Early in games there’s a lot to be said for the Raiders offense. Late in games, not so much. Outside of the late field goal today in a game that was already pretty much out of reach, the Raiders haven’t scored in the fourth quarter. They’ve barely scored in the second half.
The flip side of that is they have scored on all three of their opening drives, two of which were touchdowns, including to start this game. They appeared to be in position for a second touchdown to start the day, both set up by long Jordy Nelson catches. But the second try was stopped at the goal line when the play went to the fullback Keith Smith on 4th and one and he was stopped.
A lot of people were probably wondering why that play didn’t go to Marshawn Lynch. He might have wondered that as well, though he wouldn’t say so. And, who knows, it might have yielded a touchdown and a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
It’s plays like that which stick in the craw of this team, leading the players to think this team is frustratingly close to putting it together and winning games.
“I feel like we’re just like a play away, a check away from being probably the most explosive offense in the league,” said Marshawn. “It comes with time, it comes with preparation. I don’t think we’re going to stop doing it. Any given moment it could click though.”
“We all know what we’re capable of at any given moment, we just a play away from it and most our players are playmakers so it only takes to step out of one tackle, one juke move, or a spin move, and we have a different ball game.”
Several times in their 0-3 start the Raiders have looked formidable only to shoot themselves in the foot and fall apart when it mattered most. That means not just late in the game, but on individual drives throughout the game.
In the second quarter of this one, the Raiders had once again driven to first and goal, knocking on the door. Marshawn got the ball and went for five yards. But on 2nd and goal from the two-yard-line, they put the ball in the air and Carr’s pass into the flat for Cook fell incomplete. This down Kolton Miller was called for a false start and their short yardage was gone. A screen attempt to Marshawn was well covered and the Raiders settled for a field goal.
That’s two drives that went to the 2-yard-line, yielding in a total of 3 points due mostly to self-inflicted wounds.
In the third quarter, they were back at the goal line. First and goal was a throw, second and goal was a throw, third and one, after an encroachment penalty made it third and goal from inches, they finally gave it to Marshawn who dove over the line and into the end zone.
At 17-7, the Raiders had their largest lead of the game. It didn’t last long.
On four plays, Ryan Tannehill completed passes of 15 yards, 36 yards, and a 19-yard shovel pass for a touchdown off a jet sweep.
By midway through the 4th quarter, that lead had evaporated and the Dolphins had their first lead of the game 21-17. The Raiders looked like they might re-take the lead on the ensuing drive. They drove to the 13-yard-line and Carr threw a 50/50 ball to the end zone for Martavis Bryant and it was intercepted by Xavian Howard. Another drive into scoring range comes away with no points. Derek Carr says he would throw that ball again.
“I just saw one-on-one with Martavis. Obviously he was hot and he was doing some good things and I just gave him a chance. Just like I have a hundred other times in my life,” said Carr. “[Xavian Howard] ended up making a good play. It sucks, the outcome sucks, but going back through it in my head, getting one-on-one with that guy, I’d probably have to do it again.”
That’s definitely one of those types of plays Marshawn spoke of that if it goes their way, it changes everything. But it didn’t. Perhaps it will at another time. Who knows.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s three drives that probably should have yielded at least 13 points, and possibly 17 points but the Raiders came away with just three. That’s a swing of 10-14 points. They lost by eight.
That may not make them the most explosive teams in the league, but had they not choked in that fashion, they could be 2-1 right now instead of 0-3. I’m certainly not suggesting they are that close to having a winning record. They earned these losses. You can’t just say “They’re such and such away from being a winning team” because those mistakes count too. Great teams have mistakes too. But they limit them and overcome the ones they do have. This team is not great. And they aren’t one play away from being great. Even if Marshawn really believes that.
It’s about a lot more than that. Specifically, according to Kelechi Osemele, it’s a couple plays.
“It’s just a mentality. And I think we do have that mentality. When we’re in the huddle and we’re looking at each other in the eyes, it’s not a will thing. It’s just not coming together. We just gotta watch film and figure it out and keep working, keep plugging. But I’m proud of everybody’s will. There’s no quit in the huddle whatsoever. The willpower’s there, the mentality’s there, the mental toughness is there. It’ll fall our way. We’re a couple plays away from making it happen.”
This sense of optimism with this team has been strange from the beginning. With every loss, they say things like this. At some point it seems like the attitude would change and 0-3 seems like a logical time for that. Nope. Carr also thinks one or two plays go different and the team starts clicking.
“I think we have a group of guys that believes that. Marshawn talked to you, he obviously believes that. I think the fact that he said that just tells you how everyone else really feels,” said Carr.
And since Marshawn was suddenly so chatty, he offered the solution as well.
“What’s going to be most important is that we rally behind each other,” said Lynch. “[From] the outside looking in it looks terrible, but we know what we got in this locker room, so, I mean, if we get behind each other I think we’ll be able to turn this shit around.”