Programming note: Watch Monday’s Raiders press conference with head coach Dennis Allen live on CSN California and streaming live online right here at 1pm
What you need to know: Before a question could be asked, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen stated the obvious.
“We got beat by a better team today,” Allen said.
Yup. Sure did. Sunday’s 34-14 loss to the Denver Broncos was never close, never in the balance. The Raiders were certainly outgunned heading into their season finale, with little chance of competing with the AFC’s juggernaut.
The same can be said in two previous games with the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. The rest of the AFC West earned a playoff berth. The 4-12 Raiders got a high draft pick.
The Raiders don’t have the talent to compete within their own division, the space that matters most. Winning the division is the surest way to the playoffs. As the Chiefs and Chargers proved, staying close can get you in postseason. The Raiders can’t keep up with a grouping as tough as any in football.
Simply put, the Raiders can’t compete with those teams right now. There’s an argument that coaching plays a role in this disparity, but we’re going to save that for another space. Ink will be spilled and web site space consumed with Allen’s place in all this failure. It just won’t be here.
We’ll offer a closer look at the real talent disparity between the Raiders and everyone else. Save left tackle Jared Veldheer, how many Raiders would start on any other AFC West team? The simple answer: not many.
The Raiders don’t have much talent left, especially after their razor-thin depth chart was depleted by injury. Much of the roster is headed for unrestricted free agency, leaving many to wonder which players will create a foundation for future success.
The Raiders have salary-cap space and a full compliment of draft picks to supplement this roster, a must if the team hopes to compete in this stacked division.
“We’ve got a lot of areas we have to try to improve,” Allen said. “I think, as we go through the next couple of months, we’ll have the plan formulated exactly where we want to try to improve our football team through free agency, where we want to try to improve our football team through the draft.”
In 2013, the roster as constructed just couldn’t get the job done. It was loaded with value free agents and young players, a requisite while trying to get right with the salary cap.
General manager Reggie McKenzie made some good pickups and some big mistakes (see: Flynn, Matt) that hurt this year’s squad. The Raiders got by on Terrelle Pryor’s athleticism and Jason Tarver’s fancy blitzes for a while, but the opposition caught up and the Raiders were exposed.
That was crystal clear over the past three games, where the Raiders stood little chance against divisional foes.
“We could never gather ourselves and get a win, and that was frustrating not being able to get it done,” free safety Charles Woodson said. “This one’s over, this one’s in the books and guys will be able to reflect on this season and what they may have been able to do better and apply it to the next time they suit up, whether it be here or anywhere else.”
The next time the Raiders suit up against an AFC West opponent, they’ll need more firepower to compete.
Same problems for Pryor: Pryor saved his stat line in garbage time. He threw two touchdown passes and the bulk of his yardage in the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach and the Broncos in cruise control.
After three quarters, Pryor was 8-for-16 for 58 yards. Fifteen game minutes later, he was 21-for-38 for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
Early on, before the late-game turn, Pryor looked like the same quarterback that got benched following a healthy return from a knee sprain.
Pryor seemed hesitant in his decision-making, and was often inaccurate when he finally pulled the trigger. He didn’t lead receivers well until the end, and the offense seemed disjointed with Pryor at the helm. He was booed several times after particularly poor throws.
Things picked up late, when Pryor threw much better passes. Most of that came in a hurry-up offense, when the Raiders found an offensive groove.
The ups and downs that plagued Pryor most of the season will be his biggest point of emphasis this offseason.
“I would say I’m inconsistent. Period,” Pryor said. “I have to get better.”
It was over when…: Manning found Demaryius Thomas on a 63-yard touchdown strike that made it 24-0 midway through the second quarter.
Manning made it look so easy, and proved that the Broncos could score at will against a tired Raiders defense. Denver scored 24 points in four drives, and would go up 31-0 at halftime, when head coach John Fox pulled Manning and called off the assault.
The Raiders’ kicking problem: Sebastian Janikwoski’s season of struggle is finally over. The typically reliable kicker had his worst year to date, with nine misses and an NFL-worst field-goal percentage. He sent just 70 percent through, a whopping 10 percentage points below his career average.
Janikowski was never quite right, missing mostly from the left. He pulled one wide right from 42 yards out on Sunday, the latest in a string of makeable misses for a kicker who received a four-year contract extension in camp.
McFadden’s last game as a Raider?: Darren McFadden has likely run the ball for the final time as a Raider. He had six yards on seven carries against the Broncos to wrap up a disappointing individual season that once held such promise.
The Raiders switched from a zone-blocking scheme to a power-based gap-creation and gap-control system better suited to McFadden’s downhill rushing style.
Despite that change, McFadden equaled last year’s 3.3 yards per carry this season. It ties a career low and proves that McFadden has lost some effectiveness due to injuries that have stolen so much time.
[RELATED: Raiders taking time with Allen decision]
Hamstring strains and an ankle sprain slowed him down this year. McFadden missed six games and most of three others with injury, absences that have been regular throughout his professional career.
While McFadden’s market value should be low, the Raiders are expected to move on and find rushing production from another source.
Wrong side of history: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning broke the NFL’s single-season record for passing yards on Sunday. He extended his all-time best passing touchdown mark by four, but the Raiders smashed some records they’d rather not break.
The Raiders allowed 33 touchdown passes this season, which exceeds a franchise worst set in 2011. They also allowed 453 points this season, just five points shy of the a franchise record of 458, which was set in 1961.
Quote of the day: “It’s been a tough couple of years. It’s been a tough couple of years on everybody. It’s been a tough couple of years on you guys [the media]. It’s been a tough couple of years on the fans. It’s been a tough couple of years with everybody within the organization. It was something that needed to be done and we’re excited about the future and moving forward.” .” -- Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, at the end of another disappointing season
Injury update: Raiders special teams standout Taiwan Jones suffered a severe ankle injury and had to be carted off the field.
Outside linebacker Kevin Burnett suffered a concussion and running back Rashad Jennings was limited after suffering a stinger. Jennings had just nine yards on four carries.
Looking ahead: Well, that’s a wrap. Another season in the books. The Raiders haven’t had a winning season since 2002, and have some work to do before reclaiming that distinction. The first order of business is deciding whether to keep Dennis Allen. If the Raiders stick with him as expected, they’ll have to use the funds and draft picks finally available to them to bolster a thin roster.
The Raiders have oh, so many needs, and must be smart in deciding which holes to fill with veteran free agents or through the draft.