Updated December 8, 2022 - 10:50 pm
They’ve blown three three-score leads this season. Been shut out by the worst team in the NFC South and stymied by an interim coach during his first week manning an NFL sideline.
But no loss is too embarrassing for this group of Raiders, who somehow managed to outdo themselves Thursday night inside the spectacular SoFi Stadium.
The Raiders reached a new low in their first year under coach Josh McDaniels, squandering a 16-3 fourth-quarter lead to a lowly Los Angeles Rams team without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp — and with embattled quarterback Baker Mayfield, whom they acquired via waivers this week after six disastrous starts in Carolina.
Their three-game winning streak is over. Their season is, too.
Their remaining four games bear no significance because they inexplicably wilted in the fourth quarter to one of the worst teams in the NFL.
“These are hard lessons to learn,” said McDaniels, his voice trailing and feet fidgeting while he stood at a lectern in the bowels of the stadium and attempted to explain away the latest egregious loss on his record. “We’ve got to be able to extend the lead when we have one. Keep competing, not let our foot off the gas … and try to play the same way we were when the game starts.
“Obviously,” he added, “I haven’t done a good enough job of being able to get us to do that.”
Perhaps the Raiders played to their potential during the three-game winning streak that concluded Thursday, riding Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs and timely defensive execution to victories over the Broncos, Seahawks and Chargers.
But the winning streak was a tease, serving as a reminder of promise that will ultimately go unfulfilled. Because for the better part of the season, the Raiders have been an undisciplined team that will blow any lead with their lack of situational success.
The red-zone issues emerged again against the Rams: they went 1 for 4 scoring touchdowns when they reached the opposing 20-yard line, concluding one such trip with a costly lollipop pick by quarterback Derek Carr.
They committed seven penalties for 94 yards, including two costly defensive fouls on the Rams’ penultimate scoring drive and two more on their game-winning drive.
McDaniels’ play-calling was stale as well, serving to marginalize Adams, who caught one pass in the second half.
In a game the Raiders absolutely needed to win to preserve their unlikely playoff chances, they went away from their best players and totaled 57 yards of offense in the second half as a result.
‘A team thing’
“We left some plays out there and some points out there,” Carr said after one of the worst games of his nine-year career. “And at the end of the game, I don’t think we finished it how we could have finished it to win the game. We just didn’t execute.”
Funny enough, execution wasn’t an issue for Mayfield in his Rams debut. Despite limited knowledge of the playbook and backup receivers to his left and right, he guided a 98-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, executing rather brilliantly sans any timeouts in 1:45.
One of the greatest moments of his career doubles as one of the worst moments for McDaniels, who said this particular blown two-score lead “isn’t an offense, defense or special teams thing. It’s a team thing.”
More specifically, a Raiders thing.