The Oakland Raiders defense very much kept them in this game against the San Diego Chargers, but their offense was not up to the challenge yesterday. It is too bad because this was another winnable game that just simply fell threw the Raiders hands. It is amazing how every time a 50/50 play happens, it is the Raiders opponent that comes up with the play.
That happened again in this game at the end when a ball seemed certain to be intercepted by Charles Woodson. He was right there, timed it perfectly and had his hands on the ball. Instead of getting the interception with just over 2 minutes left in a single score game, it went right through his hands and into the hands of TE Antonio Gates for a crucial 1st down.
Those type of plays have been the bain of existence for the 2014 Oakland Raiders. It has been utterly demoralizing to watch these chances just slide right through their hands, in this case literally. It is now becoming more and more worrying that this team might actually join the winless Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to go 0-16.
What is even more sad to me about Woodson missing that play is that the defense played great in this game. They deserved the victory, but a defensive play being missed ended up being the straw that broke the Raiders back. It is a cruel irony for that to be the case. The defense should be proud of their effort in this game, but they will inevitably look back and think they should have done more.
The defense shouldn't have had to do more though, they did plenty to win this game. They lost because the offense couldn't do anything, and even when they did the coaches were too conservative to get something out of it.
The offense played very badly in this game, but they were in a hole nearly every time they had the ball. This might have been the greatest single game punting perfomance in NFL history by San Diego punter Mike Scifres. For that reason, I am far more upset with the conservative coaching at key moments than the lack of production from the offense.
When you are backed up against your own end zone every time you have the ball it is very difficult to get much going, multiply that by 10 when it is a rookie QB at the helm. The pressure of being that deep in your own territory is immense and it magnifies any mistakes that you make. For Derek Carr, he was doomed before he ever got onto the field almost the entire game.
However, they still managed to drive the ball to midfield on a couple of occassions where the coaching staff failed this team. There were two drives specifically that made me want to toss my computer across the room (thankfully, I did not do that). One happened with 2 minutes to go in the 1st half, and the other happened at the beginning of the 4th quarter.
The first instance the Raiders were at their own 44 yardline at the 2 minute warning for the first half. It was 4th down and inches, and instead of going for it Oakland punted. This team is winless after 9 games, what do they have to lose by going for it? Nothing. THEY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE.
Instead of rewarding their offense for getting a decent drive going, they punted it away to a veteran QB for a classic 2 minute drill. They were very lucky that the Chargers extremely consistent kicker missed their field goal attempt at the half from 48 yards. This was a moment where the Raiders needed to show some aggression and some heart, they should have went for it on 4th down without a shadow of a doubt in my mind.
The second instance of this cowardice was much, much worse. The first instance was terrible, the 2nd instance was straight up unforgivable. This one was 4th down and 5 yards to go, but this time it was the beginning of the 4th quarter and the Raiders had finally gotten into Chargers territory again.
The Raiders were on the Chargers 44 yard line and they were losing 13-3. How do you not go for it on 4th down in this situation on a 0-9 team? The offense had done absolutely nothing since their 1st quarter field goal but this time, despite starting at their own 2, they had finally found a rhythm on offense.
Instead of realizing that this was a winless team desperate for something good to happen, they punted. Instead of giving their rookie quarterback a chance for a signature moment, they punted. Instead of giving their fans something to be excited about and showing they had enough courage and audacity to go for it there, they punted.
This is what the 2014 Raiders do. They fail. They fail to show enough courage and strength to win tight games, they fail to coach well, and they have so far failed to win. They are now 0-10, something no Raiders fan had ever seen before, nor should they have had to.
There are two positives that I want to point out in this game though. One is Latavius Murray finally seeing some game action, and the other is Khalil Mack finally getting his well deserved first career sack.
For Latavius Murray, it is absurd that it took this long to finally give him an opportunity. The coaching staff says they are "trying" to get him the ball, but that is utter manure. It isn't hard to get a running back the ball, you just have to have them on the field. There is no excuse for it to have taken this long to see what he can do, and from the looks of it he might be able to do quite a bit. They stopped getting him the ball in this one despite the two longest runs of the year for the Raiders happening consecutively, but at least they let him touch the ball more than once in a game.
That first sack for Khalil Mack was a lot of fun to watch though, and Philip Rivers absolutely felt the impact of it. It was a long time coming for Mack who has been so close so many different times. Congrats to him on finally getting it done, it was something that definitely was on his mind and now he can relax about it.
The first one is always the hardest and now that the pressure is off hopefully we see him get to the QB more than a couple of times the rest of the year. Just because it is so nice to remember and read again, here is Levi Damien's tweet from that moment:
And Khalil Mack gets his first sack of his NFL career. #Raiders
— Levi Damien (@LeviDamien) November 16, 2014
I was very excited to watch the defense play as well as they did, but in the end it didn't matter. Still winless, they face a streaking Kansas City Chiefs on a short week of rest because the next game is on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network. At least it is a home game so they don't have much traveling to do, just a short flight from San Diego. Too bad Kansas City isn't a long flight either though.
It will be interesting to see if there is a hangover from this close, tough game that they just lost. It is another divisional rival that the Raiders always play tough against so that is at least a plus. At this point we have to expect the Raiders to lose but that does make this game against the talented Chiefs a trap game for them.
Hopefully the coaching staff realize that their winless this time around and play the game aggressively. Chances are good that the Raiders will have better field position to work with for their offense and so if the defense can play as well as they did this Sunday they will have a chance to win. Then again, they could get steamrolled by a better team. We won't have to wait long to find out either way.