Raiders finale depicts an entire season
From a nice touchdown catch by Michael Crabtree, Derek Carr being sacked unnecessarily to Mychal Rivera being unaware that he needed to get out of bounds to stop the clock, the Raiders season was displayed in one quarter of football Sunday.
Oakland officially finishes 7-9, another losing season and more things to look forward to than in season’s passed.
The difference in this case, is what fans can and should expect is a playoff berth in 2016, all caused by minor improvements that alleviate all of the issues shown in the Raiders’ 17-23 loss at Kansas City.
A lot of the Raiders inefficient play this year can be explained by something as simple as inexperience. That’s not an excuse — barring guys like Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck and Rodney Hudson, the core of Oakland’s starting squad are young, very young.
That will always result in mistakes, especially while playing on enemy turf, against a division rival, and looking to prove to the world that you are worthy.
A post-play pile up in the fourth quarter included rookies Leon Orr, Stacy McGee and Khalil Mack, all of whom are playing under rookie contracts. The shenanigans didn’t result in a flag as the Raiders trailed with 5:35 on the clock and a crucial drive continuing, but could have if the zebra-clad men on the field weren’t in the best of moods.
On the same drive, second year defensive back T.J. Carrie drew a penalty on Cheifs tight end Travis Kelce for illegal hands during a field goal attempt, and while Carrie wanted the block more, just the fact that Kelce couldn’t get proper leverage is a plus.
As was Carrie’s interception just a few drives earlier, as Alex Smith tried to squeeze a throw to Aaron Wilson. Carrie was playing zone near the flat, and read the play perfectly.
He backpedaled as expeditiously as anyone, and looked the ball into his chest. Perhaps the downside was Oakland’s inability to convert that to points.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw an interception on the fifth play of the following drive, and then Smith was picked off by waiver add David Amerson, who took it to the house for one of Oakland’s two touchdowns.
The Raiders found a way to stay in the ballgame, though they trailed for the entirety of the day, and only stupid mistakes kept them away from victory.
Carr took six sacks, and at least four could have been avoided by throwing the ball away. That’s been the case for the most part this season, and the second year man from Fresno finished the year being taken down 43 times.
That’s not good.
The swing of yardage exceeds 200 yards, adding a dimension to the comparison between what the smart play was versus what happened.
For each of the bad moves Carr has made, he’s made two solid or better plays. And with experience comes improvement, specifically for a player like Carr — who is as nice and humble as ever, but practices harder than anyone.
He fell 13 yards shy of hitting the 4,000 yard marker this season, which could be made up by an Amari Cooper drop, or an interception allowed by a bobbled catch from anyone on the roster.
The Raiders as a unit kept pace with an 11-5 team that is playoff bound for the second time in three seasons, and who is as complete of a team as most ever get.
And though Oakland was swept by Kansas City, 10 points over two contests was the difference, something that can be overcome by experience and health, with little need for new additions and huge changes with the roster.
There’s no doubting that Oakland is on the right side of momentum.
Surely, part of that is a low bar. 11 wins over 48 games isn’t a record that’s tough to improve on.
But this squad is for real. They have top of the line talent on both sides of the ball, and enough role players and bench depth to keep up with the brutality of NFL football.
The loss at Arrowhead solidified the notion that the Raiders were never truly ready to be competitive against top opponents over a stretch of games.
It also maintained that they’re extremely close.
As close as Rivera was to touching the white stripe of the visiting sideline Sunday, the final play of the day being one involving a player who couldn’t instinctively decide whether to turn upfield or step out until it was too late.
That changes, though, and Oakland has shown enough stability over the last two seasons that matching the production of Kansas City this year shouldn’t just be thought of as a possibility.
It should be expected.
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.