The Oakland Raiders missed an excellent opportunity to throw their hat into the AFC playoff race by falling to the Tennessee Titans, 23-19. The Titans managed to put the game away with a couple of second half touchdowns in what was basically a field goal fest for much of the game. Raiders’ rookie quarterback Matt McGloin had another solid game by leading the offense to five different socring drives. Two missed field goals by Sebastian Janikowski gave the Titans enough room to make a comeback on their final drive.
Here are the three biggest factors in the Raiders’ loss to the Titans:
1. Raiders fail to finish off drives:
The Raiders’ offense had a mixed day, as they had seven drives in which they had a chance to put up points. Of those seven, the Raiders only managed to punch in a single touchdown. The other six drives resulted in four made field goals and two missed field goals.
The Raiders also struggled from inside the red zone, as they manged to only put up a single field from two trips inside the red zone. The first trip saw the Raiders squander a first and 10 from the Titans’ 13-yard line. The Raiders settled for a field goal from the six-yard line to make the game 9-6, instead of 13-6. Pair that with a missed field goal from inside the red zone as time expired in the first half, the Raiders had a chance to make it a two score game and blow it open.
Those points left on the field ultimately lead to their downfall, as they lost 23-19. Just that four points left from the field goal, instead of a touchdown makes it a tied game at worst. A touchdown here and there, instead of field goals creates a much different game and makes the Raiders that much more potent.
The problem with the Raiders offense is the lack of a go-to weapon in the red zone. Rod Streater and Marcel Reece have been the favorite targets for McGloin, but they lack the ability to impose their will on defenders in the red zone. This hurts the Raiders, as they have no one on the offense to make a play when they need it most. A big-bodied receiver or an athletic tight-end would be the ideal red zone target for the young signal callers.
The progression of the offense is taking positives steps, but they need to take that next leap as they turn three points into seven points.
2. Janikowski’s wayward day:
With the Raiders’ inability to turn drives into touchdowns, the onus of the offense was put on the shoulders of the often reliable field goal kicker, Sebastian Janikowski. This season, Janikowski has struggled, hitting just 68 percent of his kicks. It is a shocking turn for an elite kicker that had been better than 80 percent in his last five seasons, including 91 percent last year.
Janikowski has missed three field goals in his last two games, which have been huge in two very close games. It has to be concerning to Raiders’ coaches and management, as the most consistent offensive weapon is out of sorts.
The biggest turning point was right before the end of the first half, as the Raiders blocked a punt giving them a chance for points before the break. With just 11 seconds remaining, Matt McGloin hit a 23-yard pass to set up a 32-yard field goal. Janikowski pushed the chip shot field goal to the left, which kept it a three-point game. He would also miss a 48-yard field goal on the Raiders’ first drive of the second half.
Those two missed field goals would be huge, as the six points would have put the game out of reach by giving the Raiders a nine-point lead heading into that final drive. The Raiders do not have an offense that will put up a large number of points, so field goals end up being much more important in close games.
The Raiders needs Janikowski to figure it out quickly, as he is key to the Raiders’ offense. His powerful and usually accurate leg allows the Raiders to position in position to put points on the board much further away than normal.
3. Defense fails to hold on final drive:
Last week, the Raiders’ defense was tasked with stopping the Houston Texans from mounting a game-winning drive in the final minutes. Ultimately, the Raiders’ defense was able to keep the Texans out of the end zone inside their own 10 yard line. It was an excellent performance in the clutch, as they did not allow the Texans to breakthrough.
They were faced with a similar situation on Sunday with the Tennessee Titans. Leading 19-16, the Raiders had to prevent the Titans from traveling 80 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown. The Raiders struggled to contain Fitzpatrick, as his ability to scramble in the pocket allowed his receivers to get open underneath the secondary.
The Raiders then found themselves in a similar situation as last week with the opposing offense inside their own 10 yard line. They looked to be in good position with a two quick incompletions by Fitzpatrick to set up third and goal. On third down, Fitzpatrick would find Kendall Wright on a quick out route from the slot for a 10 yard go-ahead touchdown. Tracy Porter would get caught playing off too deep, which would give Wright the space underneath to make the catch and turn into the end zone.
This is the type of inconsistency you can expect from a young defense, as they hold firm in the clutch one week and then allow a backup quarterback to drive down the field with ease the next week. The lack of depth in secondary hurts the Raiders, especially in end game situations when teams go pass-heavy. The inability to create pressure and keep Fitzpatrick contained created even more stress for a beleaguered secondary. In the end, it is just another learning experience for the young unit.