Three and Out: Raiders let golden opportunity slip away
Sunday’s 23-19 loss to Tennessee at Oakland Coliseum dropped the Raiders to 4-7 and took away their margin for error. (AP IMAGES)
Programming note: Watch Monday’s Raiders press conference with head coach Dennis Allen live on CSN California and streaming live online right here at 1pm
What you need to know: We’ve talked a lot about squandered opportunities in this space, about games the Raiders should’ve and probably could’ve won this season.
Bottom line is they didn’t beat the Colts or Redskins or Giants when they had the chance. There’s no changing that.
[RELATED: Third down defense costs Raiders dearly]
Despite those missteps, the AFC’s No. 6 seed was somehow up for grabs. All the Raiders had to do was beat the Tennessee Titans. Couldn’t do it. Not after putting themselves in scoring position seven times. Not after establishing a three-point fourth-quarter lead.
Nope. They gave it all up in the end. Sunday’s 23-19 loss to Tennessee at Oakland Coliseum dropped the Raiders to 4-7 and took away their margin for error. Even if they finish with five straight wins, the six teams in front of them have to choke. And tiebreakers have to fall their way. And the Titans have to implode.
Despite early-season gaffes, the Raiders controlled their fate. They don’t anymore.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it matters much anyway. This is a team that can’t finish. That’s just a fact. We’re 11 games into this season now. Identities have been forged.
That’s not to say that the team can’t grow up some or get on a late roll or improve their lot. But they’re 4-7 because they deserve to be. They had chances to fare better and couldn’t come through.
Raiders players conceded that the No. 6 seed had crossed their mind before Sunday’s game. They understood that goal remained attainable thanks to a wacky AFC with five top teams and a band of misfits.
Their real focus was on something simpler. The Raiders wanted their first winning streak of the season. They knew Tennessee was ripe for picking. They just couldn’t do it.
“Yeah, we think about the postseason, but at the same time we can’t get to that level unless we take care of what’s right now,” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “That’s a long term goal, we have a bunch of short term goals that we have to accomplish, like winning back to back games…Once we get a better understanding of taking care of what’s in front of us right now and taking it one day at a time, those little goals will add up to the big goal that we want.”
It might not happen this year, not after so many opportunities missed.
McGloin still the starter: Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said that quarterback Matt McGloin earn another start on Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Terrelle Pryor will remain a healthy backup in this big game after McGloin threw for 260 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Titans.
[RELATED: Allen: McGloin has earned another start]
It was less about totals than what McGloin was able to do in the fourth quarter. The undrafted rookie led the offense on a touchdown-scoring drive that put the Raiders ahead with roughly six minutes to go.
McGloin was 4-for-4 for 74 yards and a touchdown on that drive, with crisp passing rarely seen from Pryor. It’s that potential and ability to perform in the clutch that prompted Allen’s swift action in naming McGloin Thursday’s starter.
“He led the team down the field with a couple of nice throws in there,” Allen said. “I thought the protection was good. I think he went out there and executed and did his job and moved the team and that’s what we expect him to do.”
Play of the game: There were several frustrating third downs converted by the Titans, but none of them matter if the Raiders make another goal line stand.
But, on 3rd-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a game-winning touchdown to Kendall Wright.
What exactly went wrong on the play? How did Wright end up so open on such a crucial play?
Allen took the blame for this one, stating his play call didn’t get his charges much of a chance.
He called for zone coverage with a three-man rush, but Wright was able to find room in open field and snuck into the end zone after making the catch. Tracy Porter started on Wright but fell back into a zone. Neither he nor Phillip Adams were close enough to make a stop.
“Tracy was fine. It’s a tough route versus the coverage that we were in,” Allen said. “I thought they did a good job of executing. They had a nice play up, which made it tough for us to be able to defend. But if I had it to do over again, I would have been more aggressive right there and come after them. So put that one on me.”
Goat of the Game: It’s easy to put Sunday’s result solely on Sebastian Janikowski. He failed to score six points in a game lost by four. Simple math suggests he could’ve won the day.
It’s tough to expect any kicker to convert six attempts in one game, when half of them are from 48 yards and beyond. Janikowski is held to a different standard because he’s been so good for so long, especially from great distance.
His struggles this season have put each attempt under the microscope, as fans try to figure out why their beloved kicker continues to miss.
It might be Marquette King’s holds. It might be psychological or technical. It’s probably a combination of all three. But it’s hurt the Raiders in several games this season, especially in a do-or-nearly-die game against the Titans.
Third-down disasters: The Raiders defense has taken heat for third-down defense after a terrible showing against the Tennessee Titans, where third-down conversions ultimately lost a winnable game.
With so much focus on a 10-for-18 showing on defense, the offense has gotten a free pass. Offensively, the Raiders were just 3-for-10 on third down. That’s why Sebastian Janikowski attempted a career-high six field goals. The Raiders moved the ball well, yet couldn’t sustain drives in Titans territory.
The largest gaffe occurred late in the first half, when McGloin had one of four passes batted down on 3rd-and-3 from the Titans 6-yard line. The Raiders took a field-goal there in one of several unsuccessful attempts to score a touchdown.
McGloin has struggled on third down in his two games as starting quarterback. Overall, the Raiders are 8-for-28 on those crucial downs.
Griffin apologizes for illegal hit: Rookie tight end Mychal Rivera took a cheap shot from Titans safety Michael Griffin in the first quarter and never. Rivera was on the way down after receiving a pass, but Griffin lowered his helmet and shoulder and when after the defenseless Raider. “As a defensive player in a situation, damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Griffin said. “You look at it, he catches the ball, first down, they’re right there in scoring position. You knock the ball loose, they’re still right there in scoring position. More than likely I’m going to see a fine from the Commissioner, and I’ve just got to go from there and continue to play football.”
Griffin speared Rivera, and sent his helmet flying off. Rivera lay on the turf for several moments and may have been rendered unconscious. He tried to get back into the game, but he was diagnosed with a concussion and was not allowed to return.
“It was nothing intentional. I didn’t try to harm anybody,” Griffin said. “I’m just trying to do my job. I get paid to not let any deep balls go over the middle and whatnot. I’m just doing my job. I apologized, I prayed for him right then and there and I didn’t mean for him to cause any harm.”
Cornerback Mike Jenkins also suffered a concussion in the second half and did not return, leaving Phillip Adams and Chemdi Chekwa to play alongside Tracy Porter.
Both players must pass NFL-mandated concussion tests before practicing or playing again, which may prove difficult before a Thursday game.
Quote of the day: We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make. That’s what it boils down to.” -- Raiders free safety Charles Woodson on another disappointing result.
Looking ahead: The Raiders are 4-7, yet somehow aren’t completely out of the playoff hunt. They’re only a game back of the No. 6 seed, yet are behind six teams sitting at 5-6. It would take a lot of luck and a lengthy winning to fight through the crowd at this point.
They can’t afford any more losses. They might be able to stomach one more – the Broncos, don’t forget, remain on the schedule – but it can’t come Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys. The Raiders must win that game just to stay on the outskirts of contention.
That will be difficult playing on the road, on a short week against an offense that scores 27.1 points per game. The Raiders have scored 28 once this season.