The name “Oakland Raiders” died on Sunday, culminating in an exciting, but ultimately unfulfilling 16-15 loss to the Denver Broncos that seemed to carry parallels with the entire season.
The Raiders 2019 season has been quite intoxicating at times, as the team has shown flashes of brilliance with a young crop of talent serving as the foundation of the future. They fought through an insane schedule to start 6-4, but stumbled with a 1-5 finish that should leave them unsatisfied and ready to put in work.
Before we transition into full offseason mode, or full Vegas mode if you will, let’s take a moment to appreciate the highs and grumble about the lows of today’s last-second loss.
The Derek Carr—Hunter Renfrow connection
Derek Carr is your “WTF!?” player of the decade.
Carr threw a season-high 391 yards on 29-of-46 passing with 1 touchdown and no interceptions, shaking off the criticism that he doesn’t perform well in cold weather games. But it still wasn’t enough to keep him from dropping to 1-10 in his career in sub-45 degree temperature games.
One minute, you find yourself cursing his name, wondering why he threw a pass into the dirt on 3rd and 2 when he had open green in front of him, and thinking about quarterback options in the draft. Ten plays later, you’ve convinced yourself that the Raiders will keep him as the starter in 2020 and you’re completely fine with it. It’s become exhausting.
One thing we know for sure is the connection between Carr and Renfrow is real. The rookie fifth-round pick had his second 100-yard receiving outing in a row to close the season, marking the only two times he’s gone over the century mark since high school.
The fact that Renfrow basically went from being on the fringes of the receiver rotation in Week 1 to the team’s WR1 showcases his massive growth, and highlights the Raiders lack of capable options out wide this season.
Darren Waller, fastest TE in the NFL
Per ESPN’s Next Gen Stats, Darren Waller hit 21.76 MPH during his 75-yard catch and run in the first quarter. That’s faster than any other Raider this season, and the only faster mark in the last for years was set by Johnny Holton in 2016.
If there was any question as to who the fastest tight end in the NFL was, it’s been answered and then some.
While Renfrow has become the unofficial WR1, Waller is far and away the top pass catching option and is treated as such by defenses. The Broncos routinely lined up Chris Harris against Waller in the slot or out wide, doing whatever they could to get their best cover guy on him.
He finishes the season with 90 catches, 1,145 yards and 3 touchdowns. That ties him for seventh in franchise history in single season catches with Tim Brown’s 1996 and 1999 outputs, while placing him No. 14 all-time in single season receiving yards.
Raiders defense stepping up big
When Jon Gruden vowed to shake things up defensively allowing 42 points against the Tennessee Titans and followed it up by cutting D.J. Swearinger, Terrell McClain, and Preston Brown, many laughed. So much for big changes.
But across the last three weeks, the Raiders defense showed major improvement, giving up 20, 17, and 16 points respectively while likely saving defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s job.
Will Compton stepped up big as the starting linebacker in that time, Trayvon Mullen played nearly as well as any cornerback in the league, and a Maxx Crosby-led defensive line rotation continued to show growth and promise.
Against Denver, when the Raiders needed the defense to hold and get a stop, they came up clutch. If they can carry that momentum into 2020, that would be a massive step forward for the franchise.
Stalled out drives
The main reason the Raiders lost this one was their inability to convert on long drives in the first half. It seems that once Foster Moreau was lost for the season, the Raiders red zone offense took a massive hit they couldn’t recover from.
The Raiders opened the game with a promising, methodical drive, but Carr overthrew Renfrow on a 3rd and 1 and a shanked field goal from Daniel Carlson left the game scoreless. After Waller’s 75-yard catch, the team only ended up with 3 points.
Then later on in the half, the team was unable to convert from in close after a pair of controversial calls gave the Broncos the ball back at their own 1-yard line. And to start the second half, the Raiders couldn’t capitalize on a 36-yard run from DeAndre Washington with any points.
Explosive have been hard to come by for this team, so getting only 3 points out of a pair of plays over 35 yards is not ideal. It came back to bite them in the ass.
Every call going against the Raiders
I’ve never been one to point at the refs as the reason for a win or a loss, but it’s starting to seem a little out of hand.
I don’t think the NFL itself is conspiring against the Raiders and trying to make them lose games. That’s crazy talk. The league office knows that NFL football is better when the Raiders are winning games.
Since the Tuck Rule game, it kind of feels like NFL officials have it out for the Raiders. Perhaps it’s because that game changed the way officiating is handled in the modern era, or because the passionate fanbase gave officials so much grief. Whatever it is, that’s my theory of why the Raiders are irrationally picked on by referees.
It’s appeared to be the case all season, and today was no different. From Renfrow’s overturned touchdown, to the lack of a reversal on Alec Ingold’s would-be touchdown, to an interference penalty against Trayvon Mullen that giftwraped the Broncos only touchdown, the referees put their own stamp on this game.
Third quarter blues
This might just be the frustration of the season. The Raiders finished the 2019 season with only 27 points scored in the third quarter, their third lowest mark ever in that frame.
At many different points, the Raiders would find themselves in promising situations heading into halftime, only to put up a goose egg in the third quarter as they let things slip away. That low point total suggests a strong ability by opposing defenses to adapt to the Raiders offense, and a propensity for Gruden to get ultra conservative at the worst times.
When the Raiders should have been stepping on the gas, they put the offense in neutral and rolled down a hill of shit most of the time.
If the Raiders were even league average in the third quarter, they’d likely be headed to the playoffs right now.
- Derek Carr will start Week 1 in 2020
- Paul Guenther keeps his job, much to the chagrin of fans
- Darren Waller’s Madden speed rating gets bumped up from 88 to at least 91