Allen: We wore down defensively; couldn't stop the run
DeMarco Murray scored three touchdowns on 17 carries in the Cowboys' 31-24 win over the Raiders on Thursday. (AP)
ARLINGTON, Tex. – The Raiders latest loss could’ve been played on paper. Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys followed an all-too-familiar script, with a fast start, competitive early play and a disastrous finish.
The same can be said of six losses this season, where the 4-8 Raiders eventually lost their way.
This collapse started late in the second quarter. The Raiders were riding high after Rashad Jennings’ second 1-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 56 seconds remaining created a 14-point lead.
Tony Romo ran an efficient 2-minute drill, marched right down the field andDeMarco Murray cut the lead to 21-14 with a 4-yard touchdown run.
It was all Cowboys from there. They scored 24 consecutive points during a dominant second half where the Raiders looked sluggish on offense and defense.
Defense gave up yards in chunks. The unit missed tackles and floundered on third down. The Raiders looked tired and beaten, without the precision and sure tackling that served them well in the first half.
The Raiders jumped out to a 21-7 lead thanks to a special-teams touchdown (for details, see below) and a pair of extended scoring drives. Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin was near perfect during that stretch, making solid connections with receivers Andre Holmes and Rod Streater and tight end Mychal Rivera.
The Raiders mounted resistance midway through the fourth quarter, but McGloin squandered a solid drive with an interception in the end zone. He through a jump ball to Jacoby Ford – listed at 5-foot-9, but is actually far shorter – who was easily bested by 6-foot cornerback Brandon Carr.
That gave the Cowboys possession they used to bleed the clock, kick a field goal and ice the victory.
Another fast start: The Raiders scored before the first offensive snap. Kaelin Burnett stripped Terrance Williams on the opening kickoff, Greg Jenkins recovered the fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.
The play was reviewed – Williams’ knee was nearly on the ground when the ball came free – but the touchdown call was upheld. That helped the Raiders jump out to a 21-7 second-quarter lead.
Darren McWho?: Allen was right when he said both Jennings and Darren McFadden would play Thursday’s game. He never said how much. It turned out to be very little.
The carry count was skewed heavily toward the man who led the NFL in total offense the past four week. Jennings remained the feature back, and McFadden spent most of his Thanksgiving on the sideline.
Jennings finished with 35 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. McFadden had just 13 yards on five carries.
Third-down improvement (for a time): McGloin had struggled on third down his first two starts. He was much better in the third. The Raiders were 7-for-7 during a stretch of 14 unanswered points when the Raiders had extended scoring drives.
That trend didn't hold. After converting 7-of-9 third downs in the first half, the Raiders were 0-of-4 in the second half and 7-of-13 overall.
O-line shuffle: The Raiders used Khalif Barnes at left guard against the Cowboys, a move he volunteered to make with left tackle Jared Veldheer making his season debut. Barnes was an upgrade over Lucas Nix, but he was called to action at right guard after Mike Brisiel got hurt and Andre Gurode struggled in his place.
Holmes’ big day Raiders receiver Andre Holmes had more catches on Thursday that he had the rest of his NFL career. He had seven catches for a team-leading 136 yards against the Cowboys, earning McGloin’s trust with several big catches in traffic
Sitting it out: The Raiders are getting healthier by the week. Receiver Denarius Moore (shoulder), end Jason Junter (foot) and safety Tyvon Branch were ruled out on Wednesday, but the teams came to Dallas otherwise healthy.
Offensive tackle Menelik Watson, guard Lamar Mady, defensive lineman Brian Sanford and receiver Brice Butler were all healthy scratches on Thursday afternoon.
What's next: The Raiders have some down time after playing two games in five days. The team will take the weekend off before resuming a normal week preparing for another road test against the New YorkJets.
That should help injured players come back. Branch could make his return at MetLife Stadium, which would be a huge boon for the Raiders secondary.