Programming note: Watch Monday's Raiders press conference with head coach Dennis Allen today at 1p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California and streaming live online
What you need to know: The Raiders concluded the season’s first quarter at 1-3. That’s exactly where we thought they’d be before excitement built around upstart quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Charles Woodson’s return to form and a revamped defense that creatively pressures the passer.
That was back when the bar was set so low you could step over it, during a training camp where many expected the worst.
Still, there is cause for surprise, alarm and frustration. The Raiders are 1-3. They could easily be 3-1. Check that. They should be 3-1.
They coughed up a fourth-quarter lead in Indianapolis and fell four yards short of a dramatic comeback. If not for exceeded expectations and Pryor’s emergence, that result would’ve been deemed a heartbreaker.
They beat Jacksonville (as every team should) and lost to Denver (as every team could) in the middle. Then they completed the season’s first quarter with a disastrous loss at home to a beatable team.
They had a 14-point lead on Washington and couldn’t hold it. They couldn’t even compete offensively during 48 minutes of shutout football. A solid defense, a serviceable running game and turnover free offense should be able to hold a two-score advantage. Even with the Raiders injury woes and Matt Flynn under center, the result was unacceptable.
Another win ends up in the loss column, which was tough to take.
“As I told the players in the locker room, that one hurt,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. That one stung.”
Let’s do some simple math. The Raiders win at this clip and they’ll finish 4-12, as they did a year ago. I think Allen and general manger Reggie McKenzie believe these Raiders are better than that.
The players certainly do, and they understand wins are hard to come by in the NFL. They can’t be given away at this rate.
“There have been plenty of opportunities missed,” cornerback Mike Jenkins said. “The difference between great teams and good teams, teams that win and teams that lose, is clutch plays and correcting mistakes. We’re not doing enough of either. We need to be more detail oriented and do the little things required to win.”
The way they’re losing can wear on the mind. Dropping close games, losing big leads or late leads can be frustrating.
“I don’t want this to be an every week thing, where we lost by three points or we had a lead and lost it,” Jenkins said. “It simply can’t be that way anymore.”
The Raiders still have time on their side. With strong odds that Pryor will return next week against San Diego, they still have hope. The Raiders have 12 games left to play, plenty of time to reverse fortune, play better and improve on last year’s lot. It will take improved execution, improved health and sustained focus to avoid losing games they should win.
“We can’t look back, man,” left tackle Khalif Barnes said. “You can’t get stuck in the past if you want to do well in the future. Our record is what it is, and we know we have to play better from now on.”
Final word on Flynn: I was pretty hard on Flynn yesterday afternoon. Those at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday or screaming at a flat-screen were too. The displeasure was largely deserved from a player who made too many mistakes to warrant the “game manager” title bestowed upon him in training camp.
He was sacked seven times, threw a pick-six and lost a fumble in Raiders territory. Unacceptable. His play also proves the Raiders right for starting Pryor in the first place.
The coaches and fans hope Pryor can return from a concussion and play Sunday against the Chargers, because Flynn isn’t even a short-term solution at quarterback.
“Matt didn’t play well and we have to move on,” Allen said. “We have to get better from that, so hopefully we’ll be ready to go for San Diego.”
[RELATED: Ratto -- Allen can't ignore falloff from Pryor to Flynn]
Play of the Game: The Raiders built a comfortable 14-0 advantage and relished in the positive momentum that came with it.
Flynn gave it all back with one awful pass. He threw it right at Redskins cornerback David Amerson, who returned the easy interception 45 yards for a touchdown.
It was a moment from which the Raiders never recovered. It started a run of 24-unanswered points and put the Raiders into the dumps.
“We had the momentum and they snatched it from us,” Allen said. “That was a huge play in the game.”
Player(s) of the Game: Game balls go out the Redskins’ pass rush. They swarmed Flynn and sacked him seven times, but a big assist goes out to the Raiders quarterback himself.
