Darren McFadden had his best game in the NFL. Jason Campbell was nearly flawless. The Raiders moved the ball at will most of the game. And yet, in a game they had to win, somehow the Raiders ended up on the wrong side of a 38-31 score in Jacksonville, effectively ending any hope they had of making the playoffs.
In the wacky AFC West, that could change in a moment. The Raiders now sit two games back of the Chiefs, and one behind the Chargers with three to play, and while the proverbial cliché “anything can happen” still applies, the Raiders will need those two teams in front of them to stumble, and win out from hereon.
The way the offense played on Sunday, that’s possible. The way the defense and special teams played, there’s no chance. When the offense bailed both out late in the game on a beautiful 36-yard TD run from McFadden, it looked like they might just control their on destiny.
They couldn’t even control the ensuing kickoff.
Tied at 31, the Raiders needed a touchback from Janikowski. Instead, rookie Deji Karim took the kick at the five, and went 65 yards before being forced out of bounds.
The Jaguars actually did the Raiders a favor by scoring on the very next play when Maurice Jones-Drew scored from 30 yards out. Had he gone down inside the five, the Jags could have kicked a field goal on basically the last play of the game. Instead, the Raiders got the ball back down seven with 1:34 on the clock.
It seemed like the offense might bail out the ‘D’ and Special Teams one last time but two critical mistakes proved lethal. On the first play from their own 40, Campbell, who threw for 324 yards and two TD’s, laid one in perfectly to Derrius Heyward-Bey, who couldn’t reel it in. There was good coverage on the play, but Heyward-Bey should have caught the ball.
That was a physical mistake. The next one was mental. On 2nd and 10 from the Jags 45, Campbell connected with Louis Murphy for nine yards. Timeout. Timeout! TIMEOUT!!!
If the Raiders call time there, they have 3rd and one from the Jags 36 with 42 seconds left, and no timeouts. Instead, they don’t call their final T.O. and, although they convert the 3rd and one, there were only 19 seconds left on the clock after they did. It meant from there they had to be perfect.
Perfection ended one play later. Campbell got sacked, and that was that. A game in which the Raiders got over 200+ total yards from McFadden and three touchdowns, and led by 10 in the 3rd quarter, got away.
And with it, the Raiders playoff hopes may have vanished as well.