In middle of sloppy season, Raiders still in playoff hunt


In middle of sloppy season, Raiders still in playoff hunt

ALAMEDA – Jalen Richard fumbled three times Sunday and quarterback Derek Carr threw two passes right to New York Giants. The Raiders never lost possession.

Johnny Holton coughed it up and didn’t recover, and Marquette King had to eat a punt attempt inside his own 10. Defense bailed the Raiders out both times, and the Silver and Black beat the NFC’s worst by one score.

This ugly game produced a positive result. For a Raiders team in full-on survival mode, that’s all that matters.

“Trust me, I don’t care how we win. I just want to win,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I’ve said that since my rookie year when we were 0-10, when I was begging for wins. Obviously, you want to go out and throw for 400 every game and win by 40, rush for 200 yards and all those things. At the end of the day, this game is so hard. It’s not easy.

“We have good players and all those things, but you see just how hard it is to win these games. It takes almost every NFL game, within one score if not two. It’s always going to be close. It’s going to come down to the wire. So anytime you can win, doesn’t matter how you do it, you just want to win.”

If the Raiders do enough of that, they’ll win the shockingly competitive AFC West. The Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers are tied atop the division at 6-6, with games against each other left on the schedule.

The Silver and Black play Kansas City Sunday morning at Arrowhead Stadium and the Chargers in the regular season finale. If the Raiders beat both of their rivals, they’ll win the division even if they drop a game to Dallas or Philadelphia.

“We’re in a situation that all of our goals are still right in front of us,” Carr said. “It’s just right in front of us, it’s there. Everything we want to do is right there. We realize that. We have a good group of guys that’s growing.”

Imagine that. A team that lost four straight and were 4-6 after getting worked by New England is right in the thick of things. They control their own destiny, and have done so by winning ugly.

Let’s be frank. A Raiders game hasn’t gone according to plan since Week 2.

The New York Jets got thoroughly stomped 45-20 at Oakland Coliseum and Marshawn got hyphy on the sideline. Those were simpler times, with the 2-0 Raiders playing to lofty expectations.

The Raiders have been wading through the swamp ever since. They haven’t won game by two scores after that. They’ve lost six games by an average of 13.6 points

They weren’t dominant last year, but most every game was tight. Why? The Raiders found a formula that worked. The Raiders were efficient offensively, generated turnovers by the ton, controlled the kicking game and most always came through in the clutch.

These aren’t the 2016 Raiders, as much as fans wish they were. They have to win games a new, slightly messier way.

“It’s different than last year. Every year is a new year,” Carr said. “We’re learning now, how to prepare, how to recover, how to compete. We’re learning how to win games. As long as we can get hot, right around now, this is the time to do it.”

The Raiders are 6-5 in December or after in the Jack Del Rio era, but simply must get hot to save the season.

“We’re feeling good,” middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “We want to continue stacking these wins. I understand that we have a shot. …Playing good football in December is really what you need.”

Three things you need to know from Raiders' 20-17 loss to Cowboys


Three things you need to know from Raiders' 20-17 loss to Cowboys

OAKLAND – Here are three things you need to know from Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Coliseum:

1. Turn out the lights, the party’s over: The Silver and Black haven’t been technically eliminated from playoff contention. They needed to win their final three games and get some help entering Sunday’s game. Now they need a miracle.

The Raiders would win certain four-way tiebreaker at 8-8 – Baltimore’s presence would screw things up -- or a five-way tiebreaker that includes the Chargers, but…Come on. Who are we kidding? That ain’t happening. The Raiders are done. They likely were after a decisive loss at Kansas City the week before.

Can’t say they deserved better. They were far too inconsistent to expect a different outcome, even after the Chiefs’ midseason slide brought the AFC West back into play. There’s plenty of talent on this team, not enough cohesion and coaching to get by. They earned 12-4 last season with magic and fourth-quarter moxie that didn’t stick around another year.

They didn’t score enough or generate enough turnovers to seriously compete, leaving lofty expectations ultimately unmet. The Raiders might be the NFL’s disappointing team this season, even without them being formally eliminated.

They showed great fight against Dallas, but there weren’t enough of that grit to carry through tough times and win crucial close games.

