ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders survived almost an entire game without starting wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
Now they could be without both players for even longer.
The NFL suspended Crabtree for two games for his role in a fight with Denver cornerback Aqib Talib in Oakland’s 21-14 victory on Sunday.
Cooper is in the concussion protocol after taking a hard hit from safety Darian Stewart and is also nursing an injured ankle from the play. His status for the game Sunday between Oakland (5-6) and the New York Giants remains unknown.
The Raiders came out on top Sunday thanks to some key contributions from the backup receivers. Johnny Holton had a 47-yard catch on a deep throw to set up Oakland’s third touchdown and Cordarrelle Patterson had a 54-yard, catch-and-run on a late third down that allowed Oakland to run out the clock.
“They came up with some big plays in the game,” coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. “Johnny got deep again, did a nice job throughout the day. … Cordarrelle came up with some big moments in the game. All in all, it was a solid, solid job of filling in and executing with your two main guys out.”
The fight that got Crabtree suspended was a spill-over from some bad blood after Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain from his neck during the season finale last year.
On the first play of Oakland’s second drive, Crabtree punched cornerback Chris Harris Jr. while blocking downfield. On the next play, Crabtree was engaged with Talib and drove him to the turf on the sideline, setting off the fight .
Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain off once again, and players from both teams ran over to join in the fray. Talib ripped Crabtree’s helmet off and threw it down before the fight continued on the field with both players throwing punches, leading to ejections.
NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan announced the suspension of Crabtree later Monday.
“Your actions triggered a melee and endangered various sideline and league personnel, including one of our game officials who was injured trying to maintain control of the situation,” Runyan said in his letter to Crabtree. “Finally, during the ensuing altercation, you grabbed and twisted that same opponent’s facemask and threw a punch at him. Such actions have no place in this game, engender ill will between teams, and lead to further confrontations.”
Despite the history between the players, Del Rio said he didn’t address the situation before the game with Crabtree: “We were all about finding a way to beat the Broncos. That’s all.”
Now they will have to play the New York Giants and Kansas City the next two weeks without Crabtree unless the suspension is reduced on appeal.
Raiders guard Gabe Jackson was also ejected for pushing an official while running over to protect Crabtree during the fight. He will likely be fined for his actions.
Cooper got hurt in the second quarter when he was hit by Stewart while trying to catch a pass over the middle. Del Rio initially called the hit “vicious” and said he hoped the league would take a look at it. After watching the game film, Del Rio said the hit was not as egregious as he thought on Sunday.
“I think Amari did duck his head as the guy was approaching,” Del Rio said. “That makes it a little harder on the defender. That was probably the one piece that I didn’t have access to prior to that comment. The reality is, it’s harder to be a defensive guy when the offensive guy is ducking his head. That makes it a little more complicated.”
Crabtree and Cooper are tied for the team lead with 42 catches this season. The other three receivers on the roster — Patterson, Holton and Seth Roberts — have combined for just 46 catches.
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