Flynn had no pocket presence, seemingly unaware of the pressure mounting around him. He held on to the ball too long way too often, which allowed edge rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan to feast.
The sacks were costly, with three of them coming on manageable third downs, another that set up third-and-long and another that forced a turnover. Many of those mistakes were on Flynn. “I don’t think he saw the field well,” Allen said. “He was part of some of the sacks we gave up in the game. … We didn’t get it done offensively, and that’s really the bottom line.”
Injury Concerns: Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece are the focal point of a run-based offense designed to retain possession, grind out scoring drives and eventually convert some big plays.
Both running backs got hurt in the first half of Sunday’s game, which left the offense in dire straits with Flynn under center. Allen didn’t define the extent of the injuries – McFadden has a hamstring, Reece a knee – but any time played without those two will be difficult.
“Those are key guys on the offense and we go as they go, but we can’t use anything as an excuse,” Barnes said. “This team has dealt with injuries all season, and we pick up and move one and keep fighting.”
McFadden’s absence would be especially jarring. At his best he can takes over a game and control it, especially when the Raiders have a late lead and need to keep it.
Jennings fills in: Rashad Jennings had to figure he’d fill in for McFadden at some point. The Raiders’ feature back has been hurt in each professional season, and a hamstring strain took him out of Sunday’s game at least.
Jennings filled in reasonably well, with 15 rushes for 45 yards and a career-high eight catches for 71 yards as Flynn’s check-down receiver.
“I thought he went in there and did an admirable job filling in for McFadden,” Allen said. “I thought he ran the ball hard.”
A major concern for the future is Jennings’ per carry average. He totaled three yards per carry against Washington, near the 2.8 averaged while filling in for the injured Maurice Jones-Drew last season in Jacksonville. The Raiders need bigger chunks out of McFadden’s replacement lest they have to alter the offense yet again.
Jennings believes he’s ready for increased responsibility if required.
“Darren’s an excellent football player and we’re going to be excited when he returns,” Jennings said. “But I’m ready to go and help wherever they need help. I’m going to do whatever I can to help win football games.”
[RELATED: 'We did right by Terrelle Pryor']
Costly penalties: Penalties haven’t been a major issue for the Raiders this season, but some flags have come an inopportune times. There was a pair of momentum killers against Washington, one of which negated a turnover.
Defensive end Lamarr Houston was called offside on a fumble recovered by Brandian Ross in the fourth quarter with the Raiders down 17-14. Sio Moore also was called offside in the third quarter that kept a scoring drive alive and allowed Washington to take the lead for good.
“Those were huge plays,” Allen said. “We can’t do that. It’s unacceptable. There are simply too many pre-snap penalties. We have to get that fixed.”
Barely “holding” on: Any miss by Sebastian Janikowski is cause for concern. The Raiders kicker is typically automatic, even kicking off Oakland Coliseum’s unforgiving dirt infield.
Janikowski missed his only attempt wide left from 52 yards out from the dirt in the third quarter, which marks his third miss in eight attempts. By contrast, he missed three field goals all season.
While this particular miss could be easily excused for distance and kicking surface, Allen blamed in on the continuing chemistry problems between Janikowski and punter/holder Marquette King. Despite King’s best efforts, two have been out of sync in the early going.
“We have to get more comfortable with that duo,” Allen said. “It’s a 52-yarder off the dirt, but any time Sebastian misses, it’s a concern. We have to continue to look at that and see what we can do to fix that.”
Quote of the day: “As I told the players in the locker room, that one hurt. That one stung.” -- Raiders head coach Dennis Allen on losing a winnable game to the Washington Redskins.
Looking ahead: The Raiders must regroup before playing the San Diego Chargers next week in their second AFC West game of the season.
The Chargers can score in bunches behind resurgent quarterback Philip Rivers, who is playing inspired football early this season. The Raiders offense must rally behind Pryor, assuming that he can play, and match the Chargers’ production in a game that could be high scoring.