By Sam McPherson
The 2014 Oakland Raiders have played a lot of close games, coming empty each time. In the case of Sunday's 30-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on the road, it was a case of too little, too late, as first-half mistakes doomed the Silver & Black to their 14th straight loss dating back to last year.
Now 0-8 this season, the Raiders have lost six games by 11 points or less—including four now by a touchdown or less. Sooner or later, Oakland needs to learn how to win the close ones, and the team will do that when it stops making huge mistakes in key moments.
The Raiders fell behind 24-3 by halftime, so while the Silver & Black "won" the second half, we all know it's a 60-minute game—and that's what Oakland needs to focus on if they're going to win a game in 2014.
Derek Carr may have had his worst game in the NFL so far, but he did lead a comeback that helped the Raiders get to within a recovered onside kick at the end. He completed just 58.5% of his passes in this one for less than 200 yards—while also throwing two interceptions.
It's tough to throw on Seattle's defense, but 41 attempts have to get you more than 194 yards in the end. That nickel-but-no-dimes offense just doesn't fly against the the Seahawks' secondary.
But again, Carr hung in there. While the comeback got started with a special teams play, it was the offense that had the two touchdown drives in the second half to make the game as close as it was. Carr's pair of short TD tosses to tight end Mychal Rivera demonstrated his fortitude late in the game.
The kid doesn't quit. GRADE: C
Overall, it was a defensive day in Seattle. The Raiders gained just 226 yards on the day—including a mere 37 yards rushing on 18 carries. That's rarely going to enable a rookie QB to win a game against the defending Super Bowl champions on the road.
Carr needs more help to make this offense work, and he's just not getting it from the running backs corps. Darren McFadden has just 20 yards on 13 carries, and maybe that's to be expected against Seattle's defense. But on the season now, McFadden has carried the ball 98 times for just 358 yards: just a 3.65 average per carry.
Once again, the rookie QB spread the ball around to nine receivers, and while Rivera had eight catches, the longest pass play of the day was just 23 yards for Oakland. Carr has to be able to throw the ball deeper than that and more often, too.
The two offensive turnovers—INTs thrown by Carr—hurt the team as well, putting them in that hole they couldn't climb out of by the end of the game. GRADE: C-
The Raiders defense did a solid job on the day, but again, they couldn't get the key stops they needed late. Seattle QB Russell Wilson completed less than 50% of his 35 pass attempts, and he only threw for 179 yards total. RB Marshawn Lynch gained just 67 yards on 21 carries—although he did score two TDs and five passes for 76 yards.
The Seahawks didn't turn the ball over once, and that was the difference in the game, really. They held the ball for over 35 minutes, once again letting an Oakland defense wear itself out on the field, slowly but surely.
Two drives—totaling 16 plays and seven minutes in the fourth quarter—were the difference makers for Seattle, as both ended in field goals to provide the final margin of victory in the game.
It's a self-defeating cycle for the Raiders in 2014: The offense can't stay on the field long enough to give the thin defense enough rest, and the defense can't limit the opponents' scoring enough to give the offense a chance to win. GRADE: C-
Finally, there was some action on special teams! Early in the second quarter, T.J. Carrie fumbled a kickoff return which didn't cost the Raiders any points, because the Seahawks missed a field-goal attempt. And in the third quarter, the Raiders comeback began with a blocked-punt return TD: That made the score 24-10 and gave Oakland some life.
Since Carrie's fumble didn't hurt directly, the special-teams unit came out ahead on the day. Sebastian Janikowski did miss a 51-yard FG attempt right before halftime, but he's old—and that's really no longer in his range. Otherwise, the kicker was fine on the day, as was punter Marquette King—averaging 46.2 yards per kick on six punts. GRADE: A-
Next week, the Denver Broncos come to town, and since they lost on Sunday to the New England Patriots, you know Peyton Manning and Co. are just licking their chops at the prospect of facing Oakland's defense.
At this point, with half the games under their belts, we know who the Raiders are: a severely flawed team that can't put together 60 minutes of solid football in all phases of the game.
The defending SB champs took advantage of this to beat the Silver & Black, and now the SB losers come to town to re-establish some momentum.
It just never lets up for these Raiders, does it?
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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.
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