This was a tough loss for the Oakland Raiders. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most likely competitors for a Wild Card playoff spot and their winning this game gives them the edge in tiebreakers over the Raiders. It is even more of a tough loss for the Raiders when you consider how good the offense played only to have the defense let them down in this one.
What is worse than just the defense letting the offense down in this game though is the fact that almost all of the damage from the Steelers came from two players. The Steelers had the most yards ever on a Raiders team, but it is much more ridiculous than that when you consider how they got those yards. They had 525 of the 597 yards come by way of Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams.
That's not a misprint, 525 of their 597 yards came from those two players. I have never seen a stat so absurd. That is almost 88% of the offense going through those two guys, and the Raiders didn't have an answer for either one throughout the entire game. That is just sad.
I mean really, at some point somebody should have said "Hey, it's one or the other that is going to get the ball". By the end of the game the defense absolutely knows who they are going to get the ball to. Yet, there goes Antonio Brown again on the Steelers final drive for another huge gain that led to the game winning field goal by Pittsburgh.
My issue with that play goes beyond just that Antonio Brown got loose again though, after all Antonio Brown is possibly the best receiver in the entire league. My issue also isn't even that of course the backup QB Landry Jones was going to go to the elite receiver in that situation. No, my issue with the long play on the final drive for the Steelers is actually that they should have let him score.
Let him get the touchdown on that play and the Raiders have 45 seconds left on the clock to hopefully tie the game up again. The Raiders offense was nearly unstoppable, give them a chance to send the game into overtime. Tackling Antonio Brown on that long play only allowed the Steelers to run out the rest of the clock and kick the game winning field goal.
As much as this game hurt, it didn't come easy for the Steelers. When they went up 35-21 in the 4th quarter it felt like the game was going to end up being a blow out, it would have been like the Raiders of old. A blowout loss in this game would have made much of the good feelings around this team come crashing down, at least for a week anyway.
Low and behold though, the Raiders came back! They even threw a bad interception in the endzone while coming back but they still overcame that too. They tied the game at 35 when the old Raiders would have just tucked their tails and their heads.
Of all the things that have happened this season to make us say "This isn't the same old Raiders", this is the one that means the most to me. Even good teams can lose heart in this situation. They had just given up a touchdown, and their return man gives them a gift on a fumble on the following kickoff. Boom, just like that they are down two touchdowns.
That is when games get out of hand more often than not, most teams don't storm back the way the Raiders did. That means something, that is special. Even though it didn't come with a win, and even though the loss is huge. That comeback still means something for this team, and it is something that they can hang onto moving forward to continue growing their confidence from.
I am not calling it a moral victory though, this was a hard pill to swallow of a loss. This hurt, they had their chance to really prove they have arrived and the defense fell to pieces instead of dominated. They could have solidified themselves as a probable playoff team with a victory, instead they now have a tougher hill to climb.
It is still a climb that can be made though, there is no doubt about that at all. They have the Minnesota Vikings next which is a surprising team that is sitting at 6-2 with a share of the NFC North lead right now. However, this won't be in Minnesota, it's in the black hole baby.
This is going to be one of those games where the fans are going to be amazing for the Raiders. If they can continue their streak of starting out strong the fans will get even louder. It also should be a battle between two QB's in the same draft class, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr are linked together now for all time by their stellar play so far and their draft class.
The Vikings fans still think they got the better QB, Raiders fans believe they didn't. This is one of the times where they will get to face off head to head, probably the first of many considering the talent level of both QB's. Get your popcorn ready, it should be a good show.
Last but not least, Michael Crabtree needs to have his contract extended before he hits free agency. He has done more than anybody could have imagined for this team. He won over Raiders fans with electrifying play on the field, and he hasn't made any headlines off of it either.
I'd still be happier if they had James Jones too, but Michael Crabtree's back to back 100 yard games are no fluke. He was a beast in this game and has been all season. In the legendary words of John Malkovich in the movie Rounders, "Pay that man his money".