As the cliché goes, there are no moral victories in the NFL, especially this late in the season, but the Las Vegas Raiders taking the San Francisco 49ers into overtime as heavy underdogs in Week 17 feels about as close as it gets. The Raiders fought hard and plenty of players stood out, most notably first-time starting quarterback, Jarrett Stidham.
WINNER: Jarrett Stidham
Stidham was playing with house money in Las Vegas yesterday. Not much was expected of him, and he went out and spun it for 365 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding 34 rushing yards and a few first downs off scrambles. The latter was arguably the most impressive part of his game as his athleticism and ability to make off-script plays was something the Raiders offense was missing lately with Derek Carr under center.
While we’re still far from crowning Stidham the quarterback of the future, he set himself up with an opportunity to at least compete for the starting job next season and beyond. Another strong performance against the Chiefs next week and the soon-to-be free-agent quarterback could become the next Matt Flynn in the offseason.
Hopefully, Stidham’s career ends better than Flynn’s did, but I don’t think he’d be complaining about getting $10 million guaranteed after making a little less than $1 million this season.
LOSER: Josh McDaniels
It almost felt like a lock that the Raiders were going to lose when they took a double-digit lead in the second half. According to the Associated Press’ Josh Dubow, the Silver and Black are the first team in league history to lose five times in a season after leading by 10 or more points in the second half, which accounts for 50 percent of their losses this year.
Every loss falls on the head coach, but Josh McDaniels shoulders even more of the blame for the team’s inability to finish. After the offense scored on their first possession of the second half, their next three drives combined for 14 plays and 56 yards and ended with two punts and an interception. They ran a total of three plays in the opponent’s territory, never going further than the 49ers’ 46-yard line.
Granted, the Raiders did get points on their last two drives of the fourth quarter, but a lot of those plays were the result of Stidham making plays out of structure, meaning the play-calling remained predictable despite the change at quarterback. The offense was stagnant with a lead once again so, to use an adage from McDaniels’ mentor: “You’re either coaching it, or you’re allowing it.”
WINNER: Tyler Hall
If you’ve been paying attention to this column recently, you’d know Tyler Hall has been an absolute stud over the last couple of months as he’s been a frequent flier on the winners list. He’s been stingy in coverage and yesterday was another example as he was targeted twice and didn’t allow a reception.
To make it even better, both incompletions were a result of his pass breakups which also keeps his streak alive of recording a PBU in each of the last three contests. Hall earned a 90.4 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus yesterday which currently ranks third among all cornerbacks, and his 88.4 mark since Week 11 leads all corners by about four points.
The three-year pro has struggled to find a home in the NFL but may finally be able to settle down in Las Vegas. He’s done more than enough to stick around for next season and don’t be surprised if he gets a pay bump in the offseason as he’s only scheduled to make a little more than $1 million in the 2023 campaign.
LOSER: Luke Masterson
After a couple of strong performances against the Rams and the Patriots, yesterday was pretty disappointing for Luke Masterson. Las Vegas’ defense struggled against the run as a whole while San Francisco rushed for 170 total yards and 6.3 yards per carry.
The team’s linebackers were a big reason for that, especially Masterson as he was consistently over-pursuing and leaving wide rushing lanes for Christian McCaffery and Co. to run through. That led to the rookie earning the sixth-lowest PFF run defense grade (38.2) at his position, pre-Monday Night Football.
Masterson was arguably even worse in coverage with the second-worst coverage grade among (28.2) linebackers while also missing a tackle and surrendering a touchdown. With how many injuries the Silver and Black have at the position, this feels like a missed opportunity for the undrafted rookie to build some momentum heading into the offseason.
WINNER: Darren Waller
Last week, it was Hunter Renfrow who had the breakthrough performance after spending a stint on injured reserve, and on Sunday, it was Darren Waller’s turn.
Waller finished with three catches for 72 yards and a touchdown while the other two grabs went for first downs. In other words, he made a significant impact every time he touched the ball, and that was the most explosive we’ve seen him play in a while as all three receptions went for 24 yards.
This was the type of performance we’ve been waiting to see from Waller since he became the highest-paid tight end in the league. Now it’s just a matter of finishing the year strong and figuring out how to stay healthy for next season.
LOSER: Tre’von Moehrig
It’s been a rough campaign for Tre’von Moehrig and yesterday’s outing was yet another forgettable performance. While he only allowed on reception, it went for 28 yards and he also was flagged for pass interference, the fourth game out of the last five that he’s drawn a flag.
To make matters worse, the second-year pro earned a sub-par 52.8 grade against the run from PFF, which is currently 72nd out of 84 qualifying safeties for the week. He hasn’t looked comfortable in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s system all season, and the Raiders will head into the offseason looking for more safety help.