HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — After winning three games in a row to creep back into playoff contention, the Las Vegas Raiders blew it all by playing not to lose against a Los Angeles Rams team that had nothing to lose.
Thursday night's 17-16 loss takes the Raiders (5-8) out of serious discussion regarding the postseason, especially considering they lost to an LA team without some of its top players and with a quarterback who flamed out in two other cities and had been with the Rams for 48 hours.
“It’s a gut punch,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said Friday. "And, God, we’ve had a few of them where we got a chance and just for whatever reason don’t end up getting it closed out.”
Among the reasons for Thursday's failures:
— McDaniels sat on a 13-3 halftime lead. Las Vegas threw seven times in the final 30 minutes and gained 67 total yards while scoring three points. McDaniels took issue with the characterization he became conservative, saying quarterback Derek Carr scrambled at least four or five times.
“On a number of those, we were attempting to get the ball down the field and had some opportunities on some of them to do that,” McDaniels said. “Passing the ball is a complementary thing.
“Just because somebody calls something, which there was a number of them called last night, doesn’t mean that the ball is ultimately going to get fired down the field or we’re going to have great, great success.”
— Carr statistically played the worst game of his nine-year career with a 36.9 passer rating. He also had a red-zone interception right before halftime.
— Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham played man coverage on the Rams' winning touchdown. Van Jefferson caught the 23-yard pass with 10 seconds left with Raiders rookie cornerback Sam Webb defending,
“We chose to at least get tight to (Jefferson) and try to make completing the ball a little bit harder,” McDaniels said. “I don’t think we did a great job of executing being on top of the player the way that we would like to. We can always look back at that and choose something else and we play a softer zone and give them the opportunity to find somebody in some space.
"I think for us the message is just going to be whatever the call is, whenever we call zone, man, split safety, post safety, just try to execute it as best we can to try to deny opportunities like that.”
— Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery knocked the ball out of Los Angeles QB Baker Mayfield's hand, getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty turned a second-and-19 from the Rams 13-yard line with 1:20 left and the clock running to a first down with the clock stopped. The Rams won the game on that drive.
— Defensive end Maxx Crosby jumped offsides on third-and-4 in the fourth quarter.
— Defensive end Clelin Ferrell jumped offsides on a punt, also in the fourth.
The Raiders should be 6-7, on a four-game winning streak and looking to make a real push toward the playoffs.
“The disappointment and the frustration of not being able to close it is palpable,” McDaniels said. “The reality is we let an opportunity go, and I’m responsible for that. So if they want to point a finger, point it at me. We’re going to try to go back to work and fix the things that aren’t being done well enough to close out these close games.”
Special teams put the Raiders in position to win. Daniel Carlson made three field goals, including one from 52 yards. AJ Cole averaged 49.3 yards in net and gross punting, and pinned the Rams at their 2-yard line before what turned out to be the winning drive.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The self-inflicted wounds, highlighted by Tillery's gaffe. Without that unforced error, the Raiders probably get out of LA with the victory.
Yes, Crosby had that bad offsides, but he otherwise had a sack, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a pass batted down.
The Raiders' pass defense has been poor all season, and the secondary made Mayfield look like an All-Pro rather than someone whose career was on the rocks. He produced 230 yards on 22-of-35 passing.
McDaniels said he didn't have an update on RG Alex Bars, who injured a knee. X-rays on RB Josh Jacobs' hand were negative. Jacobs also has been playing with calf and quadriceps injuries.
4 — The number of double-digit halftime leads the Raiders have blown this season, which is the most since at least 1930.
The Raiders get extra time to try to recover from this loss before facing the New England Patriots at home on Dec. 18. McDaniels spent 18 seasons, including 13 as offensive coordinator, with the Patriots.
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