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Raiders nearly delirious after first victory

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano has been awarded game balls on other occasions, but never quite like the one he was given after a 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night by left tackle Donald Penn.

Leading 17-3 only to fall behind 20-17, the Raiders went on a 17-play, 80-yard drive to win on a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver James Jones with 1:42 play.

Upon taking over for Dennis Allen with the Raiders 0-4, Sparano said his main goal was to see the players smile again after a win. He never imagined it wouldn’t happen until the Raiders were 0-10.

The Raiders were both jubilant in victory, snapping a 16-game losing streak dating to last season, and also relieved that talk of an 0-16 record is off the table.

“I have gotten some game balls before, but quite honestly, probably none more meaningful than that one,” Sparano said. “I say that because of what this team has been through and how far we’ve had to come, and how much the guys have stayed together in the locker room.

“I really appreciate it, it was nice, but really, they’re the ones that deserve the game balls.”

Sparano was also happy for owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie, as well as the fans that sat through some heavy rain.

“It was fun to go out last night and see Oakland Raider fans with a smile on their face,” Sparano said.

Free safety Charles Woodson could sense a heavy locker room as the losses mounted.

“Man, it was a huge load off our shoulders,” Woodson said. “To come into this game 0-10, not having won a game, that’s pressure. The pressure starts to mount to get that first win. We came out fired up, ready to play.

“To see our offense driving down there and getting a score, that was unbelievable. That’s exactly the kind of thing you need for your team when you’re struggling the way we’ve been struggling.”

Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck was immediately looking ahead for a chance at win No. 2 when the Raiders are on the road to face the Rams on Nov. 30.

“It’s a huge monkey off our back, but honestly, all I can think about right now is St. Louis,” Tuck said. “That’s just how we’ve got to be, man. We need to make this thing contagious. We need to find a way to bring the same emotion, the same drive to the rest of our games and figure out a way to get that winning feeling in this franchise.”

Defensive tackle Antonio Smith might have been the happiest player in the locker room. He was on the Houston Texans last season, which lost their last 14 games after starting 2-0. Then he went 0-10 with the Raiders: 24 consecutive losses.

“I remember how it feels, but I guess it feels better now,” Smith said. “When you’re winning, you’re kind of spoiled with winning and you’re like, ‘Aw, it’s just another win.’ When you haven’t had it in a long time, it’s like bliss, I would say.”

REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — Derek Carr barely completed half of his passes (18 of 35) for 174 yards but had the winning 9-yard touchdown pass to James Jones with 1:42 remaining. The Chiefs got their hands on a lot of passes but never got an interception. Andre Holmes had five catches for 55 yards and drew two crucial pass interference penalties. Carr handled the final 17-play, 80-yard drive like a veteran.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — A season-high 179 yards on 30 carries (also a season high) from a team that hadn’t had more than 114 yards all season and was averaging 62.1 yards per game. Latavius Murray had touchdown runs of 90 and 11 yards before leaving with a concussion. Marcel Reece got 34 tough yards on seven carries in the last drive. Darren McFadden (12 rushes, 29 yards) and Maurice Jones-Drew (three rushes, minus-1 yard) continued to find the going tough.

PASS DEFENSE: B — The Raiders kept Alex Smith off his game and off-balance, much as they did Philip Rivers the previous week. Pass coverage was strong on the outside with DJ Hayden and Tarell Brown leaky at times in the middle. Charles Woodson had his 20th career sack and played lights out except for Jamaal Charles’ 30-yard touchdown catch. The Raiders are still having issues coming up with interceptions.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — The vaunted Chiefs running game, ranked fourth in the NFL at 141.2 yards per game, had just 96 yards on 20 carries. Jamaal Charles was contained if not shut down, with 18 carries for 90 yards and no gain longer than 11 yards. The Raiders often played on the other side of the Chiefs’ line with six tackles for losses. Khalil Mack, when lined up over 2013 No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, got the better of the matchup.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus — Returns almost fueled a Kansas City comeback. There were punt returns of 28 yards by Frankie Hammond Jr. and 15 yards by De’Anthony Thomas and kickoff returns of 46 yards by Knile Davis and 48 yards by Thomas. Denarius Moore muffed a punt at the 12-yard line that led to a Chiefs field goal for their first score, with Charles Woodson taking his place. Sebastian Janikowski converted his lone field-goal attempt and Marquette King had three punts inside the 20.

COACHING: B-plus — Interim coach Tony Sparano made the better-late-than-never calls of getting the ball to Murray early in the game and to Marcel Reece late, with Reece powering the final drive. The Raiders played hard, and with hard and genuine energy for a team that isn’t playing for anything but pride. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson looks a lot smarter with a running game. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver’s unit is suddenly deadly on third down (2 of 12 against the Chiefs, 6 of 27 in the last two games).

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