Over 60 minutes, the Oakland Raiders showed exactly how important quarterback Derek Carr was to their success in 2016.
The new year has been unkind to Oakland, who are now on their third quarterback in two weeks — Matt McGloin left the game with a shoulder injury and didn’t return in the 24-6 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Calling the Raiders’ performance grotesque might be more complimentary than otherwise as Oakland lost more yards to penalties than their offense made up for, and fumbled the ball away three times. McGloin threw for only 21 yards, with six completions on 11 attempts, while rookie Connor Cook posted a markedly better line of 150 passing yards, one touchdown and one interceptions, hitting his mark 14 times on 21 tries.
To recap: Oakland managed to stay mostly healthy through 14 games, and in the final two weeks of their best season in two decades, the Raiders have lost two quarterbacks, the two best bigs on the offensive front, and after winning 12 games with an underperforming defense.
The uninspired ground game was as inefficient as the passing game, Oakland rushed 16 times resulting in 57 yards.
Meanwhile, the Raiders allowed one of the league’s worst offenses to score 24 points.
That’s where the Raiders will leave off before traveling to Houston for one of the AFC’s two wild card games next weekend, which was all but unimaginable when the Raiders were dominating the Colts entering the fourth quarter of their final home game of 2016.
There’s a simpler way to describe the Raiders’ current predicament. They’re screwed.
Now pillaged by injuries, a roster that bought into a system and coaches who burned the candle from both sides, are staring at one of the most brutal season finales in team history.
Every bit of Carr’s brilliance was put on display Sunday, when the ground game stunk and the passing game was even worse. When Denver controlled the ball for 35 minutes to Oakland’s 24, and outgained the Raiders offense by 128 yards.
Where Oakland’s 125 yards given up by way of yellow nylon eclipsed all of the production issued by running backs or their top three wide receivers. Which left head coach Jack Del Rio with a lowered chin and possibly even lower expectations heading into Houston next week.
Oakland finished the regular season with a 12-6 record, which would be good enough to win five of the league’s eight divisions, but not the AFC West. That’s something to hang one’s hat on, perhaps the type of person seeking reasons to remain optimistic.
But for many, it’s a cruel blow to the dreams of the realistic championship expectations that were bestowed by an increasing number of NFL experts until there were 11 minutes left in last week’s game.
And now, the realistic expectation is that the Raiders lose by a touchdown — but only for the optimist.
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 Raiders football.