OAKLAND -- Raiders head coach Jon Gruden didn’t want to get emotional or even nostalgic in the days leading to the final game in Oakland Coliseum history. He was focused solely on game prep, knowing a win over Jacksonville was the most important thing he could do for Raiders fans here in the East Bay.
It could be a small parting gift as the Raiders wrap their regular season with two road games before relocating to Las Vegas in 2020.
Gruden couldn’t give it to them.
The Raiders blew a late lead, simply giving this game to Jacksonville down the stretch.
They ruined the Oakland Coliseum finale with a 20-16 loss that easily stands as the worst of the season given the context and the level of opposition.
The Raiders couldn’t seal the victory with a late fourth-quarter drive, and kicker Daniel Carlson made life a bit easier on the Jaguars by missing two straight field goals. He missed from 50 but Jacksonville ran into the kicker and then missed another attempt from 45.
The Jaguars marched right down the field and scored to secure a shocking victory they had no business claiming.
Here are three takeaways from a disastrous result:
Raiders do fans a disservice
The Raiders had a real chance to close their time at Oakland Coliseum on a positive. It wasn’t a tough task. They had to beat a terrible Jaguars team everybody has been blowing out, with an emotional, passionate crowd attending the last Raiders game in the East Bay.
The Silver and Black couldn’t even get that right. They led most of this game, only to let the game slip away with 17 unanswered points.
This is hands down a heartbreak that Raiders fan here didn’t deserve. They watched their team throw it all away at the end. There’s simply no excuse for the team’s fourth-straight loss.
They’re formally and officially out of the playoff race, leaving Silver and Black fans stunned and dejected. The Raiders got booed on their way out, a well deserved reaction to some horrible play in the fourth quarter of a game they easily should have won.
Defense makes changes after recent struggles
Gruden promised to make defensive changes after three straight blowout losses where the Raiders got outscored 116-33. They cut several early in the week, including starting strong safety D.J. Swearinger, to show they meant business, and had several players in new and expanded roles.
Dallin Leavitt played his first defensive snaps of the season in a platoon with Curtis Riley at strong safety. Tahir Whitehead’s role diminished after a series of disappointing performances, losing his role in the nickel package to relative newcomer Will Compton. He relayed play calls on the field working with Nicholas Morrow in the sub package. He was the middle linebacker in the base defense, working with Whitehead and Marquel Lee in more obvious rushing downs.
Nevin Lawson started at outside cornerback with Daryl Worley hurt -- he was set to make a move to safety if healthy -- with Lamarcus Joyner remaining in the slot.
A lot of good it did them. The defense was terrible down the stretch after controlling the game for three quarters, showing how many upgrades are required this offseason to start playing competent defense.
Waller can be dominant force
Jon Gruden believes Darren Waller is the NFL’s best tight end. That might be a stretch in a league with Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle, but Waller is pretty awesome when he’s going well.
He certainly was on Sunday against the Jaguars, who had no answer for the big, athletic tight end. Waller had eight catches for 122 yards in this game, his fourth game reaching triple digits this season.
He’s frequently double-covered by the opposition, with defenses trying to force Carr to throw more to a subpar receiver corps without many weapons and an ailing Tyrell Williams.
Waller showed just how good he can be with guarded straight up, shredding the Titans time and again to help the Silver and Black take an early lead in Oakland Coliseum’s final game.
He’ll be a fixture as the Raiders move to Las Vegas. He’s ever-so-close to exceeding 1,000 receiving yards, a rare feat in this franchise’s recent history.