Programming note: Watch Friday'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: The Raiders season is slipping into the deep, with hope and promise slowly and painfully fading from view.
The Raiders fell to 4-8 following Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. It’s the latest in a string of disappointments where the Raiders had a double-digit lead and blew it.
[RECAP: Cowboys 31, Raiders 24]
The obvious thing is to talk about fast starts and disastrous finishes. That is, after all, what happened here in Dallas.
I just can’t do it. Not again.
Don’t want these Rewinds to become broken records, although the Raiders themselves have become warped and distorted and no longer play the way they used to.
Head coach Dennis Allen admitted as much after Thursday’s game. He said his charges were beaten up, fatigued. They played like a tired team during a decisive second half, and could do nothing to turn the tide.
“I felt like we just got worn down,” Allen said. “We had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup with various injuries and stuff and, well, I mean, that’s not an excuse. It just is what it is.”
Forget the “what.” Focus on the “how.”
Being worn down and out has nothing to do with a short week. The Cowboys dealt with that too.
It’s about the physical grind of four games and three road trips in three-and-a-half weeks. It’s about the mental rigors of coming close and falling short time after time, after time, after time.
The Raiders were 3-4 a month ago. Now they’re 4-8. They were a win away from the No. 6 seed just last week, but moved six places back after one late touchdown to Tennessee. That loss stripped nerves to the wire. They acted tough and said positive things, but a team can only absorb so much disappointment before breaking down. That, more than anything else, is why the second half happened in Dallas.
“The excuses are everywhere,” linebacker Kevin Burnett said. “You don’t have to look hard for them. I’m not going to make excuses for what happened. That starts with me. You have to play better when your number is called. When your number is called, make tackles. You have to find a way. The ways don’t make themselves. You have to find them. Once you find a way, you have to make a play.”
Play of the game: Matt McGloin threw a jump ball to the shortest guy on the team, when he was covered by a 6-foot cornerback.
Surprise, surprise, Jacoby Ford didn’t come down with the ball. Brandon Carr did. In the end zone. In essence, game over.
The Raiders were 20 yards from tying the game at 28, until McGloin lofted a floater towards the corner of the end zone. He called it something different, something it never, ever was.
“It was an opportunity ball,” McGloin said. “A lot of times, I try to give my guy a shot. I probably should have thrown it better, a back-shoulder ball. I should have thrown a better pass. But, their guy gets paid too. He made a good play. That one’s on me.”
Onthat onside kick: It was a weird one wasn’t it? The Cowboys called a pair of timeouts to disrupt Sebastian Janikowski’s rhythm before trying to retain possession after kicking a 45-yard field goal with 35 seconds remaining. The delay didn’t psyche Seabass out. Mental fortitude didn’t help the Raiders, either.
His first attempt was near perfect. Janikowski ran left and kicked a bouncer right, in perfect position for a 50-50 ball and a dramatic finish. Didn’t count. Pesky timeout.
Janikowski got cute on his next try. He laid the ball on its side and put heavy English on it spun like a top, but it never came off the ground or became hard to handle. Timeout again.
Janikowski got a do over, but squandered the redo. He used the same method a second time, and the ball never travelled 10 yards. Cowboys recovered anyway, and the game was over a kneel-down later.
True turning point: The Raiders were up 21-7, in firm control of yet another game. They owned the first 28 minutes, with stifling defense and an efficient offensive game plan.
Rashad Jennings’ second 1-yard touchdown put the Raiders 14 points with roughly two minutes remaining.
Then the wheels inexplicably fell off. The Raiders forgot how to play defense during an 8-play, 73-yard touchdown drive where Dallas established a manageable first-half deficit and set the tone for a dominant second half.
“It’s a killer, and it’s happened to us a couple times this year,” Woodson said. “It happened in Kansas City and it happened again today. Those are huge points. It gives them confidence going into the half.”
Pryor sits on the shelf: Backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor was the only active Raider to not play. Again.
Pryor sat and watched for a second straight week despite the fact the Raiders have a package designed to accentuate his athleticism. It could provide a spark, but Allen seems to view it as a last resort, a panic button he’s loathe to press.
“We’ve got a package of plays and we’ve got different things to try to get Terrelle involved,” Allen said. “There was a point there in the first half where we almost had a couple of those plays. We didn’t do it.
“We had 21 points in the first half and, in the second half, there just weren’t a whole lot of opportunities.
Quote of the day: “We just didn’t get it done. There are no excuses. Give credit to the Cowboys. They kept doing the things they needed to do and making the plays they needed tomake. They beat us. That’s all you can say about it.”
-- Raiders free safety Charles Woodson, done trying to explain his team’s second-half collapses.
Injury update: Running back Rashad Jennings looked disoriented following a concussion late in the fourth quarter. His head slammed into the turf after being inadvertently kicked in the head. The blow was significant, and he must pass the NFL’s concussion protocol before being cleared to play Dec. 8 versus the New York Jets.
Safety Usama Young was in a neck brace in the postgame locker room after suffering a stinger. Cornerback Mike Jenkins also had one that kept him out late.
Rightguard Mike Brisiel suffered a knee injury on the Raiders’ first play from scrimmage and did not return. Andre Gurode filled in but was replaced by Lucas Nix after being flagged for three false starts.
Linebacker Kaluka Maiava suffered a calf injury.
Looking ahead: The Raiders have some time off before facing the New York Jets on Dec. 8. It’s a much-needed break from the realities of a season circling the drain and a chance to get healthy for the stretch run.
In a few days time, the Raiders’ second trip to the Big Apple could be virtually meaningless. If the Jets beat Miami on Sunday and the Titans win again, the Raiders can book vacations in January. The real test will be retaining motivation to play well through the finish, especially on the road, in the cold.
The Raiders professionalism will be tested, and an aggressive answer could show mettle and faith in a beleaguered head coach.