By Sam McPherson
One of these days, the 2014 Oakland Raiders will have to find a way to win one of the close games they keep finding themselves in—or else face the horror of completing just the second winless 16-game season in NFL history.
On Sunday, the Silver & Black lost to the San Diego Chargers, 13-6, on the road in Southern California, the fifth time this season the Raiders have lost by a touchdown or less. The defense played well enough to win the game, but the offense couldn’t get much going—and that was the difference in this one.
Oakland is now 0-10 this year, and they’ve lost 16 games in a row dating back to the 2013 season. Time is getting short to win a game this year.
Rookie Derek Carr had a rough game, completing only 16 of 34 attempts for a piddly 172 yards. As usual, the Raiders QB couldn’t get the ball downfield consistently, and unusually, he didn’t even complete half his throws. That’s a bad day.
Throw in a lost fumble, and this may have been Carr’s least-effective game of the season.
The rookie QB still was able to spread the ball around to eight receivers, but overall, the team was just 3-for-15 on third-down conversions, and in the end, that falls on Carr’s shoulders. GRADE: F
The team couldn’t find the end zone, and overall, the Raiders gained just 233 total yards. Carr struggled as noted above, but the Oakland running game once again was terrible: 71 yards on 19 carries. But 23 of those yards came on one play from Latavius Murray, so the overall totals are deceiving.
The Raiders’ other three backs combined for 13 carries and 28 yards. This is why the Oakland club probably will set the all-time record for fewest rushing yards in a 16-game season: They stink.
Carr did manage some long completions on the day—one each to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompskins (35 yards), tight end Mychal Rivera (32 yards) and wide receiver James Jones (28 yards)—but the team’s inability to run doomed them into too many unmanageable third downs. GRADE: F
In the usual fashion, the offense’s inability to sustain any drives left the Raiders defense on the field for a whopping 34:46 in this game. It’s amazing Oakland held San Diego to just 300 total yards and 13 points, actually, all things considered.
The Chargers were only 4-for-15 themselves on third downs, so the Raiders did something right on defense. It was that kind of grind-it-out game for both teams, and Oakland just came out on the wrong end of it.
If the Raiders defense had been able to force a turnover or two, maybe the game’s final score could have been different. But it’s hard to fault the Silver & Black defensive unit for this loss. GRADE: A-
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made both his field-goal attempts, while punter Marquette King boomed the ball nine times, averaging almost 50 yards per effort. That was stellar.
Again, if Murray or Denarius Moore had been able to break a return, maybe the Raiders could have won the game. But relying on special teams to win a game for you is a long proposition. GRADE: A
Time Is Short Now
There are only six games left this season for the Raiders to avoid the worst season in team history. None of them look winnable on paper, so it’s going to take another effort like this from the defense to get it done—plus an equally strong offensive game.
In essence, Oakland needs to put together its best game of the year in order to win. That sounds very obvious, but this is a team that really hasn’t been able to do that this year … mostly because they lack the talent to win in the NFL, in truth.
Next week’s opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs, beat the Seattle Seahawks this week, and the opponent in two weeks—the St. Louis Rams—held Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to just seven points Sunday.
The Raiders have lost so many close ones this year, and that’s what happens when you are a winless club.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.