By Sam McPherson
Close losses will damper any football season, whether it’s collegiate or professional, and the Oakland Raiders are learning this the hard way in 2013. For the third time this season, the Silver and Black lost a game by four points, and when the team’s record is sitting at 4-7 now, it’s not hard to see where this season went wrong.
In Sunday’s 23-19 home loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Raiders missed a lot of opportunities on both sides of the ball. The defense gave up the winning score with 10 seconds left, and the offense just didn’t score enough touchdowns, settling for four Sebastian Janikowski field goals.
With five games left in the season and very little hope for the playoffs, it’s time for the Raiders to start thinking about 2014 and how they can close the small gaps that cost the team at least three wins in 2013.
Offense Grade: C+
Despite going just three-for-10 on third-down conversions, the Raiders still made enough trips into Tennessee territory to attempt six field goals. The team’s 353 total yards was a good numbers, and Oakland averaged 6.4 yards per play. But two missed field goals and two turnovers cost the team dearly in a game the Raiders lost by four points.
Matt McGloin played as well as anyone could expect for an undrafted rookie quarterback who began the year fourth on the depth chart. He completed 19 passes to seven different receivers, and while his interception in the second quarter led to three Titans’ points, it was bound to happen eventually. Overall, he threw for 260 yards and led the team to a go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
Running back Rashad Jennings had 16 carries for 73 yards to pace the ground attack, and wide receiver Rod Streater had five catches for 93 yards to lead the receiving corps, although Streater did fumble once as well.
When assessing these performances, it’s important to note that McGloin, Jennings and Streater are not the “top” players at their positions, respectively, on this roster. The Raiders are playing with a backup deck, so to speak, and that being said, they did pretty well still under the circumstances.
But in the NFL, that isn’t good enough, and the excuses don’t matter. A loss is a loss, and the offense needed to do a lot more in this game for Oakland to win.
Defense Grade: F
Facing a mediocre journeyman quarterback like Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Raiders defense just flunked on Sunday at home. The Harvard grad threw for 320 yards in 42 attempts, completing 30 passes without an interception. He also threw two touchdowns and ran for 26 yards on five scrambles. His QB rating for the day was 109.2, a full 32 points higher than his career rating.
It was that kind of day for the Oakland defense.
The Raiders did hold the Titans’ running game in check, holding backs Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene to just 88 yards on 24 carries. But behind Fitzpatrick’s throws to wideouts Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright — each had six receptions for 100+ yards and a TD on the day — Tennessee converted ten of 18 third-down tries and held the ball for almost 36 minutes of game time.
That’s a long day for any defense, and the Raiders were just plain out of gas when the Titans scored the winning touchdown with just ten seconds left. Those last ten yards, of 426 given up overall, were the nail in the coffin.
Quarterback Grade: B-
McGloin’s second start wasn’t as good as his first last week against Houston on the road, but it was still a pretty good effort for just a second career start. The young QB averaged 8.1 yards per attempt, which is a pretty number, and again, McGloin did get the Raiders the lead with just 6:10 left in the game. What else can you ask of a rookie quarterback, really?
The Raiders made 14 first downs through the air, compared to just four on the ground, so the quarterback moved the team effectively all day. No, Oakland didn’t convert a lot of that action into touchdowns, of course — settling for six field goal attempts on a day when your team loses by four points is a frustrating reality.
And yes, McGloin also threw the interception in the shadow of his own goal posts that led to a Tennessee FG.
But all in all, the quarterback isn’t really the reason the Raiders lost this game.
Special Teams Grade: B-
In the modern NFL, converting just four of your six field-goal attempts isn’t acceptable. It’s downright poor. Janikowski missed a 32-yard attempt, which is just inexcusable. After being almost automatic for a long time from inside 40 yards, the Raiders veteran kicker has missed two this year from that range.
His other miss was from 47 yards, but Janikowski made attempts from 48 and 52 yards on Sunday. Successful NFL teams generally rely on kickers to be consistently automatic any time they send their guy out there to score points. If the strong lefty makes both those misses, maybe the Raiders don’t lose this game.
Taiwan Jones again made some big kickoff returns (three for 80 yards), and Marquette King boomed his two punts to the tune of 47.5 yards per kick. The kick coverage teams did a great job of limiting the Titans on returns all game long.
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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.