Raiders, Carr collapse to blow playoff chances

The Raiders were given more chances than they should have been afforded, yet still managed to toss their playoff hopes in the toilet Sunday afternoon.

Alex Smith and Kansas City beat Oakland 34-20, despite the Raiders proving to be the better run team, which is the Chiefs’ strength.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Raiders locker room at O.co Coliseum.

With 12:16 left in the game, and a 20-14 lead, a pressured Derek Carr coughed up a short interception to LB Josh Mauga when the team could have clearly run the ball with success — the team averaged 4.6 yards per carry against an often-loaded box — and it was returned to the two-yard line.

Carr repeated his mistake twice more, and the Chiefs defensive coaches in the upper box shouted “fuck you,” loud and proud, towards the Raiders sidelines.

The pounding on the glass could have easily shattered the window, which would have hurt a few fans. But the Raiders excelled at hurting themselves  while likely destroying any shot at a Wild Card berth.

The Raiders fall to 5-7, and the Chiefs improve to 7-5. Oakland will need to do the impossible, and hope for the worst from other teams, in order to play into mid-January.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Oakland, after running for 7.1 yards per carry in the first quarter, failed to collect the necessary yardage to maintain confidence in the run game.

Except they nearly abandoned it altogether in the second half, starting tailback Latavius Murray rushed only seven times in the second half, and fullback Marcel Reece only once

Why, after averaging 5.6 yards per carry on designed runs, which excludes a screen pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper behind the line of scrimmage, would Oakland abandon the run in such an insane manner?

The Chiefs were stacking the box, rushing six men, when Carr was picked off for the second time, by cornerback Marcus Peters. Receivers Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts both fell down in the vicinity of the pick, and head coach Jack Del Rio confirmed that was the cause of the bungled play, though he didn’t confirm the intended target.

Knowing the Chiefs were rushing the passer, Oakland could have pitched it for an outside run. Even a dump off into the flat could have been a large gain. That’s not what offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called, though, and it bit the Raiders in the worst way.

All three of Carr’s fourth quarter interceptions came against more than four rushers, though they were clearly not focused on the run, which is easy to do when your opponent has essentially given up running the ball despite wild success.

Murray finished the day with a more than respectable 86 yards on the ground, stemming from 20 carries, along with 11 yards on four receptions.

It’s hard to fault Carr for his third interception, which was a little overthrown but bounced off the fingers of Cooper and into the hands of former Raiders safety Tyvon Branch, which became a touchdown.

It was the linchpin for the Raiders, who were losing than more than the score might indicate, and that was largely to do with the absence of even the illusion that a run play was coming.

Did the Raiders begin feeling like the game was slipping away well before the three fourth quarter interceptions?

Said Cooper:

“I mean, yeah. It’s a game of field position. We had really good field position, we just didn’t capitalize.”

With the loss, Oakland’s playoff hopes, which were on high when November began, and turned down to a simmer by Thanksgiving, are now in need of a repairman to fix the busted igniter.

A hope and a prayer are the only things than can salvage their season. Oakland trails the Jets by two games in the wild card race, with four remaining on the schedule, and don’t have the tiebreaker over the Chiefs, Steelers, Bills, Texans and Colts.

Carr said he isn’t unaware of how dire the situation has become:

“You have to win late in the season, and so it didn’t help. There’s nothing you can do but go back and work. Try to win next week.”

The message that Del Rio provided to the team following the game was simple: Keep your head up and stay in it. There’s no telling what might happen throughout the league. Winning the remaining four games results in a winning season, a 9-7 record, and an outside shot at the sixth wild card seed.

There’s the feeling, though, that the season is on its last legs. Cornerback David Amerson said:

“It hurts, man. It hurts, definitely at home in front of our home crowd. That’s a loss that is going to be tough to swallow.”

Cooper’s not catching

First round draft pick Amari Cooper has shined bright through the season, and seems to have the potential to be the best receiver in the game. But he’s having issues with drops, and he spoke candidly about some of the reasons for them:

“When I drop the ball it can be different things. If the ball came up on me too fast and I didn’t have strong hands. It could be that I didn’t look it all the way through. But those are things you have to work on if you want to be a great player.”

Cooper has all of the things that are not teachable. He has some of the most explosive moves in football, and youth to boot. His routes are crisp. He’s tough as nails.

The drops can be worked on, and given Cooper’s extreme level of dedication to the craft of football, it’s easy to expect the issue to get fixed.

Paging the doc

Two injuries occurred for the Raiders, one to left tackle Donald Penn, who got the wind knocked out of him and Del Rio seemingly expecting him ready for practice on Wednesday.

But Safety Nate Allen might not be so lucky. He injured his knee and didn’t return, Del Rio refusing to offer any more details. The coach said, though, that the team will know more on Monday.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.