I wish I could start this with “who would have seen that coming,” but seeing as the Las Vegas Raiders lost to a literal first-time NFL coach a month ago, losing to the Los Angeles Rams and Baker Mayfield on his third day with the team doesn’t seem so farfetched.
That’s just the story of the 2022 Las Vegas Raiders, they can’t find ways to win games but they sure can find ways to lose ‘em. Anyhow, onto winners and losers...
LOSER: Josh McDaniels
How many times are the Raiders going to blow double-digit leads before something changes? How many times is the offense going to get complacent and let their foot off the gas before something changes? How many times are penalties and stupid disciplinary mistakes going to cost them a game before something changes?
Las Vegas had a three-week break where they avoided disappointment but the McDaniels-led team is now back on schedule and every week it’s the same song and dance during the press conferences. “We like where this team is headed,” “we’re close,” “we feel optimistic about our future,” etc., but here it is Week 14 and nothing has changed.
There’s no dancing around the fact the Raiders are historically bad in one-score games and when holding a lead and that falls squarely on the shoulders of the man in charge. That being said, I/Raider Nation really shouldn’t hold McDaniels accountable anymore. Instead, the blame needs to start shifting to Mark Davis for allowing this to continue. Remember when he said McDaniels was doing a “fantastic job” at 2-7? HA!
WINNER: Maxx Crosby
There is plenty of blame to go around for Thursday’s loss and plenty of people to be mad at, but Crosby isn’t one of them. He put forth a Herculean effort with six pressures — one sack — while fighting through numerous uncalled holding penalties, and logged three defensive stops. What makes his night even more impressive is he was doing it against a really good right tackle in Rob Havenstein.
Crosby is up to 59 pressures on the year and has a good chance to remain in the top five at his position for the metric after this weekend’s slate of games. He currently ranks third among edge rushers and leads Micah Parsons by one (fourth place), Brian Burns by six (fifth place) and Myles Garret by seven (sixth place) heading into Sunday. Crosby’s 11.5 sacks are also good enough for the fourth-most across the league at the moment.
LOSER: Andre James
Transitioning from tackle in college to center in the NFL, there’s been one thing that James has consistently struggled with throughout his career and that’s blocking a large, physical zero-technique. The Rams were the first team that the Raiders have played in the last few weeks who use odd fronts in their base defense, and nose tackle Greg Gaines ate James’ lunch, especially in the running game.
There were at least two times that Gaines beat James and made a tackle near or behind the line of scrimmage. Pro Football Focus credited Gaines with three defensive stops as a run defender — his most in a single game this season — while about 50 percent of his snaps came lined up directly over the center.
If James doesn’t fix this issue soon, he can expect to see a lot of zero- and one-techniques moving forward regardless of what scheme the opponent runs traditionally.
WINNER: Chandler Jones
It’s a shame Thursday night’s loss is going to overshadow another great performance from Jones. He continued his hot streak as a pass rusher with four pressures, including one sack, bringing his total pressures up to 23 in the last three weeks and marking the first time he’s had back-to-back games with a sack as a Raider.
The old veteran was getting the job done as a run defender too, logging an elite 91.9 run defense grade from PFF which is the highest single-game mark of his 11-year career. Forcing and recovering a fumble will assist with that and that play helped take points off the board as the Rams were in scoring position.
The Raiders wasted a good performance by Jones but hopefully, this is a sign of what’s to come next year so he doesn’t get off to such a slow start.
LOSER: Nate Hobbs
It’s been a rough return from injured reserve over the last two weeks for Hobbs. He’s been targeted 15 times and allowed 12 completions for 143 yards, with 10, eight and 104 coming during this week’s loss. That’s led to him recording below-average PFF coverage grades of 59.0 and 57.5, respectively, in the past two weeks which even feels a little too high.
But the most concerning aspect of Hobbs’ performance last night is that the Rams didn’t even have their top receivers. With Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson out, it was the Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell show in Los Angeles and those two put on a performance. They caught seven of nine targets for 99 yards and five first downs against the Raiders’ top corner.
If Hobbs is going to be the Pro Bowler everyone wants him to be, shutting down two wideouts who had combined for less than 500 yards in the 12 weeks prior to last night is a must. Especially seeing as they had just met their quarterback a couple of days before the game.
WINNER: Kolton Miller
Speaking of potential first-time Pro Bowlers, Miller might actually have a chance this year and put together another impressive showing on Thursday night.
In pass protection, he pitched a shutout for the second week in a row with zero pressures allowed, and he’s only given up four in the last four weeks. He has only allowed 24 pressures on the year and currently has the second-highest PFF pass-blocking grade (82.9) among AFC tackles with at least 286 snaps in pass protection.
The five-year pro has been good as a run-blocker, too. His 76.6 run-blocking grade also ranks second at his position in the conference, minimum 213 opportunities. We’ll see how the rest of the weekend plays out and if other tackles catch up, but right now, Miller is deserving of some recognition from the league for his play this season.
LOSER: Jerry Tillery
Not only did Tillery commit one of the dumbest penalties of the year that played a hand in the Rams’ comeback drive, but he was also getting pushed around as a run defender. He finished the game with a 40.5 run defense grade, his lowest of the season, and wasn’t very effective as a pass-rusher either with just one pressure on the evening.
LOSER: Raiders’ playoff hopes
Las Vegas managed to wake up out of their coma and revive their playoff hopes during the three previous weeks, however, they pulled the plug last night and are essentially out of the race.
They’ll be at least two games behind the Jets, Patriots or Chargers for the third Wild Card spot with four weeks to play. That’s a shame because New York goes to Buffalo this weekend and New England comes to Vegas next week, so the Raiders really squared an opportunity to hold a playoff spot heading into the last three weeks of the season.