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The Morning After: Raiders vs Colts

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Indianapolis Colts v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There is one good thing about a lost season this early on, it’s a lot less frustrating when you lose after the season is already over anyway. The most important thing at this point is that the team is competitive and that the players are able to be evaluated for their value in future seasons. It sucks to have to say that, and I will never root for losses, but it is a little relief to the misery when you know that losing just helps you get a better draft pick.

This game by the Oakland Raiders definitely qualifies under that statement because the team was competitive but losing still keeps them in the running for the top pick in next year’s draft. The offense was competitive anyway is a more appropriate statement, the defense was awful.

They showed signs of life a couple of times in the redzone but everything else was plain awful on defense. The fact that they gave up touchdowns to an NFL record three different tight ends in this game didn’t help either, though two of the three catches were ridiculous on the Colts part. Still, it’s frustrating when years go by and the team just can not ever fix the fatal flaw of nobody being able to cover the other team’s tight ends.

Why do opposing teams even bother using other players against the Raiders with how awful they always are against tight ends? Just constantly throw to them and you will have success, and it’s on a year in and year out basis. It’s just absurd, especially when the team skips out on drafting a potential super star safety in Derwin James just because they had used a high draft on a couple of busts at the position recently.

That’s a little unfair because the new coaching staff didn’t know what they had in their safeties yet but it’s still hard to not be bitter about it. However, if Kolton Miller can play like he did in this game all season then they probably made the right choice anyway. It’s easier to find a starting safety than a starting left tackle and Miller looked really good against the Colts after a horrible game in London before the bye week.

The whole offensive line looked really good in this game actually, the bye week definitely helped that position group out even though they still were missing Kelechi Osemele who hopefully can be back next week. It was a night and day difference anyway though, the offensive line gave Derek Carr time to throw all game and the Raiders offense showed just how valuable that is.

Derek Carr actually looked great for most of the game in general after a slow start, it was a huge response that he needed after how much scrutiny he has been facing for his poor play since breaking his leg in 2016. He desperately needed a game to quiet the critics and he got one here, this loss is not on him at all.

The Raiders QB is also the beneficiary of one of the most bizarre stats ever, at least for a guy who is actually fairly athletic. In his entire career, Carr had never had a rushing touchdown until this game. It had always seemed crazy that Oakland never does QB sneaks with him but to not have scored a touchdown on the ground until his 5th season is just crazy. Hopefully he finally realizes he is actually allowed to use his legs if his arm doesn’t have any good options from now on, but I digress.

There are plenty that will point to the failed drive in the 4th quarter when the Raiders went three and out after the two teams swapped scoring drives 7 straight drives as Derek Carr’s fault anyway. That didn’t seem like a knock against Carr as much as a failure in play calling though. The offense was humming with passes downfield, but that drive they did two runs and a short pass for a crucial three and out.

With how bad the defense was playing the offense needed to keep the pedal to the metal there and the conservative playcalling doomed them. It wouldn’t have hurt so bad if Johnny Townsend didn’t follow it up with a 24 yard punt though. That was the biggest failure of the whole game and should cost Townsend his job but likely won’t.

It’s an absolute travesty seeing such terrible punting from the Oakland Raiders. They have the most storied tradition of great punters in their long history, it’s not something you want to have to use all the time but damn it the Raiders always punt well. Not this year though, this year Johnny Townsend has been the worst punter I ever remember the Raiders having. He should not have a job anymore with the team unless it’s on the practice squad, it’s time to bring in a free agent who actually punts like an NFL punter.

Once that shanked punt happened you just knew the Raiders were going down, it was one of those classic Raiders moments when the inevitability of losing was obvious. They had already given up a game tying touchdown the drive before and then quickly gave the ball back, but then to give them such momentum again to go and take the lead was the true back breaker.

As for the Doug Martin fumble once the Raiders got the ball again down a touchdown, you just have to tip your hat to Colts rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. He knew exactly what he was going to do and executed it perfectly, it was the type of play that is nearly impossible to defend against on Martin’s part.

It was way more frustrating seeing Doug Martin have a chance at the recovery and the ball squirting between his legs to be honest, there is more blame on him for failing to recover the ball than fumbling it. It was really sad too because Martin actually had a really good game outside of that play with 13 carries for 72 yards (5.5 ypc) and two catches for 17 yards. He had been quieting his critics until that fumble happened, hopefully he shrugs it off and plays well again next week against the 49ers.

Lastly, it would be a terrible decision to trade Gareon Conley unless they can somehow get a first round pick for him. Even then though, Conley has shown enough potential and corners are hard to find that even trading him for a first round pick might be a mistake.

Conley deserves a chance to develop and has shown flashes of being a legitimate number 1 corner even though he gave up a touchdown in this one. He currently has an above average grade from PFF at 63.3, which ranks him at #55 in the NFL right now which is a starter quality ranking. He should be given a chance to prove his worth for Oakland, he could be a true building block for them going forward if they don’t trade him before tomorrow’s trade deadline.

Now it’s looking forward to a quick turnaround in a rivalry game against the San Francisco 49ers. It’s the Battle of the Bay, an always contentious match with huge bragging rights and usually a fair amount of fan on fan violence. Hopefully it’s safer than it’s been at the game because there is no football game that should feature the type of violence that was on display during their last preseason game where a fan was stabbed in the parking lot.

It also could be an audition to see how much of a fan presence the Raiders could have if they need a temporary stadium next season, which seems likely at this point with no lease in Oakland for next year and a potential lawsuit in the making. If the Oakland fans can black out this away game with their presence then it could go a long way to convincing the Oakland brass that Levi stadium is a worthy spot for them for a season.

It’s actually a rare game between two losing teams that is extremely meaningful though but not in the traditional sense. The Raiders are currently 1-6 on the season and the 49ers are 1-7, they are neck and neck competing for the number 1 pick in the draft. It’s not the type of competition you’d like to be in but it could go a long way to deciding the draft positions for the 2019 NFL draft.

To the loser goes the spoils this time, ironically.