By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles faced off on Monday Night Football in the last game on Christmas Day, and the game was much closer than most experts predicted. While the Raiders’ playoff hopes ended before they ever took the field against the Eagles, they looked to play spoiler and tried to stop the Eagles from clinching home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. And they almost did, playing a very close game until the end when the Eagles pulled away and took the win. The final score was 19-10 in favor of the Eagles, but the game seemed much closer than that final score.
In 2016, Derek Carr was in talks for the NFL MVP award until an injury ended his season. When the red-hot Raiders fell in the playoffs, many fans wondered what would happen if Carr had stayed healthy. Sadly, the Raiders did not find out this season as Carr fell to an injury early on and never looked the same when he returned. He continued to struggle late in the season, and while the Raiders had a chance to win this game, it was Carr’s mistakes that hurt them. The Raiders quarterback finished with only 137 passing yards while throwing two interceptions and one touchdown. While he lost two of his starting offensive linemen to the injured reserve this week, he was only sacked once.
Amari Cooper returned from his most recent injury and scored the only Raiders touchdown of the game on a 63-yard touchdown reception. He only caught two other balls for a total of three yards. Michael Crabtree was shut out, not catching a single pass on three attempts. The best part of the Raiders offense came on the ground, an unusual stat this season in Oakland. Marshawn Lynch had 25 carries for 95 yards in the game while Jalen Richard carried the ball four times for 42 yards.
The biggest problem in Oakland all season has been a defense that can’t stop anyone. However, ever since they changed defensive coordinators a month ago, they have played much better. Coming into the game, the Philadelphia Eagles ranked eighth in total offense with 386.9 yards per game. The Raiders defense held the Eagles to just 216 total yards. Nick Foles completed 19 passes for 163 yards and a score, but he also threw a pick to Reggie Nelson, the first of the season for the safety. Denico Autry and Jihad Ward each recorded a sack as well.
On the ground, Jay Ajayi ran for only 52 yards, although he added 21 yards and a touchdown through the air. The Raiders did force an Ajayi fumble, resulting in their second turnover of the game. For a change, it was not the Raiders defense that hurt them in this game.
Special Teams: C+
This was a game of special teams. With seconds left, the Eagles only led by a field goal. If it wasn’t for a fumble when the Raiders were trying to make magic happen as time ran out, the game would have looked much closer. Each team only scored one touchdown and both kickers missed a field goal. Overall, Giorgio Tavecchio hit one of two attempts. It isn’t fair to say that the game could have gone to overtime if he had made his one missed field goal because the Eagles’ Jake Elliott hit two-of-three, so both teams missed a chance to put three more points on the board in the game.
The return game was negligible for both teams. In the punting game, Marquette King kicked the ball five times for a 41.4-yard average, only putting one inside the 20.
Jack Del Rio is finishing the season much stronger than he started it. If the Raiders had played like they have the past few weeks all season, they might be in the playoffs. Sadly, just as the defense has started to pick things up, the offense can’t seem to score points. The Raiders have a lot of problems to address this offseason, but they are playing stronger as the season comes to a close.
The Oakland Raiders (6-9) close out their 2017 season against their division rival Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. While Oakland has nothing to play for, the Chargers have a chance to make the playoffs if they win, the Tennessee Titans lose and either the Buffalo Bills or Baltimore Ravens lose as well. This means that the Raiders can finish the season with a win and knock their bitter rival out of playoff contention as well.