By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Raiders finished their home schedule in 2014 with a bang, winning three straight games. The same cannot be said of the Silver & Black effort on the road, where they lost their 11th straight contest away from the Coliseum—including all eight games this season—with a 47-14 loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday.
The Raiders fell behind 10-0 and didn’t score an offensive point until more than six minutes into the third quarter. The final score really does illustrate the gap between these two teams: Denver out-gained Oakland 451-199, and the Raiders even scored a TD on defense to make this game look closer than it was.
Thus, the Silver & Black finish the season with a 3-13 record, one game worse than the 4-12 mark they put up in 2013. Considering the rough 0-10 start, it was nice to see the team split its final six games of the season—giving hope to next year for the Raiders, if they can decide on a head coach and make some smart personnel decisions.
Derek Carr had another tough day, but to his credit, he didn’t throw an interception until the last play of the game. The rookie completed 18 of 36 passes for a mediocre 158 yards with one TD. The season-long issue of the meager yards-per-attempt mark were once again clear today: You’re just not going to win a game in the NFL when you’re getting five yards per attempt (if that).
Carr did take an uncharacteristic three sacks today, including one late that resulted in a fumble recovery and a touchdown for the Broncos. The Raiders QB was sacked just 21 times in the first 15 games of the season, so perhaps this game was a fluke in that department. GRADE: C
Carr got no help from the running game in Week 17: Latavius Murray had just 10 carries for 37 yards, and Darren McFadden managed only 13 yards on the ground. Overall, these primary backs rushed for 49 yards on 14 carries, but because they fell behind so quickly, they had to abandon the run.
Murray contributed 60 yards receiving, which easily led the team. Marcel Reece added another 30 yards. This means the Oakland passing game was largely dependent on its running backs, and that isn’t a recipe for success, either.
As a whole, the wide receivers totaled six catches for 35 yards. That’s atrocious. GRADE: D
The Broncos had their way with the Oakland defense, and that’s possible when the opponent converts almost 50% of its third-down chances (7 for 15). Denver rolled up 451 yards while keeping the ball for 33 minutes. That’s just a bad defensive day, no matter how you slice it.
It started up front: C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman combined for 143 yards and three TDs on 28 carries. That was the game right there. Peyton Manning threw for 273 yards, too, even though he didn’t toss a TD pass: He didn’t need to. GRADE: D
Marquette King averaged 46.4 yards on nine punts, bringing his season total to a whopping 109 kicks. That says a lot right there about the team’s offensive struggles. Sebastian Janikowski made both his extra-point attempts. But the kick coverage unit gave up a 76-yard kickoff return, and that didn’t help on the day overall. GRADE: B
Team Needs a Change
The Raiders committed nine penalties for 86 yards, and when you’re playing the Broncos on the road, that wasn’t a good thing. Head Coach Tony Sparano really got this team to play at home in the last half of the season, but the road blowouts were painful to watch. That has to change in 2015.
Add in the injuries, the talent-bereft roster and the coaching drama—from start to finish—the Oakland organization has a lot to work on before the NFL Draft in the spring. If next year is going to be “the year” that changes the Raiders’ downward trend, change has to come fast and frequently. (Perhaps the team should give Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane a call; he knows how to do this pretty well, obviously.)
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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.