By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders welcomed a shorthanded Dallas Cowboys onto their home turf and knew they needed to win in order to remain in the playoff hunt. However, the Raiders lost to the Cowboys in a hard-fought game that they were inches from winning, 20-17. With the Raiders now all but eliminated from playoff contention, without a miracle, the team will finish out the season and look towards 2018 for a chance to bounce back. Here is a look at the Raiders team grades from their loss to the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
In the fourth quarter of the game, it looked like Derek Carr was going to pull out some magic and beat the Dallas Cowboys. With the team down by one field goal, Carr hefted a big pass that ended up in a pass interference penalty against the Cowboys. That put the Raiders on the 15-yard-line, and they needed a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win. Carr wanted the touchdown. He raced toward the end zone and reached out to try to break the plane of the goal line, but Jeff Heath hit him from behind, jarred the ball loose, and after it rolled into the end zone, the game was over and the Cowboys held on to win.
That was a tough break for Carr, who had a decent game otherwise. He threw for 171 yards, completing 55 percent of his passes while throwing two touchdowns to Michael Crabtree and no interceptions. The problem is that the fumble at the end of the game negated anything good Carr accomplished. Without Amari Cooper, who was out with an injury, Crabtree played well, catching seven balls but only gaining 39 yards with his two scores. Seth Roberts led the way with 52 yards on only three catches while Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 16 times for 76 yards.
It has only been four weeks since the Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. After that happened, some players showed anger and frustration, but the truth is, the Raiders defense has played much better under new coordinator John Pagano. The Raiders had four interceptions since Pagano took over, which is most impressive since the team didn’t have an interceptions the entire season before that. Against the Cowboys, Sean Smith had two interceptions of Dak Prescott.
Khalil Mack sacked Prescott twice, moving his season total up to 10.5 on the year. Mack has recorded a sack in five consecutive games now after only recording 4.5 sacks through the first nine games. The Raiders did a great job of limiting what Dallas could do, forcing them to kick two field goals, including a great goal-line stand in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys’ two running backs, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, only gained 74 yards on 23 carries.
Special Teams: C
This could be an A and the Raiders could have won the game if not for one horrible penalty on kick returns. Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown, but a holding penalty on Xavier Woodson-Luster nullified the great return. Patterson still had a great game, with 103 yards on his other four returns. Sadly, another mistake that cost the Raiders the game was a missed field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio. He hit a 39-yard attempt but missed on a second 39-yard try at the end of the first half. Marquette King continued his impressive season punting the ball, averaging 45.5 yards-per-punt and putting one inside the 20.
Jack Del Rio has started to turn his defense around thanks to the change in defensive coordinators. However, this was a game the Raiders had to win and it was another game where they made too many mistakes. Carr fumbling the ball at the end instead of playing it safe and at least going into overtime was a bad call. The receivers for Oakland are still playing a little too streaky and Carr just isn’t making the plays he did last year when he almost won the MVP. The Raiders came into the 2017 NFL season with high hopes and are ending it on a downer. The team needs work this offseason and the coaching staff needs to solve some major problems.
Up Next: The Oakland Raiders (6-8) ensured that they would not finish 2017 with a winning record. If they win out they will finish 8-8, and they have to play the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles (12-2) next week and then finish against the Los Angeles Chargers (7-7), who beat them last time they played.
While the Raiders could still make the playoffs if they win out, the odds are stacked against them. They need the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers to each lose their final two games of the season and the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens to go 1-1 in order for the Raiders to slip in as a wildcard with a tiebreaker.