It never ceases to amaze how the Raiders continue to find way after way to lose games. Blowout losses are worse because they mean that the team didn't play well, but there is a certain type of pain that comes with a game that should have been a victory. The Raiders outplayed San Diego, but they did not outscore them and that is all that matters in the end.
It is pretty safe to start getting extremely excited for what Derek Carr brings to the Raiders though, despite the interception at the end. He appears to be a legitimate franchise quarterback, and if that stays true then the Raiders will have accomplished the hardest part of any rebuild in finding their QB. He appears to be the type of quarterback that could lead this team for the next 10-15 years, though fool's gold often is found in the NFL so it isn't certain yet.
Carr's interception at the end of the game though was a rookie mistake that he shouldn't have made. The Raiders were right at Sebastian Janikowski's field goal range already and they still had over a minute to go to get closer. It was plenty of time to dink and dunk for a closer field goal attempt, and on those type of plays sometimes the receiver can break one like Brice Butler did earlier in the game.
What you can not do in that circumstance is throw an interception. He threw that ball extremely well but Butler was covered. Sure, Brice Butler could have played that ball better in the air and at least broken up the pass. Sure, it was a great play by the Chargers rookie first round pick CB Jason Verrett. None of that should have mattered because he shouldn't have taken that risk at all.
There is something to be excited about with that throw though, he had the confidence and the courage to try it. He expected to win that battle, and he expected to win that game. The general consensus is to disagree with him throwing the ball deep in that circumstance, but you have to love that he had the balls to go for the win.
That one play definitely sullied what was a wonderful game by Derek Carr, but he still did what no other rookie QB had ever done for the Raiders. He threw for 4 TD passes in a single game, something that his brother David never managed to do in his 11 year NFL career. That is special, even if it came in a loss. Raiders fans have every reason to believe that it wont be the only time he manages to throw 4 touchdowns in a single game too, that is what is really great about it.
Enough about Derek Carr though, let's talk about the people he was throwing to. Catch the ball! The second half was cleaned up considerably but 5 drops in one half is completely unacceptable. Andre Holmes had a great game stat wise with his 121 yards receiving and 2 TD's, but its hard not to remember his 2 dropped passes along with those stats. James Jones also made some really good plays in this game, but he too had a big drop in that first half.
The worst drop out of all of them was Marcel Reece's drop though. He is one of the most outspoken and passionate leaders on this team, he needs to back up his talk on the field. He never had a problem with drops before this season but now he is becoming hard to trust. Reece is an extremely under used playmaker on this team, however he isn't going to become a used playmaker if he keeps dropping his chances to contribute to this offense.
Brice Butler is another under used playmaker, even if he wasn't able to get a good enough jump to contest that game sealing interception. He showed his speed on his TD catch and run, it was a sight to behold. You have to appreciate that Tony Sparano immediately gave him more opportunities, even if the injury to Vincent Brown helped give Butler that chance. He took advantage of it though and hopefully he will be a focus of the offense moving forward. He clearly has chemistry and trust with Derek Carr anyway.
As for the defense, there still is not enough hits on the quarterback. This game they seemed to be around Philip Rivers a lot but they did not get nearly enough hits on the MVP caliber QB. The pass rush wasn't even as good as it appeared in this game though, because they were being pushed past Rivers on purpose on a regular basis. All Philip Rivers had to do was step forward and everything opened up because the entire defensive line was pushed past him.
It is getting really frustrating waiting for the pass rush to start getting to the QB more, not the least of reasons why being how long that has been a major problem for the Raiders. Khalil Mack was brought in to solve that problem, along with Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley and Antoine Smith. None of them have managed to do anything about it yet though and that is a problem that needs to be solved.
Khalil Mack has been a very good linebacker for the Raiders, but he still has not gotten his first sack of his career. It has been extra frustrating to watch because he has been so close so many times but he just hasn't been able to get there. It will come for him and once it does the flood gates will likely open, but the waiting game sucks. He definitely would agree on that!
The cornerback that really jumped out to me against San Diego was Carlos Rodgers, he has been an excellent addition. He made a TD saving pass defense in the endzone at one time and he had some solid tackles throughout the game. He will be staying as the starter even when D.J. Hayden comes back (who is now eligible to be taken off of the P.U.P. List), at least he deserves to be one of the starters anyway.
Last and definitely not least, Tony Sparano! What a difference between the Dennis Allen led Raiders and the ones that showed up yesterday. It is hard not to assume that a large part of that difference was the change at head coach.
Sparano has always been known as a running coach, and sure enough they got their best running of the season in his first game in charge. Even Darren McFadden was looking good, better than he has in years in fact. Credit has to be given to Tony Sparano for the improvement, it would be a hell of a coincidence if it had nothing to do with him when he always had solid running on teams he has led.
The best part though was finally unleashing Derek Carr. It was a priority of Sparano's to let Carr know that this was his team and that he was needed to show up as a leader. Carr's greatest ability is his deep ball and he was finally allowed to throw it, the effect from that was clear. Derek had his best game of his short career, and it was because he was finally allowed to act upon whatever he read in the defense.
In the end though, the Raiders still lost this game. They still left the field 0-5, and the bitter taste of that is one that will take an awfully long time to remove. The team was better, the coaching was better, the result of the game at the final whistle was not.
It will be interesting to see if we get the same team next week or if they will regress after this extremely disappointing loss. They have another very tough opponent in the Arizona Cardinals so a regress could get ugly in a hurry. If the Raiders play the way they did yesterday again they definitely can win, the question is whether or not they will show up with the same intensity after this tough loss.
That is on Tony Sparano, hopefully he has something in his bag of tricks to continue motivating these guys. His coaching made a noticeable difference in game 1 of his tenure as interim head coach, if they can continue to build on that he might just get put in the running to be a permanent replacement after all.