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Graney: Raiders crumble under second-half spell of Murray

Think about it: Next Gen Stats had him travel 85.69 yards over 20.8 seconds. On a two-point conversion.

Kyler Murray sprinted right and then left and then back right and then back left. He eventually paused for several seconds, scanned the field, saw that things were covered on the back end and headed left for the goal line.

He would cross it untouched as an exhausted and exasperated Raiders defense stood bewildered at what had just occurred.

It’s times like these when you can’t defend Murray. You just hope to survive him.

The Raiders couldn’t and paid for it with their second straight loss to open the season.

Murray got going in manner few can in the second half Sunday and that’s all Arizona needed to rally for a 29-23 overtime victory at Allegiant Stadium.

Sucking air

It was 20-0 at halftime for the home team.

It was 23-7 with just over eight minutes remaining.

A choke job by the Raiders for blowing the largest lead in franchise history? Hard to tell. It could have been just the defense sucking air from being on the field so long.

Murray’s improbable conversion — you had to see it to believe how incredible a play it was — would pull the Cardinals within 23-15 with 8:13 left and a touchdown run by him and two-point pass to A.J. Green tied things at 23 as regulation ended.

But this was a slow and deliberate defeat over the final two quarters, when the Raiders couldn’t move the ball a lick and their defense couldn’t get off the field.

“You have to finish,” said Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs. “I don’t think (being tired) matters. When you step on that field, you know what comes with it. Most teams are tired. That’s football.”

The difference between halves was staggering. The Cardinals over the first 30 minutes ran 19 plays. They finished with 78. The Raiders ran 37 plays in building their large advantage at intermission. They ran 24 thereafter.

Time of possession: Cardinals 36:22, Raiders 29.47.

Murray was a non-factor in the first half, completing 6 of 9 for 53 yards and zero yards rushing. He would finish 31 of 49 for 277 yards and a score while rushing for 28 yards and a touchdown.

Sucking air? A gassed defense?

Arizona’s final scoring drive in regulation lasted 18 plays over 73 yards and 4:43 of the clock.

“We were out there for a long time for sure, but that just means we need to do a better job preparing for these situations,” said Raiders linebacker Divine Deablo. “(Murray) is a great quarterback. Shifty. Quick. Fast. It was getting harder and harder as time went on.”

On the offense, too

Look. This is just as much on the offense (perhaps more so) as it is a defense that couldn’t keep up with Murray.

The Raiders gained just 71 yards in the second half. They went three-and-out in two of their four series the final 30 minutes of regulation.

When it was over, when Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow fumbled for a second time in overtime and the ball was returned 59 yards for a game-winning score by Byron Murphy, blame needed to be cast in all silver and black directions.

They weren’t near good enough for long enough.

They opened the door for a quarterback whose skill set proved far too difficult to contain.

And we’re talking about more than that amazing two-point conversion.

“That play was ridiculous,” Raiders linebacker Jayon Brown said.

It really was.

“I knew that they weren’t going to be able to tackle me,” Murray said. “It was just about hopefully backyard football at that point.”

It was Murray at his most exciting and elusive and explosive self.

And there stood an exhausted and exasperated Raiders defense.

Bewildered at what had just occurred.

Eventually beaten down and out.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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