OAKLAND -- Still looking for something, anything on which to focus your rage, Raider Nation, after the Raiders' kick-in-the-teeth 28-27 loss to Detroit?Look no further.Sunday's white-knuckle defeat could be traced to five game-turning plays, in which the Raiders came up empty and could not close the door on the Lions. With hindsight always being 2020 and everyone a revisionist historian, a look back, then, at what could have been, what, in the Raiders' view, should have been
Play 1: Going for it on 4th and 1 in the first quarterThe Raiders had driven with seeming ease from their own 31-yard line to the Lions' 24 on their first possession but faced a 4th-and-1 with 9:01 to play in the first quarter.Knowing the importance of getting off to a quick start and getting on the scoreboard early after falling behind by a cumulative 68-0 in his last two games, at Miami and at Green Bay, Raiders coach Hue Jackson, ahem, lived on the edge and went for it. Carson Palmer dropped back and tried to hit rookie receiver Denarius Moore in the end zone. But Moore was held up by cornerback Chris Houston as he ran down field (no, there was no flag) and Palmer put just a little too much on the ball as it fell incomplete."The guy grabbed him early," Palmer said. "I don't know, that's a tough call to make. But that's completely on me. I need to give them a chance to score a touchdown there."Jackson defended his play call."I thought that was a penalty," Jackson said. "Obviously, they didn't call it. What I saw, from what my vantage point is, I seen the guy grab, kind of hook Denarius, and to me you have to take that shot. It looked and the guy was wide open. If you're going to do it, it's good to do it early in the game so it doesn't determine the outcome of the game."Obviously every play now will get questioned that is the reason why we did or didn't win, but we're going to stay aggressive. We took a shot there, I thought we had a good chance at it but we didn't hit it. We came up short."True, but had the Raiders kicked the relatively chip-shot 41-yard field goal, they would have had 30 points, or, two points more than the Lions finished with on the day.Play 2: DHB getting strippedA week after dropping three passes in the first quarter against the Packers, Darrius Heyward-Bey had the game of his life in catching a career-high eight passes for a career-best 155 yards.He streaked by Houston for a 43-yard touchdown catch and run when Houston made like it was a friendly game of two-hand touch in the second quarter. But in the third quarter, in hauling in a deep pass and taking off for the races, Heyward-Bey was caught from behind by linebacker Justin Durant, who stripped the ball loose at the Lions' 15-yard line.The football bounded about and was recovered at the Detroit 8-yard line by cornerback Alphonso Smith.So what, exactly happened on the fumble?"You saw it," Heyward-Bey said.If the Raiders don't lose the ball there, they are sitting pretty near the Lions' 10-yard line. And at the very least, a chippy Janikowski field goal gives Oakland another three points.It all made for a bittersweet day for Heyward-Bey."I don't think about what kind of game I played," he said. "I just think about how we lost."And his fumble contributed mightily.Play 3: Not going for '2' following Curry's touchdownTommy Kelly's strip-sack of Matthew Stafford at the Detroit 5-yard line preceded Aaron Curry's recovery and six-yard return for a touchdown that seemed to seal the game with 7:47 to play.But with the Raiders up by 12 points, 26-14, Jackson declined to go for the two-point conversion that, if successful, would have given the Raiders the true two-touchdown lead and, would have probably led to overtime.Kicking the extra-point was the same difference as missing the two-point attempt."Yup, you just kick it, you go for one," Jackson insisted. "There's a time to go for 'two' and there's a timeto me, I thought going for 'one' in that situation is the right thing to do, O.K.?"WellPlay 4: Carson Palmer throws deep incompletion on 3rd and 3 late in the fourth quarterIt worked to perfection against Chicago four weeks earlier.This time? Not so much.Needing three yards to salt the game away from the Lions' 48-yard line with 3:32 to play and nursing the six-point lead, Palmer tried to hit a streaking and wide open Chaz Schilens down the right sideline. Schilens got a hand on it, but the ball was a tad flat and just missed Schilens by half a step."I put too much on the ball," Palmer said. "I need to give him a better chance to make a play on it. That's a game-changing play."Against the Bears, the Raiders were facing 3rd-and-4 at the 50 with 3:59 to play when Palmer threw the ball to the same spot. That time, though, the ball was delivered perfectly and Louis Murphy hauled it in at the 3-yard line and one play later, Michael Bush plunged in for the game-winning score.Play 5: Um, Rolando McClain in deep coverage on Megatron. Seriously?I'll admit it: I Tweeted a Joe Montana reference as the Lions set up shop on their own 2-yard line with 2:14 to play and no timeouts left needing a touchdown to win -- isthatjohncandyinthestands?It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have made a John Elway reference.In any event, the Raiders middle linebacker finding himself in deep coverage on Calvin Johnson was a thing of beautyfor the Lions.On 1st and 10 from his own 39-yard line, Matthew Stafford lofted a high ball in the general vicinity of Johnson. The throw was short, but with McClain looking lost and oncoming safety Jerome Boyd not looking back at the ball, Johnson came back to it and easily caught it for a 48-yard gain to the Raiders' 13-yard line.So again, yes, McClain was in deep coverage on the most physically imposing and gifted receiver in the NFL."Go make that play," Jackson huffed. "It isn't a scheme issue. The ball's laying up in the air, you've got to go make that play when you've got an opportunity. Their guy made it and we didn't, so they won the game."
OK, but McClain, running 40-plus yards downfield?"Yeah, that's called the 2 Tampa," Jackson insisted. "That's what the middle linebacker does -- he runs right down the middle of the field. They made the play and we didn't."Two plays later, Stafford hit Johnson from six yards out for the game-tying score before Jason Hanson's PAT proved to be the winning point.Boyd had a similar experience on a hanging pass in Houston on Oct. 9.On 3rd and 23 from the Raiders 39-yard line, Matt Schaub floated a pass downfield and rather than make a play on the ball, Boyd made a play on Joel Dreessen, who hauled the ball in at the 5-yard line. That time, though, Michael Huff stepped up and made the play for the Raiders, intercepting Schaub in the end zone to end the game.Oh yeah, Huff was inactive with a strained hamstring against the Lions.