The Raiders’ three-game losing streak easily could’ve extended to four in the Music City. Quarterback Derek Carr lost a fumbled snap, the Tennessee Titans and the offense failed to respond.
Then a fortuitous flag penalized the home team for defensive holding,and two plays later Carr found Seth Roberts for the game-deciding touchdown.
While there is plenty to discuss after a dramatic game, the Raiders only care about the final score. A win kept them in the playoff hunt, though they’re on the fringe and need a prolonged win streak to become a serious contender.
1) Still in the hunt
The Raiders are 5-6 and ranked ninth in the AFC. They’re a game back of a five-team pack at 6-5 following Sunday’s action, still alive heading down the home stretch. Safety Charles Woodson says the Raiders are already in the playoffs, and he’s right. A prolonged win streak is required to advance, with so many contestants. That’ll be tough with Denver, Green Bay and Kansas City twice in the final five games, but the Silver and Black will continue to push for the postseason despite long odds of getting there.
2) Curse of the return man
The Raiders can’t find a return man, especially on kickoffs. It has been a tough spot to fill since Andre DeBose tore an Achilles’ tendon in the offseason program. It’s been ineffectiveness, not injury, that has plagued the position, with a cycle of returners unable to maintain possession. Marcus Thigpen lost a fumble returning in Pittsburgh. Jeremy Ross coughed it up Sunday in Tennessee. Those special teams mistakes that hurt the Raiders lately. They’ve got to bring somebody in who can be smart and potentially dynamic when required.
3) Mack on the attack
The second-year pro doesn’t think much about getting double-teamed or chipped by tight ends or running backs. He’s used to extra attention. That happened before Aldon Smith got suspended and continues now that he’s gone for a year. The Raiders needed him to make impact plays, and he got a few on Sunday with two sacks. One came on third down and the other killed a drive late in the third quarter. He has seven on the year – that’s the highest total since 2011 – and seems to have full explosiveness after dealing with a hip issue last month. That’s good news for the Raiders defense.
4) Raiders struck gold with Amerson
Cornerback David Amerson was a highly regarded second-round pick who flamed out in Washington, but found new life when the Raiders claimed him off waivers in Week 3. He had his best NFL game on Sunday, with six passes defensed and an interception against Tennessee. He hasn’t always been that good, but he’s earned a full-time job in Oakland and the right to prove himself down the stretch. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he fits the Raiders scheme and, at 24 years old, could be a long-term solution in the secondary.
5) Dormant offense wakes up
The explosiveness that has become the Raiders offensive signature returned in Tennessee. Quarterback Derek Carr took yards in chunks, which produced three touchdown drives and five pass plays exceeding 20 yards. Those elements were missing from recent performances, which slowed the offense down and hurt the team’s chance to win. The run game didn’t get right despite a commitment to it, but the air attack was back on rhythm.