OAKLAND – The Raiders had a chance to establish solid position for a playoff spot Sunday afternoon. A victory over the Tennessee Titans here at Oakland Coliseum would’ve put them ever-so-close to the AFC’s No. 6 seed, earning a tiebreaker over the Titans while nipping at the Pittsburgh Steelers' heels.
That didn’t happen. The Raiders got waxed 42-21, a result that should remove the playoffs from Raider Nation’s field of vision. The Raiders now sit at 6-7, as Tennessee improves to 8-5.
The postseason is pipe dream at best now, with this season likely wrapping with the regular-season finale. Postseason dreams were dashed with this three-game losing streak that brought the Silver and Black below .500 for the first time since Week 8.
Expectations were raised during a three-game home winning streak that elevated the Raiders to 6-4, but they came have come crashing back to earth. This team is in the midst of a roster rebuild, not ready to compete on a full-time basis.
That was evident against Tennessee, who seems like a legitimate postseason contender. Here are three takeaways from the game that served as the beginning of this season’s end:
Raiders have hit the wall
The Silver and Black played meaningful games in the month of December. That’s a rarity in itself for a team with one playoff berth since 2002. It’s also a step in the right direction for a team that was 4-12 last year and in the midst of a roster rebuild. There were moments last month where this team seemed a bit ahead of schedule, possibly competing for a wild-card spot just a year removed from a full roster teardown.
That might have been fool’s gold. The Raiders were competitive for a long time but have hit the wall, and hit it hard. All of the personnel setbacks, from Antonio Brown on forward, have worn on this team. All the travel, including a five-game road trip, has worn on this team.
The Raiders have now lost three straight by a combined score of 116-33.
The impact of the trying season didn't show up immediately, but is rearing its ugly head down the stretch. The Raiders simply don’t have anything left. Oakland's reliance on rookies was like walking a tight rope. When they started getting hurt, the Raiders started to fade away.
They have the "want-to" but not much else, making it possible they finish on an extended losing streak.
Defense running on fumes
The Titans have been taking yards in chunks over the past six games, ever since Ryan Tannehill took over as starting quarterback. That move sparked the passing game and balanced an attack focused heavily on Derrick Henry’s powerful rushing.
This was a bad matchup for the Raiders to begin with, and the matchup was as lopsided as it looked on paper. The Titans had 552 total yards in this one and averaged 9.4 per play, carving the Raiders defense with one explosive play after another.
The Silver and Black have given up 116 points in the last three games – there are two pick-sixes in that stretch off the defense's ledger – but clearly are limping down the stretch. They survived earlier excessive yardage totals with opportunistic plays and takeaways. Those pivotal plays haven’t been as frequent, and teams are finishing drives.
The Raiders defense looks gassed after living on adrenaline most of the season to weather so many setbacks. The Raiders don’t have enough on defense, especially in the secondary, to thrive against a competent attack. They clearly miss Karl Joseph. They really could use Vontaze Burfict. They need the pass-rush flashed during a three-game home winning streak that has been missing from recent proceedings.
The Raiders always were at least a year away from fielding a good defense. Expectations went up after reaching 6-4, even as the talent level continued to dwindle. This performance wasn’t for lack of effort. The unit is left with a skeleton crew full of new additions, battle-worn veterans and rookies who clearly don’t have a lot left. This performance wasn’t for lack of effort.
Raiders experience life without Jacobs
Josh Jacobs entered Sunday questionable to play the Titans, with his playing status decided during shortly before kickoff. News wasn’t what the Raiders wanted. The dynamic, powerful rusher was unavailable, missing his first game this season despite suffering a fractured shoulder back in Week 7.
The NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner has been the team’s best offensive player this season, and the Raiders certainly missed him on Sunday. That isn’t meant to insult DeAndre Washington, who was the lead back without Jacobs in the fray.
Washington actually had a Jacobs-esque 14-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, bowling over defenders on his way to the end zone. Washington finished with 53 yards on 14 carries, and Jalen Richard offered support with seven carries for 28 yards. Those two combined for 61 yards receiving as well.
That isn’t terrible, but there’s no doubting the Raiders sorely missed Jacobs in a game with tons of scoring and a need to keep the ball away from the suddenly-explosive Titans offense.