At one point Sunday, things looked promising for the Raiders. The Denver Broncos trailed the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17 in the fourth quarter and the Raiders seemed poised to forge a first-place tie in the AFC West with a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaners.
Then, the Broncos rallied for a 31-23 victory and the Raiders got run over by rookie running back Doug Martin and the Buccaneers at the Coliseum in a 42-32 loss.
Now, the Raiders are at 3-5, two games behind the Broncos and one game behind the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West, with losses against both teams, to boot.
How they got here is quite mind-boggling. The Raiders entered the locker room with a 10-7 lead, only to watch the Buccaneers score five touchdowns in the second half, three on runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards by Martin.
“We didn’t make enough plays to win the game but we were successful moving the football,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “Our team hung in there, our team battled. We tried to make a comeback and came up a little bit short.”
That the Raiders were even in the game at the end is somewhat remarkable.
The Buccaneers led 35-17 in the fourth quarter before the Raiders mounted a furious comeback.
Quarterback Carson Palmer cobbled together back-to-back drives that netted two touchdowns and 145 yards on 18 plays to make it 35-32. Then, they got the ball back with 2 minutes, 42 seconds left at their own 36-yard line.
Surely, the Raiders would navigate their way into Sebastian Janikowski’s field-goal range — about 20 yards — and then take a few shots at a touchdown.
No. That wasn’t the plan. The Raiders had the Bucs defense on its heels, and they wanted to finish it off right then and there.
“We were trying to win the game,” Allen said. “We were definitely trying to win the game and, obviously, we didn’t execute good enough and weren’t able to do it.”
Palmer launched back-to-back 20-yard passes, the first for wide receiver Rod Streater, the second for receiver Denarius Moore.
Palmer’s first pass fell incomplete. His second pass fell into the hands of Bucs safety Ahmad Black, who returned the ball 34 yards. Martin sealed the outcome with his fourth touchdown three plays later.
“Obviously, to come back and then to not finish a team, it was difficult,” Palmer said. “But we fought, showed a lot of heart. But didn’t make enough plays when it was all said and done.”
— Martin finished with 251 yards rushing, with 220 of that coming in the second half and 182 of that 220 on the three long touchdown runs.
Not what many expected from a Raiders defense that played well against the run in recent games. The Raiders entered the game having allowed an average of 102.1 yards their first seven games, at an average of 3.9 per carry.
The Bucs amassed 278 yards and 8.7 per carry.
It was all a bit much for Raiders cornerback Michael Huff to digest, especially when he predicted the Raiders would be a top-five defense this season.
“I still don’t know what really happened,” Huff said. “We played so well in the first half; we gave up a few big plays but nothing really to beat us. Then the second half was kind of a snowball effect. We couldn’t stop the run, we couldn’t stop the pass.”
Martin is an Oakland native. His career game came before numerous family members, friends and former coaches.
“It’s awesome,” Martin said. “Words can’t describe it. I had a lot of family and friends, and high school teammates, schoolmates and teachers. It’s just indescribable.”
— The Raiders allowed 515 yards on Sunday. That’s quite a contrast to the previous three games when the Raiders held their opponents under 300 yards in each game.
Missed tackles, an inability to pressure quarterback Josh Freeman on a consistent basis, missed tackles, blown coverages, you name it, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
“We didn’t tackle well,” Allen said. “They did a good job of blocking, the runner did a great job of running, and we had an opportunity to make a few plays and missed some tackles. And when you miss tackles on that guy, he takes it for big gains and that’s exactly what happened.”
— Raiders tight end Brandon Myers scored two of Oakland’s four touchdowns Sunday.
Go figure. Myers entered the game without a touchdown during his 3 1/2-year NFL career. Overall, Myers finished with eight receptions for 59 yards in his breakout season as the Raiders starting tight end.
— Palmer passed for 414 yards and four touchdowns. However, he also had three of his 61 passes intercepted, including the one that ended their comeback.
Palmer came within 4 yards of breaking his Raiders record and 11 of setting the Raiders franchise record, set by Jeff Hostetler.
He took the blame making poor throws and decisions on the interceptions. In the locker room, he received nothing but praise for bringing back the Raiders from a huge deficit.
“Obviously, you can sit back and wish you did it differently after a loss; and after a win, everything looks right,” Palmer said. “We had some critical errors. I had some critical errors.”
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said Palmer had the players believing the whole time.
“Carson’s the type of guy, he has the talent to bring us back,” Heyward-Bey said. “But it’s all about his leadership. The stuff he was staying in the huddle, just keeping us into the game, making us believe we could make a play.
“At first he was like, ‘We just need one. Now we need two.’ We went out there and tried to make it happen but, unfortunately, we just ended up on the wrong end.”
— Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant was taken to a local hospital with an accelerated heartbeat early in the second half, a team official said.
The official said Bryant was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. No other update was provided.
— Lamarr Houston turned in the key play on special teams when he blocked a field-goal attempt in the first quarter and returned it 34 yards.
The Raiders cashed in the drive with a Janikowski field goal.
It turned out to be a mixed bag on special teams play overall.
Shane Lechler faked a punt in the second quarter, throwing a short pass to running back Taiwan Jones. The Bucs sniffed out the fake, tackled Jones well shy of the first-down marker and took over on downs.
“It’s part of some things that we have in our arsenal,” Allen said. “They brought the gunner in and they did a nice job of adjusting back out and they made the play and we didn’t.”
— Running back Darren McFadden rushed for 17 yards on seven carries before leaving the game with a right ankle injury.
“I’m not really sure the extent of it,” Allen said. “The X-rays were negative but, obviously. we’ll have to take a look at it and see where he’s at.”
Making matters worse, backup back Mike Goodson also suffered an ankle injury, and he wasn’t able to finish the game.
Allen said Goodson did not receive X-rays on his ankle.
For now, the Raiders might be looking at more of Jones and fullback Marcel Reece if McFadden and Goodson aren’t able to play next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
They also have the potential to sign a free agent or sign rookie Jeremy Stewart from their practice squad.
— The Buccaneers beat the Raiders at home for the firs time in six tries. Overall, the Raiders lead the series 6-3, including a loss in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season.
— Huff and Moore had games they would just as soon forget.
Huff got beat by receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams for touchdowns, and he was part of a duo that got beat by Jackson on a 64-yard pass a few plays before he got behind Huff for a 20-yard touchdown.
Huff also gambled on an out route to Williams that quarterback Josh Freeman delivered just out of Huff’s reach, with Williams turning the short reception into a long gain.
Moore caught only four of the nine passes thrown his way. It looked as if he and Palmer were out of synch more times than they were on the same page.
One play, Palmer sailed a pass 25-30 yards over Moore’s head, perhaps expecting Moore to keep running. A couple of other passes hit off Moore’s hands and went incomplete.