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: It’s uncertain how much weight Sunday’s 56-31 stomping by the Kansas City Chiefs will pull in determining head coach Dennis Allen’s future with the Raiders.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Smith, Charles shine as Chiefs crush Raiders]
Only owner Mark Davis knows that, and even he probably won’t put a price on it until the season’s played out. He preached patience last week with our pal Tim Kawakami, as the team transitions from deconstruction to reconstruction this offseason. He said the final three games would be important in his decision-making.
In that light, getting embarrassed by a hated rival on your home field doesn’t help the cause. A win over San Diego or Denver before season’s end certainly would, but those prospects seem slim after the wheels came flying off against the Chiefs.
The defense stunk. Matt McGloin played like an undrafted rookie quarterback. Even a Pro Bowl candidate in Taiwan Jones couldn’t hold on to the football.
As columnist Ray Ratto expertly points out, let’s cool the hot seat talk. Trying to analyze Allen’s job performance is a complicated topic, especially when trying to achieve one of two answers: A. Keep or B. Fire. No need to muddle matters by gauging the temperature.
While his game management seems suspect at times and his defense can go conservative, he doesn’t have much talent left after all these injuries. He doesn’t have a consistent quarterback on the roster. There are some grumblings that Allen keeps players, and most everyone else for that matter, at an arm’s length.
Allen doesn’t have to make friends with you or me or the players for that matter. His job is to win football games and get the most out of his talent.
Whether he’s maximizing it or not should spark rousing debate over the next few weeks. That, more than anything else should factor in Davis’ decision.
Defense in a free fall: The Raiders’ greatest strength is now a major weakness. A defense that kept them competitive over so many weeks has fallen apart through attrition and poor play and an inability to master the basics.
Three screen passes for touchdowns? Come on, man.
The Raiders struggles have less to do with preparation than execution. Tackling has been poor, as have angles to the ball carrier. They aren’t pressuring the quarterback enough, and haven’t covered as well as they used to. That’s the befuddling part for most defenders. They don’t understand why what was easy is now hard.
“I really wish I knew (why),” free safety Charles Woodson said. “The last few weeks have really been frustrating and unexpected simply because we really played pretty good defense, for the most part, all season and we’ve been letting some things get away from us out there on Sundays. It’s really unexplainable and inexcusable at the same time.”
The Raiders have given up 93 points in the last two games, with two high-powered offenses left on the schedule.
All signs point to a fact the Raiders don’t want to admit. They’ve simply hit a wall. They’re tired, beaten up and ready for the season to end. They’ve worn incredibly thin due to injury and aren’t playing as well with less talent in a compacted rotation. Concession, even after such disappointing results, isn’t in the cards.
“I’m not going to say that. It’s hard for me to say that,” middle linebacker Nick Roach said. “I have the most faith in our guys and I know how much pride is in the room. We don’t ever come in thinking that we’re not going to be at our best, so for that to happen, it’s like, we just know we have to get it fixed. One thing I do love about this group, we’re not going to quit and there’s nobody that’s backing down from the challenge. Nobody said it was going to be easy and we’re going to try to get this thing right, so that’s what we’re still going to try to do.”
Problems of playing inexperienced quarterbacks: Trying to secure wins and develop a young quarterback at the same time is often a fool’s errand. Quarterback play has a direct impact on wins and losses, and a passer can bury a team single-handedly.
Matt McGloin wasn’t quite that bad against Kansas City – the defense played a starring role in this tragedy – but he was involved in five turnovers (four interceptions) that led to 28 points for the other side.
McGloin’s first real down game was ill-timed. The Raiders need wins, anything tangible to help Allen keep his job. A blowout loss certainly doesn’t help matters.
McGloin insists he isn’t worried about next year, whether it’s his standing with the club or anyone else’s.
“I’m trying to win games right now and I know that’s the mindset of everyone else,” McGloin said. “It’s not looking forward to the future or looking forward to next season while we just play this one out. We want to win and we wanted to win today. We want to win the next two.”
Turning point: The Raiders somehow pulled within four points after finishing the first half down 35-17. McGloin threw touchdowns on consecutive drives to start the second half that cut the lead to 35-31. The Raiders had momentum and were within striking distance of a major upset.
Then, three plays later, order was restored. Charles matched up in single coverage with linebacker Miles Burris, Alex Smith found him and had a touchdown 71 yards later.
Taiwan Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Chiefs scored again three plays later. The lead was again unmanageable, and Kansas City finished the game scoring 21 unanswered points.
“This one bites a little more after losing like that,” receiver Andre Holmes said. “It certainly doesn’t feel good, but a loss is a loss.”
That zany quarterback rotation: Terrelle Pryor played for the second straight week in a limited, seemingly undefined role.
Allen said he planned to use Pryor as a change of pace, but his contributions were intermittent and seemed to change on the fly.
He entered for one play near the goal line in the second quarter on a read-option that didn’t work. He also came in for half a series in the third quarter before being pulled on an obvious passing down. Pryor and McGloin seemed confused by the sudden switch, although the Raiders scored a touchdown on that drive.
Pryor played again after McGloin’s fourth interception, although he threw a pick of his own.
“Matt McGloin was going to be our starter,” Allen said. “He was going to be the guy that we were going to use at quarterback, but we wanted to use Terrelle as a change of pace. I thought it was effective there in the 3rd quarter when we were able to get Terrelle in there. I thought that helped us and then obviously we put Terrelle in there at the end of the game to be able to get some more evaluation on him. We want to be able to use both those guys because both those guys can be assets for us. We want to be able to utilize both of them.”
McGloin says he’s getting used to in-game switches, and they didn’t bother him as much as Pryor’s cameo did last week. The Raiders will continue to employ quarterback substitution, although Pryor predictably runs the read-option and defenses are ready for it.
Quote of the day: “When you’re not making tackles, when you’re not forcing turnovers, you’re going to lose. It’s as simple as that.” -- Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter, with simple reasons for another embarrassing loss.
Injury update: The Raiders came out of Sunday’s loss with wounded pride, not much else. Allen reported that linebacker Miles Burris had an ankle injury and couldn’t finish. Woodson aggravated a rib injury in the first half, but played through the pain.
The Raiders hope to get defensive tackle Vance Walker back after he suffered a concussion Dec. 8 against the New York Jets, although that’s far from guaranteed. Walker hasn’t started the concussion-related protocol after experiencing symptoms throughout last week.
Looking ahead: There’s trouble on the horizon. The Raiders face a pair of potent offenses ready, willing and able to stack touchdowns in a hurry. Seas have gotten rough, but the defense was already taking on water.
The Raiders can only hope that the Chargers are eliminated from playoff contention before Sunday afternoon’s game, and/or that Denver has the No. 1 seed locked up prior to the season finale and Peyton Manning spends the afternoon without a helmet. That could calm things down some. Otherwise, the Raiders might be in for a rough ending to a disappointing season.