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Raiders’ loss a cruel twist of fate, but well deserved

To lose like that, in the final game in Oakland, was certainly a cruel twist of fate.

But for the 2019 Raiders, their 20-16 loss to the Jaguars was very much on-brand. Jon Gruden played with fire all season and was once again burned in a way that led to the Black Hole giving their heroes a goodbye kiss that included plenty of boos … and garbage thrown on the field.

Well, Gruden’s Raiders were rubbish in the final two-plus minutes, so it was apropos.

For Las Vegas’ sake, let’s hope Gruden and the Raiders leave their baggage in the Bay and start anew in Las Vegas.

Five NFL questions and answers:

1. Why was that finish a fitting way for the Raiders to depart Oakland?

First of all, there’s no question the referees erred in not allowing the clock to run down to the two-minute warning after Derek Carr slid down at the Jaguars’ 31-yard line with 2:05 left on the clock. NFL referees botching a call … also on-brand 2019.

Then the Raiders and Gruden took it from there.

First, Gruden wasted 5 yards when he challenged the Carr call that he knew couldn’t be reviewed. That yardage could well have been crucial to making a first down to ice the game. Instead of third-and-11, Oakland could have converted a third-and-6.

After Jacksonville took their final timeout with 1:55 remaining, the Raiders had to burn their second timeout coming back from that because Carr didn’t get the call from Gruden in time and didn’t get into the huddle until there were 11 seconds left on the play clock. That extra timeout could have been useful on defense or offense down the stretch.

With Jacksonville out of timeouts, Gruden elected not to run the ball and get the clock under a minute before kicking a field goal or, even, punting. Tyrell Williams dropped another pass — a big issue this season — but still would have been short of the first down, thanks to the earlier delay of game penalty.

The Raiders then tried and failed twice to kick a field goal, but even that didn’t matter because the Raiders’ defense had sunk to a new low.

When you allow a seven-play touchdown drive in just 1 minute, 13 seconds to a team without any timeouts, there are serious issues.

So the Raiders closed out Oakland-Alameda Coliseum with coaching miscues, undisciplined defensive line play, awful tackling, dumb penalties and shoddy pass defense.

In other words, that’s all a perfect summation as to why the 2019 Raiders lost four straight games to fall to 6-8.

2. Why did the 49ers drop the ball in their loss to the Falcons?

One week after their triumph in New Orleans seemed to edge them closer to the NFC’s top seed, the 49ers could now be relegated to the fifth seed and playing on the road against the NFC East winner after falling 29-22 (Falcons added a late touchdown on a fumble) at home.

San Francisco was missing some key players after the Big Easy slugfest and had a letdown playing the 4-9 Falcons after facing four division leaders in a row, but that’s no excuse.

The biggest play was the fumble by tight end George Kittle — after it looked like he had enough for a critical first down at the two-minute warning — that kept the Niners 1 yard short of a first down and led to a field goal.

It appears the 49ers still have a chance to grab a bye with wins over the Rams and Seahawks — at Seattle — in the final two games.

3. Why were the Patriots risking their season against the Bengals?

Julian Edelman leads New England’s anemic passing offense with 92 receptions, which is more than the rest of the active receivers combined (71). He’s been on the injury report with various injuries this season, and a left knee injury forced him to miss most of practice this week. Still, he took the field against the Bengals, but it didn’t take long to see that he was severely diminished.

Edelman downplayed his reported ligament injury.

“I think everyone is banged up. It’s Week 15,” said Edelman. “It’s a tough sport, it’s a grind. I’m sure everyone has some sort of injury.”

Edelman had just two catches on five targets for 9 yards in the game, as he obviously couldn’t cut or push off very well. He did not run the ball, either.

The Patriots simply can’t afford to lose Edelman to a serious injury. It was questionable not to let him rest against the 1-12 Bengals for the battle for the AFC East against the Bills next week.

4. Which division is up for grabs next week?

After the Eagles needed a last-gasp touchdown from Carson Wentz to beat the Redskins and the Cowboys got their first win of the season against a team over .500 (44-21 against the Rams), that would be the NFC East. Both teams are now a scintillating 7-7, which means Sunday’s head-to-head matchup is for the division title should there be no slip-ups in the final weekend.

5. Which team is the most Jekyll and Hyde?

The Texans. After beating the Colts and destroying the Patriots at home in back-to-back weeks, Houston fell behind the Broncos 24-3 last week and eventually lost by 14. Game over, right? Not so fast.

Houston traveled to Nashville and got its groove back by taking the division with 10 points in the fourth quarter to break a 14-14 tie and eventually win 24-21. There’s still a final game against the Titans in Houston

Even better: there were reports J.J. Watt could return for the postseason.

More Raiders: Follow at vegasnation.com and @VegasNation on Twitter.

Greg A. Bedard covers the NFL for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at gbedard@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GregABedard on Twitter.

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