Three takeaways from the Raiders’ 20-13 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Garden, Florida:
1. Raiders didn’t take advantage of prosperity
A big part of the Raiders’ chances rested on their ability to take advantage of every opportunity. They didn’t do that. Not by a long shot.
The defense forced three turnovers and turned the Dolphins away on a fourth down. But all the Raiders (5-6) had to show for it was six points.
Between bad penalties and curious play calling that heavily leaned conservative rather than aggressive, the Raiders squandered opportunities to either extend a lead or take one.
Three drives, in particular, stood out.
After forcing a fumble at the Dolphins’ 30-yard line and then pushing the ball to the 15, the Raiders were flagged for a 10-yard offensive pass interference penalty. Facing first and 20 from the 25, the Raiders played passively and settled for a field goal.
Later, after coming up with a fourth-down stop inside the 3-yard line and taking over at the 7 to create a chance to build off momentum, the Raiders went run, short throw and short throw on the ensuing three plays for a three and out.
Finally, after coming up with a fumble recovery at the Dolphins’ 32-yard line with 58 seconds remaining in the first half and trailing 14-10, the Raiders went run, short pass and short pass on a three-play, 3-yard drive and settled for a Daniel Carlson field goal.
In each case, the Raiders were operating much too carefully against a team that almost demands its opponent to be aggressive with the play calling.
2. Curious fourth-down decisions in fourth quarter
Interim coach Antonio Pierce deserves credit for being aggressive, but given how things turned out, he probably wishes he had taken a field goal on one or both of his decisions to go for it on fourth downs in Dolphins territory.
Twice while down by seven points, Pierce went for it rather than kick field goals. In each case — a fourth-and-3 and a fourth-and-6 with 8:33 and 3:12 remaining — they failed to pick up the first down.
As a result, rather than needing a field goal to win when they took over at their 7-yard line with 1:58 remaining, the Raiders trailed by seven and needed a touchdown.
Had they kicked field goals, they would have been in field-goal position to win the game rather than having to force a throw to the end zone that was intercepted by Jalen Ramsey.
The Raiders defense was playing so well that it was a good bet it would have given the offense multiple chances to win the game with the leg of Carlson rather than needing to drive 93 yards to tie the score.
3. Aidan O’Connell played like a rookie
Like it or not, the Raiders have to live with the growing pains of O’Connell, the fourth-round rookie from Purdue.
O’Connell finished 24 of 41 for 271 yards but threw three interceptions. He held the ball too long on plays that he needed to get rid of it and missed on several chances to hit a wide open Davante Adams.