The ending of the Oakland Raiders’ season was much like the entirety of it all: Lacking offense, unable to keep up defensively with division opponents, and injuries taking their toll.
Oakland was hammered by the Broncos, 47-14, with the only meaningful touchdown coming on a fumble recovery by reserve cornerback Keith McGill.
Fullback Jamize Olawale caught a one-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, though Denver had 27 points already and the game was getting further out of hand.
Head coach Tony Sparano, who may have coached his final game with the team, bluntly said that the Raiders just got beat by a good team:
“We weren’t doing much offensively, we talk about starting fast, and we didn’t start fast, get into a rhythm. Then we give up some big plays and costly penalties.”
Oakland, as has been the case for the better part of the season, held tough through the first half. And then something changed as their opponent took complete control of the ballgame. Sparano said:
“You can’t be in a hole against (Denver) and try to come back.”
Though the defense held Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense to 20 first half points, the Raiders offense was lackadaisical in their execution and punted on every possession in the first two quarters.
The offense also only tallied 199 yards through the game, not nearly enough to keep up with the hottest and most potent passing attack in the league.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr went 18-of-36 and threw for 158 yards with one interception that came at the end of the game. Only Latavius Murray had more than 30 receiving yards, 60 total, and added another 37 yards on the ground.
Though Holmes, Rivera and Jones each caught two passes, the trio was targeted a whopping 18 times. The 33 percent catch rate is ugliness that has summed up the 2014 Oakland Raiders’ season.
Sparano’s case to be retained as head coach could have been bolstered substantially with a win, or even a nail-biting loss, but such was not the case.
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn told CSN Bay Area’s Fallon Smith that he hopes Sparano will be considered still, though the general feeling is that he won’t be around for 2015.
That feeling resonates from players who may not know for sure, but look as though they wouldn’t bet a single game check on it.
The 33-point loss puts the Raiders at 3-13 on the season, in the drivers seat for the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft with little momentum heading into next season.
Safety Charles Woodson said that he’ll be back for the upcoming season, even though he’ll turn 39 in 2015. The core of the team will be intact, and though they allowed nearly 50 points in this final game, the young defensive secondary has shown promise.
The Raiders will enter the offseason with more than $50 million in salary cap room and that figure could nearly double if the right cuts are made and the cap rises to the projected $145 million.
For now, though, the team will have to make a final decision on their coaches and it’s expected that heads will roll. Owner Mark Davis said early in the season that general manager Reggie McKenzie is his guy “right now,” but even after two pretty good drafts, his job could also be in jeopardy.
A decision on Sparano is expected by Monday afternoon.
The Raiders strength of schedule was .570, best in the league, but their overall point deficit was -199 for the year. The Jets were second in strength of schedule (.541) while the Rams came in third (.521).
To contrast, the Minnesota Vikings went 7-9 and will be picking 11th in the draft, but their opponents finished with a .475 winning percentage. That’s a significant difference.
It’s also something that could help lure in free agents skeptical of the team’s future potential, particularly on offense.
Fans will have to be excited, engaged or otherwise mentally aroused by the next five months of front office and personnel decisions. And hope they go better than this season did.