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Raiders’ Rewind: A familiar song and dance

Absence of execution, complementary football was Las Vegas’ undoing says Josh McDaniels

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels, left, speaks with owner Mark Davis, center, and general manager Dave Ziegler before Thursday night’s game against the host Los Angeles Rams.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“We either win a close one or somebody else does.”

That’s the Captain Obvious line in Josh McDaniels’ opening statement during his day-after media session on Friday. After his Las Vegas Raiders’ 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams during Thursday night’s primetime matchup, it’s a sad hackneyed reality — when it comes to nail-biter games, the Raiders either are triumphant or not. (At least there’s not at tie in Las Vegas’ 5-8 mark or things wouldn’t be so cut and dry).

And most cases this season, those ball games are decided by a play or two. That shouldn’t be the case. Even McDaniels said as much.

“We got to make more plays along the way to avoid putting ourselves in a situation where we put it in a one or two play sequence to determine the outcome,” he said. “It’s hard lesson to learn, but it’s something that we’re going to need to do better as we go forward.”

Ah, a familiar song and dance, isn’t it, Raider Nation? Hard learning lessons, the team putting the knowledge to use during a three-game win streak, only fore the entire group to somehow forget how to win.

The Raiders had opportunity to slam the door on the opposition’s face this season and couldn’t capitalize. Instead of throttling a team that had no business even being competitive — the Rams picked up quarterback Baker Mayfield off the waiver wire, were without a future hall of fame defensive tackle, and lost six straight — the Silver & Black play down to competition and look complacent. Conservative is a good description; tentative another.

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Rams
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) handed the ball off to running back Josh Jacobs 27 times in Thursday night’s loss. Jacobs churned out 99 yards and a touchdown but was far too often stonewalled by the Los Angeles Rams.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Asked directly about his offense becoming too conservative in the loss to the Rams, McDaniels was bullish on the absence of complementary Raiders football.

“When you look at the tape, there’s opportunities to be made. I don’t know how many times Derek (Carr) scrambled, but it had to be four or five at least, I think,” the Raiders head coach and play caller said. “On a number of those we were attempting to get the ball down the field and had some opportunities on some of them to do that. Again, passing the ball is a complimentary thing. I’ve said it all year and I won’t stop saying it because the truth. It’s not just calling a pass play, or calling a deep shot, it’s everything has to work together.”

McDaniels expanded on the answer providing insight on what worked during the Raiders win streak. Primarily, the team stacked victories because of the team’s ability to execute the play calls in all three phases.

“When we’ve had success this year, it’s been the result of everybody doing their job well. That’s the reality,” he added. “And so, I didn’t call the game any differently yesterday than I have any other game this year offensively. I just felt like we didn’t have as much success taking advantage of a few opportunities that were presented to us for a number of reasons.”

Player execution certainly was part of the awful Raiders equation Thursday, as was coaching. The offense couldn’t string together drives to generate points or grind away at the clock. The defense, which had played every well up until the fourth quarter wilted under the pressure from the Rams. No one should be absolved of this mess and as McDaniels noted, success and failure is a team thing.

It’s up to the head coach and his staff to put their players in the best possible position to succeed. And it’s up to the players to execute the plays coaches dial up. Meticulously doing the little things right result in big things. That’s happened in spurts for the Raiders. Making execution sustainable is an elusive thing — still.

“I think it’s just the reality is you’ve got to do your job right for 60 minutes, and if you don’t, then teams in this league take advantage of mistakes that you make,” McDaniels said. “I’ve said it before, and I know people get tired of hearing it, but you can’t win till you stop from losing.”