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: Football people love correcting mistakes and fixing problems in practice. When things don’t go right, coaches and players always say they’ll get problems corrected and get on the right track.
Sometimes that happens. In the Raiders case, it hasn’t.
The Raiders struggle on third-down defense. They commit too many turnovers, frequently at inopportune times. They Raiders get flagged too often and lose composure when things matter most.
“There are certainly things that need to be fixed,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “We have to find solutions to those problems.”
It’s a little late for that. The Raiders have just one game left after falling to 4-11 with Sunday’s 26-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. At this point, the Raiders are who they are. An unwelcome identity has beenformed here, and some corrections aren’t going to get made. Odds are great the Raiders won’t change their stripes next week against the Denver Broncos, especially since good play would be an about face.
“It’s frustrating to see some of the same things keep coming up, but that’s football,” receiver Rod Streater said. “Sometimes you’re going to make mistakes, and sometimes you’re going to make the same mistake twice. You just have to play hard and keep on working on it through to the very end.”
It’s tough to fault the Raiders’ effort. The players try. They fight hard for each other and for their coaching staff. They’re just overmatched and overwhelmed after a long frustrating season that has deteriorated over the last eight weeks.
The Raiders used to be 3-4. Now they’re 4-11 and one loss away from equaling last year’s 4-12 mark.
That’s caused the Raiders to press. They want to be better than they are, and they’re trying almost too hard to get the job done right. That happened yet again versus the Chargers.
“I thought we played hard. I don’t think we played smart,” Allen said. “That’s what we have to be able to do. We have to play smarter.”
Even with the writing on the wall, Allen refuses to give up. He’ll keep coaching hard until the bitter end, which may well result in his firing. The NFL’s youngest coach can’t seem to stem the tide and get his team to win close games, which has become an immense source of disappointment as the season winds down.
“I think the guys are frustrated,” Allen said. “I think we all are.”
The frustration stems from the fact the Raiders believe they’re close to being a good football team.
“That’s the worst part about it,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “I feel good about what’s going on here, but there are just a few things that hold us back. We’re so close and we show real signs of what we can do. That’s what makes it so hard to take at this point. It’s the same things that keep creeping up on us.
“But you have to keep working and keep grinding. You can’t ever quit or lose hope or lose sight of short-term and longer-term goals. You have to keep fighting through it.”
Penalties piling up: The Raiders were penalized 12 times against the Chargers, a staggering total that is part of a larger trend. The Raiders have 30 penalties during this five-game losing streak, which shows the Raiders aren’t playing with enough discipline on a consistent basis.
Pre-snap penalties are unacceptable under any circumstance, and the Raiders had a few of those. But the after-play flags are just as paid. The Raiders got a pair ofthose as well, which proves that the team is pressing to make plays and frustrated when they don’t.
It wasn’t just the what. It was also the when. The Raiders extended several drives with penalties on third down. They gave up six first downs by penalty, a few times when the Chargers were on the ropes.
“It’s hard enough to win in this league as it is,” left guard Khalif Barnes said. “When you’re hurting yourself as often as we were, its’ nearly impossible. Sometimes penalties happen. We understand that, but you can’t make as many mistakes as we need and still expect to come out with a victory.
Turning point: The Raiders picked up some momentum late in the second quarter, and actually had a chance to take the lead. Chargers punt returner and Cal alum Keenan Allen muffed a punt that SheltonJohnson recovered, which gave the Raiders possession on the opposing 16 yard line.
A touchdown was in the cards, but the Raiders left with a chip-shot field goal. The Raiders had three chances from the 2-yard line but could get no further. The play calling was questionable, especially after passing twice from thatpoint. The Raiders tied the game at 10-10, and the Chargers took tremendous momentum from that.
They outscored the Raiders 16-3 after that.
“We couldn’t capitalize enough to win the football game after we took the ball away from them,” Allen said. “It’s disappointing.”
Can’t seem to hurry up: The Raiders haven’t functioned much out of a hurry-up offense, and weren’t able to do so late in the fourth quarter, especially after receiving bad news.
Receiver Rod Streater lost a sure touchdown after the ball came out in the end zone and was ruled incomplete despite the fact he took two steps and made a footballmove, but the Raiders didn’t react well to it.
They were down 13 points with under five minutes remaining, and took 12 more plays from inside the Chargers’ 39-yard line and came away with nothing. The Raiders had no tempo, burned their timeouts and squashed any chance at a comeback by plodding downfield without urgency.
McFadden’s last big play?: Raiders running back Darren McFadden played for the first time in a month on Sunday, and had four carries and a reception for 16 total yards. He scored a slinky five-yard touchdown where he slashed his way to the end zone in a highlight of his night.
He may not have many more in a Raiders uniform, especially after yet another injury prone season.
“It just felt good being out there with my guys,” McFadden said. “…I love being a Raider. I love helping this team try to win football games. Hopefully I’m back here next year. We’ll see what happens.
Pryor stays on the sideline: Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor didn’t play for the first time in nearly three weeks, although the Raiders had a contingency plan to get him in against the Chargers.
Pryor has been an accent piece in recent weeks, coming in for brief windows to help expand the running game with the read option. The results of this experiment have been mixed.
On Sunday, Pryor never left the bench.
[RELATED: Allen remains focused with future in doubt]
“We had a plan but the situation didn’t arise in the game,” Allen said. “We got there kind of late in the second half and were more in a hurry-up type of mode.
Quote of the day: “We played hard. I don’t know if we played smart.” -- Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, after self-inflicted wounds impacted Sunday’s defeat.
Injury update: The Raiders came out of Sunday’s game without major injury. Allen didn’t report injuries of significance after the game. Looking forward, it remains uncertain if running back Jeremy Stewart (knee, ankle), will be able to play again this season. The rest of the active roster remains healthy.
Looking ahead: The Raiders have but one gameleft on the schedule, and it won’t be easy. The Denver Broncos are the AFC’s best, and could clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win. Quarterback Peyton Manning can also set the single-season mark for passing yards next week at Oakland Coliseum.
The Raiders are fighting to end the season on a high note, and a victory over Denver would certainly do that. It still seems like a long shot.