Well, by now the Nation is frustrated with these “moral victories,” but after digging themselves into a major hole, trailing 24-3 at halftime after three turnovers (including a pick-six thrown by Carr), the Raiders nearly managed to catch up. This game was winnable, they just couldn’t quite pull it off. Horseshoes and hand grenades.
Full game stats here
The good news is that the team continues to play hard under Tony Sparano. After a terrible first half, Derek Carr came back out in the second half and played well, showing that he is capable of overcoming a bad start. He’s still a rookie, and so makes rookie mistakes sometimes. But he also shows a remarkable level of maturity and poise. If the Raiders could actually win some games, Carr would have an outside shot at a Pro Bowl berth.
And that’s where the bad news is — Oakland is simply unable to contend or compete consistently at even an adequate level, much less an elite level. Darren McFadden continues to run hard, with passion and purpose. McFadden had four receptions, including a nice 23-yard screen pass that was the longest offensive play of the day for the Raiders. However, in the running game, McFadden gained just 20 yards in 13 carries. Maurice Jones-Drew had an even worse day on the ground, with just two carries for -2 yards.
This has been a consistent theme all season, the complete lack of a ground game. Whether they’re playing against teams with solid run defenses like Seattle or the Jets, or against Cleveland’s league-worst run D, the result is always the same — fewer than 20 total carries, for an average of about 65 yards per game. This has put an awful lot of pressure on Carr, who has done his best with a resolutely average group of receivers.
The offensive line has performed very well in pass protection, allowing Carr to be sacked only 8 times in 8 games. But it’s not enough to overcome their complete inability to create holes for the running backs. Both McFadden and Jones-Drew showed bursts of speed and the ability to break tackles on their pass receptions yesterday, so the running game issues can’t entirely be on their age.
The coaches also need to commit to the running game, throw Latavius Murray and Marcel Reece into the mix more (Reece had a single carry today, for 10 yards). The Raiders average 18 carries per game; with the groups of backs it has, and a rookie QB with no true #1 WR, that number needs to be closer to 30 if they’re going to compete.
The defense was as mercurial as ever, allowing Lynch to run at will in the first half, but holding him to just 25 yards on 11 carries in the second half. Russell Wilson had an off day, but without Golden Tate and Percy Harvin, Wilson has been forced to adapt to his next tier of receivers, who are good, but not quite as good as Tate and Harvin. DJ Hayden had an interesting day, to say the least, racking up substantial penalty yards in the first half and dropping two sure interceptions in the second half, but also providing solid coverage and tackling throughout his first start coming back from injury. Hayden has a way to go to show the game-breaking potential that made the Raiders want to draft him high in the first round, but at least he’s heading in the right direction.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier, with a pissed-off Denver squad coming to Oakland next, followed by a trip to San Diego and a Thursday night game against the surging Chefs. Even the “lesser” teams remaining on the schedule, such as the Rams and Bills, are going to be tough for this squad to compete, much less defeat. As long as Sparano keeps them playing hard, and they can overcome the mistakes and generate even an average running game, they stand a chance of winning a couple down the homestretch, and avoiding the embarrassment of a winless season.