“It stinks,” tight end Lee Smith said. “It’s been a disappointing season. Tonight was disappointing. We’re still going to come to work and fight in Philadelphia on Christmas, just like we did tonight.”

2. Loss more than one (okay, a few) bad call(s): Raider Nation’s upset over a questionable (at best) fourth-quarter call that swung Sunday’s game. That was bogus. Y’all got screwed, right good.

Pulling Michael Crabtree for a concussion evaluation on the game's fateful play  -- it was originally designed for No. 15 -- seemed odd. Pass interference on Jared Cook's touchdown at first-half's end seemed suspect. 

Even so, several opportunities remained to win that game, well beyond the obvious final drive. That’s when Derek Carr drove the Raiders inside the 10 and took off running, only to fumble out of the end zone trying to dive for the goal line. That’s a turnover and a touchback, by rule, that formally ended the game.

Don’t forget about an interception by Sean Smith deep in Cowboys territory that the offense could turn into a touchdown. They settled for a field goal. That’s a four-point swing.

How about Giorgio Tavecchio’s missed 39-yard field goal at the end of the half? Those points would’ve tied it at game’s end.

It’s fair to say that fourth-down call was pivotal, but there were several chances to win a close game and the Raiders couldn’t pull through.

3. Raiders show grit: The NFL is a zero-sum game. You win or you lose. Nothing else matters. Al Davis’ mantra, for goodness sakes, is ‘just win, baby.’

I won’t sell you on anything else, but…They showed fight in defeat, especially after falling behind 10-0 in the first half, was unlike other performances this season. This group rolled over too often to be legitimate contenders, and this effort proved too little, too late in this game and this season.

It was impressive considering the playoffs were a pipe dream entering the game.

“The fight our team played with today, that was familiar. That looked like us,” Carr said. “Did we execute 100 percent of the time? No. Did we play a really good defense? Absolutely. We played a good team. At the end of the day, we lost. It is what it is> I can say that we left it all out there.”

Referee: Paper provided 'reaffirmation' of first down, Raiders fuming from call


Referee: Paper provided 'reaffirmation' of first down, Raiders fuming from call

OAKLAND – The Raiders’ 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night swung on a fourth-quarter, fourth-down measurement so close a result was hard to determine.

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott’s sneak on 4th-and-inches didn’t get far, and possession wasn’t perceptible right away. Officials brought first-down markers to midfield for a measurement with five minutes left in the game.

A Cowboys first down was awarded. Eventually. Officials took a long look at the ball in relation to the sticks, and then used a folded index card as part of their decision.

Referee Gene Steratore told a pool reporter after the game that the card wasn’t part of the original decision.

“That was already finished,” Steratore said. “The ball was touching the pole. I put the card in there and as soon as it touched, it was nothing more than a reaffirmation. The decision was made based on my visual from the top looking down and the ball touching the front of the pole.”

Steratore was asked why the card was used at all, and Steratore reiterated that the card did not make the judgment. Steratore had not used a card before, even as affirmation for a first-down decision.

“It’s maybe been done at some point in someone’s career but I didn’t use the card for my decision,” Steratore said. “I used my visual looking at the ball reaching the pole.”

If all that sounds confusing, it should. It certainly was for the Raiders, who lost a golden opportunity to win a game. Dan Bailey’s 19-yard field goal concluded that drive and created the final margin for victory.

The Raiders had an opportunity to win the game later in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Derek Carr fumbled through the end zone trying to cross the goal line and win the game with 30 second left, which is a turnover and a touchback by rule.

That swing first-down decision, however, really stuck with the Raiders after the game.

“I don’t want to get fined, okay?” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I’m not happy with the way things were done…(I’ve) never seen air like that and have it somehow turn into a first down. There was air between the ball and the stick. That’s short. The ball goes the other way. Period.”

Raiders middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman was in the thick of things, and was flummoxed by the spot, the decision and that Dallas was awarded a first down he doesn’t believe it earned.

“If you could be in the circle and see where that ball was, I don’t see how they got that,” Bowman said. “For them to pull that paper out to solidify the first down? There was space between the ball and the sticks. I just don’t know.”