Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio rarely, if ever, makes opening comments before a press conference. He did so following a 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at O.co Coliseum, and began with four telling words: “Tough way to finish.”
That was true of this game, where Derek Carr threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter. It’s also coincidentally true of the team’s playoff hopes, which were essentially dashed by Kansas City in that fateful period.
Let’s examine five takeaways from Sunday’s game.
1) Season slipping away
The Raiders always faced an uphill climb to get back in it, but Sunday’s game likely locked them out in the cold. A playoff run in Del Rio’s first season may have been too much to ask for. They’re a team on the rise, though they may be a year or so away. They aren’t ready to compete with top dogs, which was clear against Kansas City. Now focus shifts toward a respectable finish, which isn’t easy considering their late strength of schedule.
2) Carr struggles in the clutch
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been reliable most of the season, and the Raiders have been reliant upon him to succeed most weeks. Carr didn’t help his team’s cause in a vital contest, throwing three fourth-quarter interceptions. He tried too hard to make plays down the stretch and cost the offense on a few occasions. Forcing the issue might go away with experience, or gunslinger traits may be part of his game. He is a second-year kid, and he was going to make costly mistakes this season. This time, they cropped up too late to correct them.
3) Red-zone defense doesn’t hold
Derek Carr will take significant blame for three interceptions that led to big returns, 20 unanswered points from Kansas City and a victory for the Chiefs. Kansas City ended up in the red zone each time, and always left with a touchdown. Defenders consider that unacceptable. The Raiders entered the game allowing touchdowns 55.56 percent of the time. On Sunday, the Raiders were 0-for-4 preventing touchdowns. The game was close after two picks, and a field goal might’ve given the Raiders a chance to stay in it late.
4) Defensive front finding form
Let’s sprinkle some positivity into this list. The Raiders pass rush has become an effective tool over the last month, spurned by Khalil Mack’s dominant play. He had two more sacks against the Chiefs, bringing his season total to nine. Mario Edwards Jr. got in on the act, which produced four sacks against the Chiefs and killed two key drives. Good news: the defensive line’s core, from Mack to Edwards and tackles Dan Williams and Justin Ellis, three guys are young and all are under contract next year.
5) No home-field advantage
Raider Nation came to play each and every game at O.co Coliseum. The same can’t be said of the home team. The Raiders are now 2-4 at home, with three double-digit losses among them. That won’t cut it for a playoff contender. Holding serve at home is essential, even though the home slate is full of quality competition. Sunday’s loss marks another winnable affair had mistakes not cropped up at inopportune times. In what could be the last season in Oakland, East Bay fans deserve better results.