Missed chances doom woebegone Raiders in Philadelphia

Playing for nothing more than pride — having been eliminated from playoff contention one day prior — the Raiders showed very little in Philadelphia Monday night.

They were unable to make the big play on either side of the ball. Giorgio Tavecchio missed a go-ahead 48-yard field goal with eight minutes left in the game. And they had more turnovers (5) than third-down conversions (3-for-13). The end result of the lackluster performance was an uninspiring 19-10 loss to the playoff bound but injury-ridden Eagles (13-2) sealing a losing record for the Raiders (6-9), who entered the their 2017 campaign among the Super Bowl hopefuls.

Capitalizing on prime opportunities continues to be a weakness for the Oakland defense, which allowed two interceptions to slipped through its fingers. The greatest transgression committed by the unit came from the Reggie Nelson, who allowed a seemingly routine game-tying pick-six to slide right through his hands and off the black “7” on the front of his jersey less than one minute into the second quarter.

The Eagle defense returned the favor in kind, however, letting a pair of takeaways sneak past it in the fourth quarter — the second a similarly simple pick clanged off the hands of Jalen Mills less than seven minutes into the final period. The first missed opportunity, and first play of the quarter, a sack-fumble by Chris Long recovered by DeAndre Washington following a scrum. A scrum preluded by an overly celebratory Long running off the field with arms raised as the pigskin pinballed between no less than four downed players.

Even with all the chances left unrealized, the Eagles and Raiders combined for seven turnovers — each coming in the second half — including three, a Derek Carr interception and two fumbles, in the matter of four plays and less than two minutes of game time late in the third.

The two stumbling offenses exchanged giveaways once more, just inside of the eight-minute mark, with Nick Foles throwing his first interception since Dec. 6, 2015. This one was controlled by Nelson who led the NFL in picks (8) in 2015, the year before he moved to Oakland.

One day after receiving their Christmas gift of elimination from postseason play, the Raiders displayed a microcosm of their season-long shortcomings — their biggest difference from last year to this.

The offense looks lightyears behind where it was 12 months ago when Carr’s broken leg fractured the Raiders’ high playoff hopes. But the defense’s inability to take the ball away from the opposition has gone from a supreme strength to a befuddling weakness.

Oakland finished second in the league — Chiefs (33) — with 30 takeaways last year, matching Kansas City with a plus-16 giveaway-takeaway differential. This season, they have stolen possession just 14 times — including two on Monday — to the tune of an atrocious minus-9 differential (T-4th worst).

When it wasn’t in an apparent rush to hand the ball back to Philadelphia, the Raider offense had trouble piecing together any momentum.

Todd Downing‘s unit has fallen from sixth-best at moving the ball (373.3 yards per game) and seventh-best at scoring it (26 points per game) a year ago to a nearly unrecognizable 326.8 yards and 20.1 points per game this year. Carr has regressed under the helm of the first-year offensive coordinator, as has his favorite weapons Amari Cooper, who had two catches for 69 yards and Oakland’s lone touchdown, and Michael Crabtree, who was held without a catch.

Downing finally did force-feed his workhorse running back, getting Marshawn Lynch to the 25-carry mark for the second time this season. Lynch finished with a game-high 95 yards on the ground, but did suffer his first fumble since 2014 as part of the strange three-turnover run in the third quarter.

Carr passed for a pedestrian 140 yards, on 15-of-29 passing, for one touchdown while being picked off twice. This was the fifth game this season in which Carr did not reach the 200-yard threshold through the air — he had done so just eight times in the previous two season (three times in 2016). He was only moderately outperformed by Foles, in relief of the injured MVP-candidate Carson Wentz, who passed for 163 yards and one score.

The Raider defense, which has surged since the firing of Ken Norton Jr. having allowed 19.2 points per game in the five since, put the breaks on the NFL’s second-most potent rushing attack, holding the Eagles to 78 yards. It also continued to put pressure on the quarterback, recording two sacks, though Khalil Mack was not credited with either ending a streak of five-straight games with a quarterback takedown.

The game’s final play offered the final scored to a game that had yet to be decided. Attempting a Cal-Stanford circa 1982 pitch-and-go, a flip from Jalen Richard to Carr went awry, scooped and returned 23 yards for a touchdown by Derek Barnett adding insult to immobilizing injury.

The silver and black finishes its season in Los Angeles next week, facing the Chargers (8-7). Oakland will be starved for a Week 17 win, timidly sliding a touch of positivity onto the end of a season that began with such high hopes.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Raiders beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.