Thursday's roundup: Raiders end 16-game skid
Oakland, Calif. — Rookie Derek Carr gave the Oakland Raiders something to celebrate for a change.
Carr threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to James Jones with 1:42 remaining, and the Raiders ended a 16-game losing streak with a 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.
"I been through a lot of hard times, these losses have been hard," Carr said.
Oakland's Latavius Murray ran for two touchdowns on four carries before leaving the game with a concussion.
The Raiders (1-10) built a 14-point lead, but needed a 17-play, 80-yard drive led by Carr to secure their first win since they beat Houston on Nov. 17, 2013.
Alex Smith threw two TD passes for the Chiefs (7-4), who had won five in a row. They fell a half-game behind Denver in the AFC West.
The Raiders became just the third team since the merger to beat a first-place team for their first win after losing at least 10 games to start the season. Indianapolis did it against Green Bay in 1997 and Buffalo did it to Dallas in 1984.
The Chiefs will have a long time to stew over this loss before hosting Denver on Nov. 30 in an AFC West showdown.
It took an impressive drive by the rookie Carr to win it. He twice had to sneak for first downs. He also threw an 8-yard pass to Mychal Rivera on third-and-6 and capitalized on a pass interference penalty against Ron Parker on another third down before finding Jones for the go-ahead score.
"That was really hard-fought, they are a great team obviously, they will probably go to the playoffs and do some great things," Carr said. "I can't wait to see my teammates' smiles."
The game wasn't sealed until Smith threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-13 from his 48. Even that didn't come without a tense moment. Khalil Mack and Sio Moore sacked Smith on third down and celebrated in the backfield while the Chiefs ran up to the line. An angry Justin Tuck had to call timeout as he seethed at his younger teammates.
The Chiefs battled back from a 17-3 deficit late in the third quarter to take the lead with three scores in less than 8 minutes, including a pair of touchdown passes from Smith.
The first came on a looping throw to Anthony Fasano for a 19-yard score with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter.
The Raiders managed to move the ball near midfield before stalling on their next drive, and the Chiefs answered with a four-play, 65-yard drive that was made even more difficult by a pair of holding penalties.
Jamaal Charles beat Charles Woodson out of the backfield to catch a short pass and weaved through Oakland's defense for a 30-yard score that tied it at 17. It was Charles' fifth touchdown catch in his past two games at the Oakland Coliseum.
Frankie Hammond's 28-yard punt return set up Cairo Santos' second field goal of the game, giving the Chiefs their first lead of the night.
The Raiders started fast behind the little-used Murray, who had just 10 carries in the first 10 games. He spelled starter Darren McFadden on the second drive and provided an immediate spark for Oakland's struggling offense before leaving the game with a concussion.
Murray carried twice on his first drive, sprinting 11 yards around end for Oakland's first rushing touchdown since Oct. 19 against Arizona. The Chiefs were looking to match the 2011 San Francisco 49ers by becoming the second team to allow no rushing touchdowns through 11 games.
Murray did even better the next time he touched the ball, sprinting past the Chiefs defense for the longest run by a Raiders running back since Bo Jackson had a 92-yarder against Cincinnati in 1989. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a 93-yard TD run last season against Pittsburgh.
Murray had 112 yards on four carries before getting hurt. He had the most yards rushing by any player since at least 1960 with five or fewer carries.
Patriots welcome back Blount
LeGarrette Blount's teammates are glad to have him back in a New England Patriots uniform.
Which one he wears, though, is still up in the air.
Some players had trouble recognizing the 6-foot, 250-pound running back on Thursday after he signed and donned No. 60 for his first practice.
"I didn't know if he was a new offensive lineman or a new long snapper or what," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said.
"I thought he was going to be blocking for a little bit with the linemen," added tight end Rob Gronkowski.
It was a happy return to New England for Blount after a not-so pleasant departure from Pittsburgh.
Blount was cut by the Steelers on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after he jogged off LP Field with the clock still running in a 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
He was out of work less than 48 hours.
The Patriots wasted no time reclaiming the troubled veteran, who played in 16 games with seven starts last season for New England, finishing with 772 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He ran for 166 yards and set a franchise record with four rushing touchdowns in New England's playoff win over Indianapolis.
"It's exciting to have him back, a familiar face," said special teams captain Matthew Slater. "LeGarrette was a great teammate here last year. We really enjoyed him and he did a lot of positive things for us on the football field."
