The Oakland Raiders ended their season in Houston with a 27-14 drudging. It was not as close as the score seems. This was a less than storybook ending to a Raiders season that was magical right up until 11:02 remaining in the 4th quarter of week 16. It is too bad that one injury is so devastating to a team, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
If you are a glass half full type, the bright side of this is that the Raiders got a good look at what they need to do in the offseason. The playoffs will go forward without the Raiders and we will be looking at what the Raiders need to do in free agency and the draft. Meanwhile, here are 5 things we saw in the wildcard game:
Minnesota Vikings: If I were the Minnesota Vikings’ GM…
CFB Championship: How many first round draft picks were in the CFB Championship game?
Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger is out of walking boot after having MRI.
Raiders News: Cash or Dash: Should Oakland Re-Sign Malcolm Smith?
Raiders News: The true depth of Derek Carr’s leadership.
5 – The Raiders defense was protected be Derek Carr:
Texans QB Brock Osweiler has been terrible all year, yet he had a pretty good day against the Raiders. His 70.2 rating on the season is the 2nd worst QB in the NFL, ahead of only Ryan Fitzpatrick. Against the Raiders in the wildcard game, his rating was 90.1. If that isn’t enough to convince you, try this one: He threw 15 TDs and 16 INTs and was sacked 27 times before getting benched. He threw one TD and ran for another without getting sacked against the Raiders defense. I guess it’s kind of hard to win games without an offense that averages just under 25 points a game while giving up 22.5. That is what the Raiders were putting up before Carr broke his leg. After Carr’s injury, they averaged just 10 while giving up 25.5 over the 2 games he missed.
Without their QB to lead an offense that puts up just 3 and a half more points than the defense gives up, the Raiders were doomed. You can blame it on Matt McGloin or Connor Cook all you want, but it does not change the fact that Derek Carr masked this terrible defense, which brings up the next observation.
4 – The Raiders defense is vulnerable in the middle:
It has been the same story all year, really. If you want to exploit the Raiders defense, throw the ball over the middle to your running backs or even better, your tight end. You can also throw to your wide receivers as long as you throw it to them right in the middle of the defense. Who is there? None other than Malcolm Smith. He has shown to be a liability in coverage. Smith is a sure tackler, and decent against the run, but he struggles mightily in coverage. The Raiders need a MLB who can pick up receivers in the middle if they want to be better on defense. I’m not saying that they should cut Smith, but they need to find a different scheme for him that doesn’t require him to cover anyone, especially tight ends.
3 – Connor Cook should have been active and taking reps all season:
The Raiders moved up in the 4th round to draft Connor Cook and yet they had him inactive and running the scout team all year? I don’t understand that one. Of course, I’m not a coach or a scout. I’m just a guy who watches too much football, but from what I’ve seen, he is superior to Matt McGloin.
I can’t help but think how much different things would have gone after Carr’s injury if Cook had been active and getting second team reps instead of running the scout team. He was put in a very difficult position going up against the NFL’s top defense with little or no first team experience and his Pro Bowl LT injured. He made some pretty good throws in this game, but he definitely needs some coaching up. Hopefully the experience he gained will help him and the probable exit of McGloin will allow him to get better.
2 – Khalil Mack is a beast:
Yes, I already said that several times in this series of articles, but it is worth repeating. Mack is so good that opposing linemen have to resort to holding him in order to stop him. I can say with no uncertainty that if even half of the holds against him were called, he would easily lead the league in that category. He is by far the best defensive player the Raiders have had in a very long time. I would hate to think what this defense would be without him. He is complimented very nicely by Bruce Irvin on the other side. Hopefully the Raiders get him some help in the middle of the defense and in the secondary. If they can do that, this defense would be unstoppable.
1 – Derek Carr is the heart and soul of the Raiders:
As I stated before, Carr protected the defense, but there is more to it than that. This team looked totally beaten after he went down. Every facet of the team fell apart; offense,defense and special teams. With that offensive line and running game, they should be able to put up points on the Broncos and Texans. I understand that those are 2 of the top defenses in the NFL, but the backup QBs, McGloin and Cook should have been able to fall back on their running game. They also have 2 pretty good WRs who both had 100 yard seasons. We saw none of that. What we did see is a team that did not know heads from tails.
When you lose your leader, it does take it’s toll on the team, but that is no excuse. You have to pick up and move on. This team just couldn’t. They better hope Derek Carr never gets injured again. Without him, the Raiders are probably a 5 win team.