

The offense continued to produce in the fourth quarter, even overcoming two holding penalties on one drive. After Eric Fisher was flagged for holding, I felt he wisely took advantage of referee reluctance to make the same call two plays in a row and got away with a takedown of rookie stud Khalil Mack. Charles Woodson fell after trying to get back to Charles, who put on his usual array of moves to score a 30-yard touchdown reception to tie the game with 12:20 left.

Almost inevitably, the underdog went three-and-out and Smith had great field position at the Oakland 37 after a big punt return. However, he made a big mistake on third-and-3 at the Oakland 7. Smith scrambled to his right and had an open Bowe moving in the same direction in the end zone, but the "game manager" was too safe and threw the ball away instead of trying for six points. The Chiefs settled for three and had their first lead of the night with 9:03 left.

Maybe the sixth time was the charm for the Raiders in a game-winning drive opportunity this season. Fullback Marcel Reece stepped up on four straight touches to get the drive moving. Carr suffered his only sack of the night on a takedown from Justin Houston, who leads the league with 13.0 sacks. Houston's pressure on third-and-1 forced another incompletion. That's a bad play call in a situation where Oakland should have been running all the way. Oakland's little bootleg action failed to work all night. On fourth-and-1, Carr plowed ahead on the quarterback sneak to my delight. There was some question as to whether the spot was short of the marker, but I think there might be a depth-perception issue with the camera angle the broadcast used. I know it is hard to see on this picture, but I marked in red the spot where I tracked Carr to fall with the ball at the bottom of the pile and it's right on that yellow (unofficial) first-down line.

Andy Reid likely would have had a difficult time winning a challenge on that play and the Chiefs had just used a timeout the play before. Carr flirted with disaster on the drive when Husain Abdullah dropped an interception with 3:44 left. Later on a third-and-9, Carr was very fortunate to get a pass interference flag on Ron Parker. That would have been a good no-call play. Oakland worked this long drive past the two-minute warning, and another quarterback sneak by Carr on third-and-1 forced Reid to use his final timeout.

At 0-10 without many good chances left on the difficult schedule for a win, Oakland needed a four-down territory mentality. Screw the tie. With first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, I think the Raiders should have called a run to hopefully get a little closer and drain the clock to about a minute. Then they could have taken their shots with passing plays. With this strategy, they still would have had multiple chances to score. A run on first down probably wouldn't have scored, but it would have burned off 40 seconds. That's very valuable in this situation.

The Raiders passed on first down and James Jones ran a beautiful route to beat Parker for the touchdown. The drive lasted 17 plays and consumed 7:21 off the clock, but that still left Smith 1:35 to back up that vomit-inducing network graphic about his winning percentage since 2012. A good kick return to the Kansas City 39 helped the Chiefs' odds, which is another reason why the clock was so crucial. If Smith had 55 seconds instead of 95, the win probability would drop from 29 percent to 18 percent.

Despite the good field position, the Chiefs would have gone four-and-out had the Raiders not committed the rare trifecta of three penalties on fourth-and-3. That was comical, but an appetizer for what was to come. On third-and-6, Sio Moore came in unblocked for a huge sack on Smith. That's great, but all that did was set up fourth-and-13 with the clock running.

Cue just about the most Oakland thing ever:

Fortunately, veteran Justin Tuck was wise enough to call timeout and prevent the most embarrassing offsides penalty in NFL history. There's a lot to enjoy here. Is the best part Moore running 20 yards away from the play to celebrate, or is it the secret handshake with Mack, who has completely turned his back to the action? I could watch this every day. It's the Denny Green of on-field endings.

With one play left, Smith's fourth-and-13 pass never had a chance. The Raiders had their first game-winning drive since October 21, 2012, against Jacksonville, and that one lost a yard in overtime. Something tells me this will be far more memorable.

This will also be painful for Kansas City fans, but it can't be worse than losing to Ryan Leaf and the 2000 Chargers who finished 1-15, right? The 2014 Raiders were the 13th team since 1978 to start 0-10 and the third to notch their first win of the season over Kansas City. However, this is the first time Kansas City entered one of those games with a winning record (7-3).

