Just when Raider Nation thought it could fully embrace the hope their beloved team was providing, the Las Vegas Raiders expertly extinguished that flame on Thursday night.
The Raiders added yet another inexplicable defeat, this time a 17-16 loss that saw the haphazard Los Angeles Rams complete a mind-boggling eight-play, 98 yard drive for the go-ahead and eventual game winning touchdown with 10 seconds left.
Mind you, the Rams did that behind quarterback Baker Mayfield, a signal caller who joined the team just two days before Thursday’s kickoff after being claimed on waivers. The defeat in L.A. was another one inexcusable loss for a Las Vegas team that fell to the Indianapolis Colts 25-20 in Week 10. Proving the Silver & Black giveth and taketh away — with the latter being more apt than the former.
“It hurts, but we put ourselves in that position, right?” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr responded during the postgame press conference. “We won however many games in a row, but it doesn’t mean you win the next one. You try to talk about, preach about it, work so that doesn’t happen, but it happened to us today. It’s hard. It’s tough. But we put ourselves in that position. It’s nobody else’s fault.”
Indeed. The defeat falls squarely on the Raiders’ shoulders — despite Raider Nation wanting to pin it on the referees, too. Las Vegas built a 16-3 advantage off a Daniel Carlson 36-yard field goal with 12:20 left to play in the fourth quarter. That should’ve been enough. But as we’ve seen during a Jekyll and Hyde-type season from the Raiders, it’s never enough.
The mental lapses and miscues Josh McDaniels’ team was good at avoiding reared its ugly head in the final stanza. Patrick Graham’s Raiders defense, a unit that stymied the Sean McVay and Mayfield-led Rams offense for much of the game, began to erode as the penalties and miscues mounted. An offsides penalty on Clelin Ferrell on a punt return and a neutral zone infraction on Maxx Crosby extended L.A.’s drive allowing Cam Akers to plunge in from one yard out to cut Las Vegas’ lead to 16-10 with 3:19 left.
All the Raiders needed was a first down or two to seal the game, but it took all of three plays for McDaniels to send in the punt unit on 4th-and-1. With the ball on their own 34, the decision to boot was sound and AJ Cole’s booming punt was downed at the Rams two yard line. With only 1:45 left and the Rams’ backs pinned to their own end zone, the winds seemingly favored Las Vegas. But the Raiders just wouldn’t be the Raiders without a major penalty, right? Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery’s unsportsmanlike conduct for smacking the ball out of Mayfield’s hands — after he was dropped for a sack by Crosby and Chandler Jones — not only stopped the clock, but it gave L.A. a free 15 yards and a first down.
From there, it was all Rams. And int he most dire of straits on what would be the game-winning touchdown toss, the Raiders lined up in press man and Mayfield hit Van Jefferson for the 23-yard scoring strike. Las Vegas cornerback Sam Webb never turned his head to locate the ball and his desperation lunge and swipe at the pigskin was all for naught.
“This is the National Football League,” McDaniels began, “If you let ’em hang around long enough, it comes down to one possession, a couple plays, and who makes them. This isn’t an offense, a defense or a special teams thing, it’s a team thing. We got to be able to extend the lead if we have one and keep competing, not let our foot off the gas — no relaxing and try to play the same way we were playing when the game starts. Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of being able to get us to do that.”
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the Raiders crumbled against the Rams:
—Carr finished 11 of 20 for 137 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn’t sacked. Mayfield, on the other hand, went 22 of 35 for 230 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t throw a pick an was sacked four times. Based on numbers alone, which signal caller do you think was picked up on waivers just two days before the game?
—Raiders running back Josh Jacobs carried the rock 27 times for 99 yards (3.7 yards per carry average) and a touchdown. But he injured his right hand and was bottled up frequently by a determined Rams defense.
—Those jet sweeps and end arounds the Raiders deployed against the Rams suspect edge presence disappeared in crunch time. What gives?
—Raider wide receiver Davante Adams finished with three catches for 71 yards (long of 35). That’s not enough participation from an elite wideout like Adams. He got seven total targets with one being a desperation lob that was intercepted on Las Vegas’ final drive.
—Raiders defenders Maxx Crosby, Amik Robertson, Chandler Jones and Bilal Nichols each were credited with a sack.
—Another glaring Raider issue Thursday: The red zone continues to be a dead zone for the offense. Las Vegas scoring a touchdown on drives that ended on a Carr interception or chips shot Daniel Carlson field goals would’ve made a big difference.