When the Oakland Raiders look back on this season, their 28-27 loss to the Detroit Lions this past Sunday will be one of three games this season, in which the Silver and Black had comfortable leads, but ended up losing the game.
The other two games were against the Buffalo Bills, and a home game against the Denver Broncos. Sunday’s game was a microcosm of who the Raiders are, a team that’s almost there as a playoff contender, but not quite. If they don’t make the playoffs, these three games will haunt them, especially yesterday’s contest.
The game started off as a back and forth chess match, with the Raiders getting a field goal right before the half by kicker Sebastian Janikowski, to put them up 17-14. The 3rd quarter was filled with defense, as no one got on the board do to solid defensive play from both sides. Unknowingly, this would set up a dramatic 4th quarter.
Oakland would score the first 10 points of the quarter on a Janikowski field goal, and fumble return by linebacker Aaron Curry for a touchdown. The latter was made possible when defensive tackle, Tommy Kelly, stripped Lions’ quarterback Mathew Stafford near Detroit’s goal line. Up 27-14 with seven minutes left in this matchup, the Raiders had ultimate control of the ball game.
But then again, maybe that fumble returned for a touchdown made the Silver and Black relax way too much on defense.
The Lions would go on to score a touchdown on their next drive to bring the score to 27-21. The Raiders would have a chance to run the clock out, but Oakland quarterback, Carson Palmer, over threw wide receiver Chaz Schilens on a key 3rd down, which gave the Lions new life. It was one of those if it works your a genius, if it doesn’t, it’s a what the hell were you thinking kind of play? They should have ran the ball, but that’s obviously in hind-sight now.
After a great punt by Shane Lechler, the Raiders had the Lions pinned on the 2-yd line. Several plays later, on some big plays to Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had a record setting day, Detroit was in the endzone with 39 seconds left, leaving the Black Hole in stunned silence with the Raiders now down 28-27.
The Raiders had one last chance, but a 65-yd attempt by Janikowski was blocked by Ndamukong Suh.
“It’s probably one of the worst things that happened since I’ve been here,” third-year safety Mike Mitchell said. “To be winning like we were winning and then just not being able to close. … That definitely hurts especially because we knew how important this game was.”
Palmer echoed the same sentiments.
“Very demoralizing,” Palmer said. “We had chances to close them out and a chance to put them away there and just didn’t make enough plays when it came down to it.”
This loss was definitely a heart-breaker to Raider Nation as well. With the Broncos losing to the New England Patriots, the Raiders had a chance to go into the last two weeks of the season tied with Denver at 8-6 (but instead are 7-7), with a chance to win the division. Now they will need a lot of help, not two mention a 2-0 streak on their part to end the season, if they want to have a chance to win the division and make the playoffs.
I’m not sure if this Raiders squad can pull of this feat. The resiliency tank seems to be dry at this point of the season for the Raiders. With the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality of Oakland, you have to wonder do they even deserve to make the playoffs?
The Dr. Jekyll perspective of the Raiders put out a solid performance, as Palmer threw for 367 yards and a touchdown, while running back Michael Bush had 77 yards rushing, not to mention 62 yards receiving and wide receiver, Darrius Heyward-Bey had a career high day with eight catches for 155 yards and one touchdown score. The defense held the Lions in check only allowing 14 points for 3 1/2 quarters.
Then Mr. Hyde took over. Heyward-Bey would fumble towards the end of the third quarter, which would have put the Raiders in the redzone looking to score another touchdown. Palmer could not convert a key third down, that could have won the game for Oakland on their second to last drive. Cornerback Standford Rout would get a pass interference call that would put the Lions on Oakland’s six-yard line of their last drive, right after Detroit was penalized for holding on the previous play and had 24 yards, instead of six yards to go for a touchdown. And the defense allowed Stafford for the game, to throw for 391 yards and four touchdown passes, while Johnson had nine catches for a career high 214 yards and two touchdowns, not to mention the game winner.
Head coach Hue Jackson has to motivate his team to finish this season off on a high note. Can he lead a promising squad to a last second AFC West title and playoff birth, or are they simply one year ahead of schedule? With only two games left in the final quarter of the season, the task will obviously be a daunting one.
Good luck Silver and Black!
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Written by Arthur Kai