Instead of big win, Raiders get another learning experience

Reece: 'We could have done more on offense'

Instead of big win, Raiders get another learning experience
November 24, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Dennis Allen said “at times we played well” and “we did some good things” without mentioning all the times the Raiders didn't play well and did bad things. (USATSI)

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The ongoing matter of who the Oakland Raiders wish to be their quarterback of the future is a curious one, though Matt McGloin can say this much:

“I got us in scoring position 12 times in two games.”

Not that he said that, mind you. He would never be caught dead leading with the vertical pronoun.

But he would have been a momentary hero in this here town had he managed to guide his fellow gentlemen to more than one touchdown in Sunday’s 23-19 loss to Tennessee. The Raiders would have been the sixth-best team in the sad American Football Conference, which would have made them a playoff team IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY WHICH IT NEVER DOES WHICH IS WHY “IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY” IS ALWAYS SUCH A STUPID CONSTRUCT.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Titans snatch game away from Raiders]

Better yet for Raider fans who have longed for more than a decade to evaluate their team on its own successes rather than the failures of others, they would have been the sixth-best AFC team while the 49ers were, at least temporarily, the seventh-best team in the NFC.

Raider fans don’t live that well though, at least not yet. Their heroes lost a winnable game because their defense failed to sufficiently repel a very ordinary Tennessee offense, and because the exceedingly reliable Sebastian Janikowski currently is nowhere close after a four-year contract extension, and because . . . and because an offense that scores only one touchdown cannot as a general rule expect to win.

Now we grant you that the Raiders were never supposed to be synonymous with “playoff contender” this year; this was supposed to be a construction year, first with Matt Flynn and then with Terrelle Pryor. There were no grandiose promises, no worst-to-first scenarios.

[RELATED: Allen: McGloin has earned another start]

But that was before the AFC decided to become top-heavy, with only five teams with winning records after 11 full rounds of games. Those five teams have nearly half the conference’s wins so far, so the hopes of the mediocre veritably soared in Week 12.

They soared even more when Baltimore beat the New York Jets, Miami lost to Carolina, Pittsburgh beat Cleveland and, San Diego beat Kansas City. Suddenly, the sixth spot would belong to a 5-6 team, and the Raiders were in position to be one of them.

But they couldn’t finish at either end. Head coach Dennis Allen used the usual coaching code words like “at times we played well” and “we did some good things,” which means “at times we didn’t” and “we did some not good things.”

Having those six drives die in field goal range was one of those not good things, and so was having Janikowski miss a 32-yard field goal at the end of the half and a 48-yarder on the first series of the third quarter.

Playing a zone defense on Tennessee’s final play was one of those stunningly bad things, which lands on Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. And the Raiders left the field with two unused time outs, which is worthy of its own argument.

The defense as a unit, which had been best in the league at creating three-and-outs, allowed seven of nine in the second half Sunday, as well as drives of 7:49, 7:16 and 6:00 (and eight third down conversions).

Events and decisions like that separate the 5-6 teams from the 4-7 teams – which in the new trying-to-keep-your-eyelids-above-the-surface AFC is suddenly hugely important.

That the Raiders couldn’t finish should not be a shock. They are still an incomplete team on more levels than is easy to compute. The postseason is only a game away, true, but the Raiders are now 12th rather than sixth, and there are only two teams in the conference with a worse record, the hideous Jacksonvilles and the utterly inert Houstons.

So Sunday’s loss was one of those newfangled “learning experiences,” as they all must be at this stage of the Raiders’ development. Still, “We were a playoff team for awhile” would have been a nice sentence for the Christmas card/family letter. It wasn’t an actual missed opportunity, but it was a missed occasion.