By Steve Corkran
Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 at 6:55 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders on Sunday lost their fifth straight game. In the process, they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and assured a losing record for the eighth time in 10 seasons.
The Raiders can’t catch the Colts, who won their eighth game of the season Sunday. The best the Raiders could do is to win their final four games and finish 7-9.
The Steelers and Bengals already are at seven victories, and they play each other one more time. That guarantees that one of them will finish ahead of the Raiders, too.
So, it’s on to 2013 for the Raiders on the heels of their 20-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns and the end of their hopes for their first playoff berth in 10 seasons.
“There’s nowhere to go but up, unfortunately,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “The good thing is, we get to play fast. We don’t have to think about it for very long. We got to start focusing tonight, we have to start watching tape tonight.
“See what Denver does, see how much they’ve changed since the last time we played them. Nothing cures a five-game skid like a win at home on Thursday night against a team like that.”
Modifying goals and lowering expectations are not what the Raiders envisioned after only 12 games. Yet, that’s what they’re reduced to doing in light of a 3-9 record.
Free safety/cornerback Michael Huff talked about the Raiders having a top-five-caliber defense at the start of the season.
“It’s like it’s the same — can’t stop the run, can’t stop the pass,” Huff said. “Things just aren’t going well on defense. Right now, I guess we’re just a bad defense. We can’t really hide it. At this point, the numbers don’t really allow it. We’re just bad right now.”
The Raiders had to feel good about playing a Browns team that entered with a similar 3-8 record and a string of 12 straight road losses.
Yet, the Browns pretty much controlled the game from the outset, leading the entire way and surviving a brief scare from the Raiders early in the fourth quarter.
That threat ended with a Palmer pass that was intercepted and an ensuing drive that yielded a Browns touchdown.
That Browns drive began at their own 6-yard line. It ended 14 plays later with rookie running back Trent Richardson breezing into the end zone on a 3-yard run.
“When you have them first-and-94, we have to make a stop,” Allen said. “There was a critical third down in that series that they converted to keep the drive alive. Third down overall in the game was pretty good defensively. That was a critical play in the game. We have to find a way to get off the field and stop them in those situations.”
Now the Raiders have to find a way to build some momentum heading into the offseason, when Allen, general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis continue the process of making over the roster.
They hoped this season would end with a playoff berth and run at a Super Bowl title. Instead, it died a painful death Sunday, with four games to play.
– Tight end Brandon Myers’ breakout season got a whole lot better Sunday.
He caught 14 passes for 130 yards against the Browns. The 14 receptions tied the franchise mark set by wide receiver Tim Brown in 1997.
“Brandon has done a nice job for us in the passing game,” Allen said. “Obviously, our quarterback feels comfortable with him. I’m not really looking for silver linings right now but, yeah, he’s done a nice job for us.”
Time and again, Palmer looked for Myers whenever a play broke down or other receivers weren’t open. Time and again, Myers made the play. He caught all but one pass thrown his way.
Palmer said Myers has the ability to do the right thing more times than not, which leads Palmer to look Myers’ way quite often, as he did on the final Raiders drive that resulted in a touchdown by Myers.
“He’s just a good football player,” Palmer said. “He makes plays. He gets open. He really understands what we’re trying to do as an offense. He understands how to get open. He understands defenses. He understands coverages and seems to always kind of find an open spot.
“Just, naturally, you don’t teach that. You don’t coach that. That’s just, you either got it or you don’t. And he’s got a lot of it.”
– Allen conducted his postgame news conference, got dressed in a hurry and was escorted to a waiting car for a ride to the Oakland Airport so that he could get to Texas to be with his ailing father.
A team spokesman said Allen is expected to be back in time to rejoin the team Wednesday and coach the Thursday night game against the Denver Broncos.
Here’s to hoping that Allen’s father makes a speedy recovery and that Allen’s visit helps in that process.
In the interim, Allen appointed offensive coordinator Greg Knapp as the coach to oversee practice during his absence.
– Allen confirmed that he benched wide receiver Denarius Moore and cornerback Ron Bartell for a spell because of inconsistent play.
Bartell was replaced by Phillip Adams, who intercepted a pass but was forced from the game with a head injury.
Moore was replaced by rookie Rod Streater down the stretch after failing to hold on to several catchable passes.
“Yeah, took him out there at the end,” Allen said of Moore. “Dropped a couple balls, and we got to make plays when you’ve got opportunities. Both those guys. It wasn’t from a lack of effort, but we’ve got to make plays when we’ve got an opportunity.”
Streater finished with three catches for 96 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown.
– Quarterback Terrelle Pryor was active for Sunday’s game, the first time he was in uniform for a regular-season game in 12 games this season.
Maybe now that the Raiders are out of the playoffs picture, Allen and McKenzie will do more than allow Pryor to stand on the sideline in his uniform.
Pryor didn’t play Sunday, and he still hasn’t attempted a pass in his two NFL seasons. He was on the field for one botched play his rookie season, when he got called for a false start.
McKenzie said he wants to see Pryor play so that he can get a better feel for what Pryor can do in a real game.
It says here that now is the perfect time to do so. The Raiders have four otherwise meaningless games left. They need to see what Pryor can do, as well as other young, inexperienced players such as running back Taiwan Jones and defensive back Brandian Ross.
– The Browns converted only 3 of 11 third-down plays into first downs, yet they amassed 475 yards offense.
Among those yards, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden passes for a career-high 364 yards, while being sacked only once in 37 dropbacks.
– The Raiders committed 10 penalties for 65 yards Sunday, while the Browns were flagged only twice for 25.
Naturally, several of the penalties came at the worst time for the Raiders.
On one play, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant jumped offsides on a third-and-one play from the Raiders 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. The Browns scored a game-clinching touchdown two plays later.
– Allen said running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson came close to being ready to play Sunday. In the end, he opted to give them a few more days’ rest on their high-ankle sprains.
“I would expect both of those guys to be able to play on Thursday night,” Allen said. “We tested them out. They just weren’t quite ready to go. I’d hope they’d be ready for Thursday night.”