Marshawn Lynch paces Raiders' win over Dolphins

The Oakland Raiders (4-5) stayed in the playoff hunt with a balanced victory over the Miami Dolphins (4-4), 27-24, on Sunday Night Football in Week 9. Here's what we learned:

  1. In his return from suspension, Marshawn Lynch returned to form. Confronted by Ndamukong Suh and a typically stout Dolphins front seven, Lynch started slow, forcing Oakland to funnel carries early to the two shiftier backups. But patience paid off for Lynch, who bullied Miami as the game wore on, scoring two touchdowns, including a classic 22-yard scamper in the third quarter. Lynch finished with just 57 yards on 14 carries, but his presence balanced an Oakland offense that in previous weeks had relied too frequently on the right arm of Derek Carr. While Lynch looked unlike himself in his return in the field -- Beast Mode was without his signature visor -- his performance was familiar, one that the Raiders hoped they would reap when they traded for him in the offseason.
  1. The mystery coming into Sunday night was how Miami would adapt to life without Jay Ajayi, whom the Fins shipped north in a mid-week trade. The answer? Short passes and outside runs. Cutler completed his first 16 pass attempts and only one of them traveled further than 10 yards. The short gains continued in the second half, but were less effective as Cutler found himself back-pedaling too deep into his pocket. Cutler threw for a season-high 311 yards in his return from injury, but failed to test Oakland's suspect secondary down the field until it was too late. As Miami fell behind on the scoreboard, Cutler's short-passing game left Dolphins fans, and receivers, wanting.

Statistically, the Dolphins QB had his most efficient game of the season in part due to the pass-catching abilities of his new starting backs: Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. The two combined for 12 receptions and 82 yards. Drake, the speedier option, got more attention on the ground, carrying the ball nine times for 69 yards; his one miscue, a fumble, did lead to a go-ahead Raiders TD in the first half. Miami might miss the occasional Ajayi bruising run, but as a result of his trade, the Dolphins' running back position had its most complete game of the season.

  1. Carr didn't rely on his deep ball against Miami, but when he needed a big play, it was there for the taking. His 44-yard bomb to speed demon Johnny Holton at the end of the first half, dropped halfway across the field on a dime, put Oakland up for good. Then, on the Raiders' final scoring drive, Carr rolled out to his right and delivered on the move, with perfect touch, a 29-yard hammer to Seth Roberts. For the third week in a row, Carr threw for at least 300 yards. The return of Oakland's aerial display, after an unexplained hiatus in early October, is a sign of good things to come.
  1. Jared Cook is quickly becoming Carr's favorite receiver. The journeyman tight end delivered his second 100-plus-yard receiving game in three weeks, finishing with eight catches for 126 yards. While Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree struggle with their curious and contagious case of the dropsies, Carr has turned to and is making good use out of the offseason acquisition.
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