Josh McDaniels was provide as softball-type out with one particular question during the Las Vegas Raiders head coach’s day-after press conference on Monday.
Asked if Derek Carr’s first-quarter injury played a factor in not executing a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-inches in the fourth quarter, McDaniels gave an equivocal response: No.
Conventional football wisdom says running in a straight line or quarterback sneak is apt in that situation 4th-and-short. CBS’ color analyst Adam Archuleta even said “fullback dive” when asked what play he would run. The dialed up play was a toss/pitch outside run by Josh Jacobs that was snuffed out by a Seattle Seahawks defense that was burned by the type of run all afternoon. It resulted in a loss of a yard and, seven plays later, Seattle took a 34-27 lead with a touchdown.
“We had multiple calls there,” McDaniels followed up on his “no” answer. “It was kind of a pick your poison kind of deal, whether you wanted to go inside or outside. I got to do a better job on that. But no, I think he would tell you he would go inside. That wouldn’t have been an issue. Like I said, he kind of got the wind knocked out of him there, but I think he would have been fine doing it.”
The admission of a mistake is always a good thing because, in order to fix a problem, you have to admit there is one. In a 2022 season that sees the Raiders at 4-7 overall after 12 weeks of football, there’s been plenty of problems. And while some will snicker at Las Vegas two-game win streak — rightfully so — there’s evidence of tangible growth for McDaniels’ desert marauders.
In years past, a turnover-on-downs like that failed 4th-and-short would’ve scuttled the Raiders — thoroughly. There would’ve been no valiant comeback, let alone an overtime win. It would’ve been the one play that killed the Silver & Black determination and drive.
“I think the effort and the way the guys competed throughout the whole entirety of the game stood out,” McDaniels said. “We’re far from perfect in all three phases. Still a lot to learn from, a lot to improve on. I think that’s the great part, is you battle and fight, scratch and claw, and come away with a victory in a tough place to play against a good team that’s really well-coached. Still, there’s a lot of things we can improve on and get better from.
“But I thought our team in general yesterday, even though we lost the lead a couple of times and then came back, there was never a feeling on the sideline like we lost control of the game. Like we were in the game the whole time. We knew we were in the game, and I just think there was some ebbs and flows that we had to deal with. But I loved the energy on our sideline. There wasn’t any panic or frustration, it was just keep playing and trying to fix some things that were wrong. I thought they did a really good job of staying like this (balanced) the whole game.”
While the “Raiders are 2-0 since Derek Carr cried at the podium” is said in jest on social media, there’s some truth in it. Since the emotional press conference, Las Vegas showed true grit in its last two games highlighted by complimentary football — something that’s been elusive to McDaniels’ Raiders.
“Our guys are really figuring out kind of how they need to play together in all three phases. We had some complimentary football swings there where we did some good things together, and then we also did some things where we put the other side in a disadvantage,” McDaniels said. “So, there’s some things to learn from there as well. But when we play well together in all three phases, we really try to give ourselves an advantage as best we can, and there was some good situations there yesterday that came up.”
There is one decision from Sunday’s overtime win that McDaniels would do over and over again: The field goal just before halftime. That was a Raiders drive that saw the team go for it on 4th-and-2 — not surprisingly an outside run that the team blocked well and Jacobs converted. But just five plays later, with the ball on Seattle’s 18 yard line (after a delay of game penalty), and 14 seconds left, McDaniels settled for the field goal and a 24-20 lead instead of trying one shot at the end zone.
“There’s not a multitude of plays that I love from the 15-yard line when the defense knows the ball is going into the end zone and all their eyes are going to be on the passer,” McDaniels began, explaining the decision. “And so, if something happens in the pass rush and you give up a sack, half ends. If you throw the ball up for grabs and somebody on their team ends up coming down with it, half ends. You have no points. So, I really just made the decision that I felt like, ‘Let’s just take the three now.’
“It’s probably the most likely scenario anyhow, I would say across the National Football League. There’s not many where you’re going to throw it in the end zone from the 15 there and the defense is going to give it up. So, that’s a decision I made, that’s why I made it.”