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The Morning After: Red Zone failings doom Raiders in loss to Miami Dolphins

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Oakland Raiders v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Hey, remember the time the Silver and Black dominated for 3 quarters of the game just to completely collapse in the 4th quarter and lose? No, not that time. Not that time either!

We are three weeks into the season and the same thing has happened all three weeks to the Oakland Raiders. The first week they played a far superior opponent in the Los Angeles Rams who took off at the end of the game so that one is forgivable, but the Raiders should absolutely be 2-1 right now. They should have never lost either one of these last two games to the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins.

For all the controversy surrounding the Raiders decision to trade Khalil Mack, their defense has actually looked pretty good the last two weeks except for key plays down the stretch. Unfortunately that is exactly when Mack was most valuable because he is one of the best game closers ever. It’s hard to not feel like he would have been the difference right now for the team in these two games.

Still, the defense played well enough to win if they just got more help from the offense. Derek Carr’s interception in the end zone with just 3 minutes left in the game was the nail in the coffin for the Raiders, and it should have never happened. Not only should Carr never have thrown that pass, he never should have been throwing a pass to begin with.

Oakland was having their way with the Dolphins running the ball on first down all day, and Marshawn Lynch was running with ferocity. No way do you bother passing at that point, you continue to punch them in the face with Lynch and take up more time on the clock while doing so. It was a terrible play call to pass at that point, there is no other way around it.

However, even if they were going to pass the ball there you certainly do not throw the damn thing up for grabs on a 1st down play from the Miami 13. There was no reason to go for it all on 1st down, Carr did not have to be the hero at that time of the game. This is what Carr has been doing ever since he broke his leg in 2016 though, when the game is on the line he just tries to do too much.

What the Raiders needed at that point of the game was for the coaches and Derek Carr to both have more patience than to go for the gusto there. Sitting at 0-2 in the NFL is a very hard pill to swallow as is, but rushing the offense at the end of game 3 has them now sitting at 0-3.

Rookie tackle Kolton Miller’s ugly day had an exclamation mark added to it by giving up a QB hit on that play right when Carr was delivering the ill advised pass as well. It’s not like you shouldn’t expect your rookie tackle to have a day like that sometimes, starting a rookie left tackle will always have some growing pains. Miller had a bad game, but he will be able to grow from this experience.

That wasn’t even Miller’s worst play of the day though, it was his false start penalty at the Miami 2 yard line in the 2nd quarter that wins that honor. You can not over state how bad of a penalty that was because the difference between 3rd and goal at the 2 and at the 7 is absolutely manumental. The entire playbook is open from the 2, but you become one dimensional from the 7.

Between that penalty on the 2 yard line, and running Keith Smith on 4th and goal from the 1 earlier in the game the Raiders came away with just 3 points from two possessions from inside the Miami 2 yard line. That is unacceptable, and how do you not run Lynch on that 4th and 1? Did you not learn anything from Seattle’s super bowl loss?

As if to prove the point beyond reproach, they did give the ball to him from the 1 in the 3rd quarter when he gave his best Marcus Allen impression by soaring over the line and into the end zone. If they weren’t going to run him on that 4th down play then they shouldn’t have ran at all. Trying to surprise them with the fullback when the entire defense played the middle of the line of scrimmage was too cutesy of a play, they tricked nobody with that.

If the Raiders were more effective in the red zone against the Dolphins they would have never even come close to losing this game. That isn’t to let the defense completely off the hook though, they did allow themselves to be embarrassed on two tricky plays from the Dolphins when the game was on the line.

The WR reverse pass from Albert Wilson to Jakeem Grant is the play that they’d really like to have back. The Dolphins were completely disjointed to start that play off, as long as Grant doesn’t sneak away completely wide open that play was doomed. There is no excuse for letting Grant go uncovered, the play was so slow moving it was obvious that they weren’t trying to run the ball on it.

Albert Wilson touchdown that sealed the game was a little bit more forgivable even if equally as frustrating. The guy simply burned the defense with his speed, he saw a hole and got through it before any Raiders player could get there and then sprinted past everyone. It was right after that extremely demoralizing Carr interception though, it’s hard to believe that turnover didn’t effect the defense with them being torched right after that.

Lastly, what is wrong with Amari Cooper? Does he really just not want to be a Raider anymore at all? When was the last time you saw a receiver that talented have so many lack of effort plays in one game? Randy Moss. He is looking just like Randy Moss did when he “played” for the Raiders and it has jump started the talk in earnest about it being time to move on from him.

The first Carr interception was another ball that should have never been thrown, but no NFL receiver should give up on a play like Cooper did in that one. He just stopped and watched the Dolphin player intercept that ball. Carr is still to blame for the interception because it was an awful decision and over throw but Cooper just gave up. He didn’t even try to make a tackle on the return, and that is what I find most unforgivable.

So the throw was awful and the interception happened, why are you not sprinting towards the guy with the ball to make the tackle?? He should have been closer anyway because he shouldn’t have stopped trying to play for the ball, but after you see it’s going to be intercepted you are now a defender not a bystander.

This whole thing is just incredibly frustrating to watch, the Raiders absolutely should be 2-1 right now and in great position going forward with the Cleveland Browns and struggling Seattle Seahawks next. Instead they are 0-3 and looking at games that should be winnable that instead feel like what else could go wrong next.

This team can compete, they proved it through 3 quarters of all three games so far. Then the 4th quarter happens with the game on the line and every facet of this team just crumbles. It’s surreal and unacceptable. The season is still very young at just 3 games in though so if they can figure it out they could still get on a huge winning streak, it just feels pretty naive to believe in them to actually do it.

I’m not ready to give in on this season though, even at 0-3 there are still 13 games left to turn this ship around. When things are going good for this team they look like should be a winning team, but when it starts to go bad it all goes bad in a hurry. This team is better than what they are putting out there in the 4th quarter, it’s up to Jon Gruden and Derek Carr to figure this out now while there is still the majority of the season left to go.