By Sam McPherson
If moral victories counted for anything, the 2014 Oakland Raiders would have two moral wins this season. As it were, those don’t count, and the Silver & Black dropped to 0-3 with a 16-9 loss to the New England Patriots on the road this weekend. Considering most people expected the Patriots to run all over the Raiders, it was a great effort for Oakland to keep this one close and have a chance to win at the end.
Wide receiver Andre Holmes took his eyes off the ball a little too soon on the Raiders’ last play of the game, and the ball ricocheted into the hands of Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to end the game. Oakland was that close to perhaps a game-tying touchdown—after one score had just been called back thanks to a holding call.
Again, this was a well-fought game by the Raiders, but in typical fashion, they blew it at the end.
Derek Carr can’t be blamed for that game-ending interception, but he can be blamed for the continued dink-and-dunk passing offense. His 34 attempts netted just 174 yards, and for the season now, he’s thrown 108 passes for only 588 yards. That’s less than 5.5 yards per attempt, and you don’t win in the NFL with a passing game that anemic.
Is it the rookie’s fault? Or the play calling from the sideline? Hard to tell. Since the Raiders lack talent on offense, truly as we are now seeing with just 37 points in three games overall, maybe Carr is doing the best he can with what he is being given. His 63% completion percentage is pretty good for a rookie, and his TD:INT ratio is a break-eve proposition right now.
It’s hard to ask much more of him than what he’s given, and in the end, he had the team in position to win today in overtime before a holding penalty and Holmes’ blunder cost the team the game. GRADE: B
The running game generated just 67 yards on 22 carries, which is sadly the best it has been in 2014. But at just 5-for-13 on third downs, the team once again really couldn’t put anything together in terms of a meaningful touchdown drive—until the end of the game when Darren McFadden’s game-tying TD run was called back due to a holding penalty on left guard Gabe Jackson.
Holmes’ drop cost the team at the end, but none of the WRs really distinguished themselves today; credit the New England secondary, which is the best the Raiders have seen yet this season. Carr spread the ball around to nine receivers, but McFadden had the most receptions with four—for six yards total.
There was just little offense today, in general: it’s hard to win a game with 241 total yards, and the fact the team had a chance at the end speaks a lot to other areas of overall effort. GRADE: C
How did the Raiders hold the mighty Patriots to less than 300 total yards? Good question, but it was an amazing effort from a unit that had been ripped up by some pedestrian teams in the first two weeks of the season.
Oakland sacked New England QB Tom Brady twice, and the Raiders gave up only 76 yards on the ground—after surrendering an average of 200 yards per game previously. That made all the difference for the Oakland defense.
Without Sio Moore and Nick Roach, though, the Raiders still let the Patriots convert 9-of-18 third-down conversions, which hurt the time of possession battle—and Oakland couldn’t force any turnovers, which could have been huge.
But still, a fantastic effort by the defense in this one. GRADE: B+
Sebastian Janikowski had a good game, converting all three field-goal attempts, including one from 49 yards out. He was the Raiders’ sole scorer today, obviously.
Marquette King was serviceable again with his five punts (41.8 average), but the Oakland punt returns were frustrating: T.J. Carrie averaged just nine yards on four returns, but he did have a long of 21 yards. GRADE: A-
So Close, Yet Again
When McFadden scored what appeared to be that game-tying TD late in the game, the collective grown of footballs fans everywhere who probably picked the Patriots in their eliminator pools could be heard. But that flag on Jackson was a killer.
Holmes’ drop was a knife in the heart, as well, but one you almost expected after the yellow flag brought back the touchdown.
The Raiders were really close in this one, and it’s a heartbreaker to lose. But a good coaching staff will get this team fired up for the improvement it showed on defense, and next week, Oakland needs to take another step forward to get its first win of the season.
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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.