The Steelers signed Blount to a two-year, $3.85-million deal in March to provide the running game with some needed heft. He ran for 266 yards and two scores but saw his playing time diminish in recent weeks, taking the field for just one play on Monday night while good friend Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State) rushed for a career-high 204 yards and a touchdown.
The talented tandem celebrated Bell's 5-yard dive early in the fourth quarter that pulled Pittsburgh within a touchdown, posing for a faux selfie on the sideline after the play was upheld on review.
Yet when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lined up for the final snap, Blount headed for the tunnel. He was already dressed when his teammates entered the locker room and sat on the bus while the rest of the Steelers soaked in their fourth win in five games.
Blount and Bell were cited for marijuana possession — with Bell also being charged with a DUI — following a traffic stop in August while en route to the team plane to Philadelphia.
While Blount was unavailable to reporters Thursday in Foxborough, his new teammates offered nothing but compliments on his behalf.
"It was good to have him back," said fullback James Develin.
Blount joins a crowded Patriots backfield featuring receiving specialist Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, rookie James White and surprising Sunday-night standout Jonas Gray, who steamrolled his way to 201 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Colts, New England's sixth straight victory.
Despite his recent success, Gray had no trouble welcoming Blount into the fold.
"It's kind of funny, that running back position, they always talk about that camaraderie, so right away on the practice field we acted like we had known each other for a long time," he said. "He's a great guy to learn from, too, and I think that we're both going to motivate each other."
Gray said he never questioned the move when he first heard the news, trusting coach Bill Belichick and the front office's decision.
"I believe in the system, it's worked for me, and I believe in the Patriot Way, it's worked for a long time," Gray said. "I'm just excited to come to work every day."
Blount and the rest of the Patriots' backfield have a tough test ahead Sunday when the Detroit Lions (7-3) and their top-ranked rushing defense come to town. The Lions are allowing only 68.8 yards per game on the ground.
"He was a physical player last year," Gronkowski said of Blount, "and I'm sure he's going to bring it back now."
The Patriots also released defensive lineman Casey Walker.
Union demands arbiter for Peterson case
The NFL players' union on Thursday appealed the league's suspension of Adrian Peterson and demanded an independent, neutral arbitrator hear the case.
In a letter to its player representatives and executive committee obtained by The Associated Press, the NFLPA called commissioner Roger Goodell's punishment "unprecedented, arbitrary, and unlawful."
The union also accused Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, of telling Peterson that the games he missed on a special exempt list would count as time served toward a suspension.
League officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Goodell on Tuesday suspended Peterson without pay for the rest of the season and told him he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the NFL personal conduct policy. Peterson pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault in Texas for injuries to his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.
Peterson has said he intended no harm to his son, only discipline. The 2012 NFL MVP played just one game for the Minnesota Vikings this season and was paid part of his $11.75 million during the leave. He will keep the money accrued while on the exempt list. But the NFL's punishment now amounts to a 14-game ban, with six unpaid weeks. That's the equivalent of a fine of more than $4.1 million.
Goodell announced Aug. 28 tougher punishment for players involved with domestic violence. That action stemmed from a torrent of criticism for the initial leniency toward former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera hitting his then-fiancee and knocking her unconscious on an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. Rice was later suspended indefinitely and recently had his appeal heard by an arbitrator.
According to the enhanced policy, first offenses of assault, battery or domestic violence bring a six-game suspension.
But the union is arguing that the new policy was enacted after the incident had already occurred and shouldn't be retroactively applied to Peterson's conduct in May 2014.
The union also claims the "NFL is making up the process and punishment as it goes — a blatant violation of the CBA."
Suspended Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon has pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of marijuana possession in Oklahoma. The Oklahoman newspaper reports that if the former Oklahoma State star doesn't commit any crimes in the next six months, the charge will be dropped to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.
Blackmon was suspended indefinitely a year ago for repeated violations of the league's substance-abuse policy
... Eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald says his injured left knee is "a little better" and that he is optimistic that he will be able to play when the Cardinals face the Seahawks Sunday.
... AJ McCarron, who led Alabama to national titles in 2011 and '12, practiced with the Bengals after being out since camp with a sore shoulder.
... Running back Ben Tate joined the Vikings for practice, two days after he was waived by the Browns.
... The Titans promoted linebacker Justin Staples to the roster from the practice squad and filled that spot by signing linebacker Yawin Smallwood.