Third-down defense costs Raiders dearly

Three and Out: Raiders let golden opportunity slip away

Third-down defense costs Raiders dearly
November 24, 2013, 8:00 pm
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The Titans were 10-for-18 on third down, including two conversions on the decisive drive. (USATSI)

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick dropped back, surveyed his surrounding and fired a strike to Kendall Wright near the left pylon.

The receiver snuck into the end zone and scored the game-deciding touchdown in Sunday’s 23-19 victory over the Raiders, a heart-wrenching moment for the Oakland Coliseum crowd.

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It was fitting that all this occurred on 3rd-and-long. The Raiders defense put Fitzpatrick in difficult spots all game long, but couldn’t get off the field when it mattered most.

The Titans were 10-for-18 on third down, including two conversions on the decisive drive. The Raiders conceded first downs on 3rd-and-7 or longer a whopping six times, which kept the defense on the field far too long and allowed points too often.

“That was one aspect of the game that really hurt us,” said cornerback Tracy Porter, who was closest to Wright in the Raiders’ zone coverage. “We didn’t force any turnovers, and that hurt. The third downs were crucial. If we would’ve finished better on third down and taken the ball away, we would’ve been up and that last touchdown wouldn’t have mattered. Because we hurt ourselves throughout the game, that touchdown was significant.”

The Raider got beat on a big play to start the second half, but the Titans’ other scores came from sustained drives.

The Raiders were deficient in a few areas, but nothing hurt more than their third-down troubles. Even more troubling was the rationale for those mistakes. The Raiders weren’t surprised by anything Tennessee did in the clutch. Players said they simply got beat.

Fitzpatrick proved slippery despite a consistent pass rush, buying just enough time to keep drives alive.

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“It’s frustrating, of course, especially when you feel like you have a good idea of what they’re going to try to do,” middle linebacker Nick Roach said. “That’s when you’ve got to give them credit for being able to execute, because if they do something when you know it’s coming and it still works, that’s on them executing and you not being able to stop them.”

That’s a stark contrast to last week, when the defense made a game-saving stand in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans. They stood tall near the goal line when Houston had to score a touchdown, but they weren’t able to do so again.

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The Titans drove 80 yards on 14 plays. They ate up the a crucial chunk of the fourth quarter. The Raiders were up by three, and a field goal would’ve likely set up an overtime period. The Titans scored a touchdown instead, and it left the Raiders reeling over another opportunity missed. 

“It’s tough to take, especially with the way we went out and performed last week,” Raiders free safety Charles Woodson said. “The way we were able to get off the field, the way we were able to get off the field in red zone situations (against Houston), to let a team drive down late in the game today and get a go-ahead touchdown is pretty disappointing. We didn’t expect to have that happen today, we felt like we should have played much better than that.”