This is the type of game that is exactly why I made this column be "The Morning After" and not "The Immediate Aftermath". If I had written this article yesterday after the game had been over it would have been as negative as Week 1, but sleeping on it and waiting for the immediate passionate reaction to subside definitely helps with perspective.
The game against the Chicago Bears was a very winnable game, that is what hurt so much about losing it. The fans were on a high after starting 2-1 and seeing a struggling team on the horizon, it seemed like the Oakland Raiders were going to be 3-1 going into a 1st place showdown game with the Denver Broncos next weekend. The end result was a heartbreaking, last second loss.
Immediately following the game there were a lot of cuss words, a lot of pain, and a lot of blame to go around. As much as Raider Nation wants this team to have turned the corner and be the finished product, that just isn't the reality yet. This is still a up and coming team trying to turn the corner, not the contender we are hoping they are becoming.
The Raiders hadn't won a road game before last week in over 2 years, back to back road victories was simply asking too much. The team was right there in this game, leading in the final seconds, and they had made plenty of mistakes along the way that in other years would have led to a blow out loss.
There are some teams who suddenly become playoff teams out of no where, but that is asking too much of this young team at this time. They could turn out to still be a playoff quality team considering the year is young, but it shouldn't be expected. The Raiders are a young team still growing together, still trying to learn how to win games. This was a stepping stone game in that process, it was right there for them to win if they just did a little bit more.
They won't be forgetting the pain they felt after failing to do enough to win this one and that type of feeling can be a great motivation for a young team. If we have learned anything about the character of the players on the Raiders it is that they are determined, committed players that want to get better every day. They were just a few plays away from turning this game from a close loss to a big victory for them. Now they need to use this loss to get better in the long run. It wasn't a moral victory, it was a motivating defeat.
In fact, one extra play very much could have made all the difference. When the Raiders had the ball last they faced a 3rd and 2 play and chose to run the ball up the middle. My initial response was that they should have passed the ball, they should have put the game in the hands of their potential star QB Derek Carr and let him try for the first down. Part of me still feels that way, but if the execution on that run had been better than it would have been a non issue altogether.
If the Raiders get the first down on that last 3rd down they would have used up a lot more clock, if not the rest of the clock altogether. Instead, a missed block allowed a defender to just barely get running back Roy Helu in the backfield when he had nothing but green space ahead of him without the shoe string tackle. That is how close the Raiders were to coming out of Chicago with a victory despite several mistakes along the way.
Two of those mistakes came from starting RB Latavius Murray, one a dropped pass that turned into an interception and one a lost fumble. This was the worst game of his short career, but it is no reason to lose faith in the talented back altogether. Still, turnovers are the difference between winning and losing when the game is ended on a game winning field goal for the opponent.
Really though, Murray got hurt early in the 2nd quarter and just never looked right afterwards. He was pulled from the game in favor of Roy Helu after his two turnovers happened, but that seemed as much because of his not being at 100% as much as from his mistakes. I very much expect him to have a bounce back game the next time he gets the ball.
Another key player for the Raiders got shut down as well outside of his one impressive touchdown reception. He finished the game with just 4 receptions for 49 yards and the TD, but really he was a non factor out of the one nice catch. Even the one nice catch Cooper should have dragged his back foot to make sure to get the catch, but that is something he will learn to do better as he gets more experienced.
As for Derek Carr, it really seemed like he did enough to win the game and just needed more help from his teammates. His interception was a result of the dropped pass from Latavius Murray and he had a beautiful throw to Seth Roberts in the back of the endzone that buzzed past two Bears defenders that Roberts just didn't get his 2nd foot down in bounds for.
That play too was one that would have changed the end to this game because the Bears would have needed a touchdown instead of a field goal to win at the end. Roberts had plenty of time to get his other leg down but didn't force his leg down in time, but he too seems like somebody who will be able to learn to do that better with more experience.
The star of the defense didn't play great either, Khalil Mack's productivity is clearly being hampered by nagging injuries. He hasn't lived up to the gigantic expectations placed on him coming into this season yet, but that might be more from the fans and media expecting too much from a young player than from Mack under performing.
Khalil Mack needs to get healthy to get his burst back but watch out when he does. Aldon Smith is getting more and more comfortable and had his best game as a Raider yesterday, when Mack is healthy alongside him is when that duo should really start playing well. The other Smith on the team also had a really great game, Malcolm Smith has been the best free agent acquisition outside of Charles Woodson from Reggie McKenzie.
That of course brings us to the ageless one, Charles Woodson still is simply amazing. The guy is beat up, yet still he is making plays. His interception of Jay Cutler on the Bears second to last drive could have sealed another Raiders victory if the offense had played just a little bit better, and it also put him into the top 10 on the interceptions list at 62 for his career. It will be a sad, sad day when he does decide to retire.
Now it is onto the next game, and it will be the largest litmus test for the Raiders to show where they are as a team. The Denver Broncos are still undefeated but it is because of their defense, not Peyton Manning and his offense. They haven't been as impressive as they have been in the past so far this year, they appear to be beatable.
Whether that happens for the Raiders will depend on how well they can bounce back from this close, last second defeat. The entire team will need to play better but at least they will get the chance to be motivated by their home crowd again as the game will be played at the O.Co. If the Raiders were to come out with a victory in this one they would be 3-2 with a signature victory, that would make us forget mostly about this Bears game that they could have won but didn't.