It always hurts when the Oakland Raiders outplay their opponent but still lose. This game fits in that category, and the end result could have been very different if not for some egregious self inflicted mistakes. Our own Levi Damien put out a list of 6 key mistakes that cost the Raiders, it's an accurate telling of the reasons why the Raiders lost despite playing well.
It was such a disappointing start to the game for Derek Carr to throw those two early interceptions, but it was exciting watching the Raiders still come back from the 14 point hole they put themselves in. It is easy to point at those interceptions as the main culprits in this loss, too easy in fact.
Those interceptions hurt, but they didn't kill. They were part of the accumulation of mistakes that did lead to the Raiders demise in this game, but the Raiders came back from those interceptions just fine. They even took the lead 20-17 after being down from those interceptions which is the final proof of them not being the end all for the team in this game.
No, the interceptions hurt but they did not kill. What killed them was Green Bay's 47 yard kick return after the Raiders took the lead, followed by a very quick touchdown for the Packers to retake control of the game. Talk about demoralizing, coming back like that only to so quickly have your accomplishment shattered to pieces.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this game was how well the defense played despite Khalil Mack's relatively pedestrian performance. Mack was often held illegally which the refs ignored, but his teammates came through for support when Khalil was ineffective. That is a great sign for the future that much of the Raiders defense is set up for success down the road.
Watching Aaron Rodgers press conference after the game proved how frustrated the Raiders defense made him. He was visibly agitated by the perception that it was not a very good game by the Packers and he repeated several times that they got the win. That really is about all Green Bay can say about this game, they got the win and that's all that mattered in the end.
When you look at the box score though, the Raiders defense played very well against a high powered Packers offense. They held Aaron Rodgers to just 204 yards passing and their leading rusher had only 51 yards with one run accounting for 25 of those yards. The defense played well enough for this team to win, and the offense wasn't terrible either.
Amari Cooper had an outstanding game, having 6 catches for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns. He surpassed the 1,000 yard mark which made him the first Raiders rookie to do so and the first Raider to do so since Randy Moss in 2005. After the game you could tell that he didn't appreciate the success very much in his postgame interview but it really is a big deal. He was too humble, and probably too angry at the loss, to realize it at the time but hopefully he understands later that his season truly was a special accomplishment in Oakland.
Derek Carr rebounded very well after his 2 interceptions, he lead the Raiders down to take the lead back before the wheels fell off again. It will be very exciting to see what kind of jump he can make going into next year. His 276 yards and 2 touchdowns was a pretty good game. Take away those two early interceptions and he had a very good game, Sadly, we have not invented a time machine as of yet to fix those mistakes.
Those interceptions put the Raiders in a hole and then the team lost all momentum almost immediately after climbing out of said hole. The loss eliminated the Raiders from playoff competition and insured a 13th straight year of non-winning records. That translates to the dark ages still remaining, despite the light at the end of the tunnel being bright than ever.
However, the Raiders are in a great position moving forward from here. They have bona fide super stars in the making in several positions, they have a core ready to build onto, they have what will likely be the most cap space in the NFL to spend next season, and they have a coaching staff that is likely to be able to stay together for years to come. The recipe for success is there, and it's a tested recipe from the Packers, Seahawks, and Chiefs who all have used it to cook up their continued success.
This year goes down as another non-winning year by the numbers, but it really is a winning year when you take into account how far they have come. They lost many games that they were even with or leading going into the 4th quarter. Enough games like that in fact that we can legitimately say the Raiders could have, and maybe even should have, been a playoff team this year. This game against the Packers was another one to add to that list.
Now the Raiders have two remaining games left, and one of those games is a nationally televised game on Christmas Eve. They still can go out with a bang and get some momentum for next year. It's not only a possibility for the Raiders to have a solid finish, it is something that we can ALMOST expect them to do. Almost, because well, PTSD is a real son of a bitch.
These last two games are not meaningless, they are an audition for next year along with a recruiting pledge. The Raiders have a ton of money to spend and there will be a bunch of really good free agents to spend that money on. These last two games are the final recruitment calls from this year's Raiders squad to show those impending free agents that this is where they want to go to become the champions they want to be.
It wont be about the Raiders being able to spend the most money either, though of course that is always a necessary evil with today's NFL. No, this is going to be a team to join because players want to be a part of something special. They already have proven that this team is on the verge of being special, but they have two more games to continue to show the world they are turning the corner before this almost great season comes to an end.