NFL Teams Starting 0-10 Since 1978: The First Win
0-10 Team Year Worst Final First Win Record Final
Saints 1980 0-14 1-15 Jets 3-11 4-12
Oilers 1983 0-10 2-14 Lions 5-5 9-7
Oilers 1984 0-10 3-13 Chiefs 5-5 8-8
Bills 1984 0-11 2-14 Cowboys 7-4 9-7
Colts 1986 0-13 3-13 Falcons 6-6-1 7-8-1
Bengals 1993 0-10 3-13 Raiders 6-4 10-6
Colts 1997 0-10 3-13 Packers 8-2 13-3
Chargers 2000 0-11 1-15 Chiefs 5-6 7-9
Lions 2001 0-12 2-14 Vikings 5-7 5-11
Dolphins 2007 0-13 1-15 Ravens 4-9 5-11
Lions 2008 0-16 0-16 - - -
Colts 2011 0-13 2-14 Titans 7-6 9-7
Raiders 2014 0-10 TBD Chiefs 7-3 TBD

Oakland's first win was far from perfection, but the imperfect season is off the table. The 2014 circle of parity is now complete.

Season Summary
Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 42
Game-winning drives: 47
Games with 4QC opportunity: 88/162 (54.3 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 26

Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro-Football-Reference. Win Probability comes from Advanced Football Analytics. Screen caps come from NFL Game Rewind.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 21 Nov 2014

9 comments, Last at 22 Nov 2014, 1:28pm by Vincent Verhei

Comments

1
by Vandal :: Fri, 11/21/2014 - 2:47pm

Sparano's comments re: Offside penalty:

"I didn’t pull them aside. I’m going to let them enjoy this right now, but eventually we’ve got to talk about it [laughing]. We’ll have a little conversation about that, but at that point, I had to do something to stop the clock. They were on the ball and that’s something that it’s two young players that have to learn. I love their energy and their passion, "

I don't know what's more embarrassing, Sio Moore's play, or Sparano's reaction to it... It's cool man, it's cool

3
by collapsing pocket :: Fri, 11/21/2014 - 3:05pm

Oh for goodness sake...

They haven't won in a year and Sparano knows he's getting canned in a month. Let them enjoy it a little bit.

2
by reiniroosh :: Fri, 11/21/2014 - 3:00pm

The penalty that Tuck avoided really wouldn't have mattered much, most likely.
It would not be a "free" play, but blown dead, 5 yard penalty.
Anyone want to run the numbers for the win probability? Probably like a 00.5% difference...

4
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 11/21/2014 - 3:38pm

Actually, if it was 4th-and-8 instead of 4th-and-13, then that would be an increase of 5 percentage points in WP. From 0.06 to 0.11, according to Burke's calculator.

But I think this one goes beyond the WP. Sure, we've seen teams flat out lose a game (2011 Vikings at Chargers) for encroachment/offsides leading to a game-clinching first down. That's worse in WP terms, but I think biting on a hard count or trying to get an early jump is so much different than what happened here. I mean, Moore was celebrating 20 yards away with no sense of time or down, and he had a teammate sharing the moment with him to boot.

5
by reiniroosh :: Fri, 11/21/2014 - 6:03pm

Wow that is more than I thought.
I suppose it makes sense though; 4th and 13 is considerably harder to convert than 4th and 8.

Yes, the penalty was definitely dumb, it's just that people are assuming it would have cost them the game. But, statistically, it would have cost them the game 1/20 times.

7
by PatsFan :: Fri, 11/21/2014 - 10:07pm

Though remember -- if it was called offsides (as opposed to unabated) it'd be a free play, and it'd be an 11-on-9 situation.

8
by billprudden :: Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:17am

Yes. The video of the 11 v 9 long TD would become butt-fumble epic. Then just decline the offsides penalty...

9
by Vincent Verhei :: Sat, 11/22/2014 - 1:28pm

The two Raiders in the backfield had a direct path to the quarterback with no Chiefs between them. If the Raiders had not called timeout, and the refs had let the play go, those two guys would have broken Smith's back. That's why the unabated call exists, and it would have absolutely applied here.

6
by Never Surrender :: Fri, 11/21/2014 - 7:58pm

The saved-by-a-timeout play was funny, but when I think of all-time premature celebrations Leon Lett and Matt Hasselbeck still reign supreme.