Originally published on Silver & Black Report on Nov. 28, 2013
The Oakland Raiders returned home to take on the Tennessee Titans with both teams holding onto hopes of winning to get to 5-6 and climb into the sixth and final AFC playoff spot.
In a hard-fought battle throughout the game, it was the Titans who left Oakland successful as the Raiders suffered from two missed field goal attempts along with the inability to get off the field on defensive third downs.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski's season-struggles continued as he missed another two field goal attempts, leaving six total points off the scoreboard. As the final score of 23-19 indicates, those six points were crucial.
Janikowski, who was so reliable last year, finished the game 4/6 and is now 15/22 this season (68.2 percent). The strong kicker only missed three all of last season (31/34), with all misses coming from 50 yards or longer.
It remains difficult to know what exactly is wrong with the field goal unit and why there have been so many misses, but the Raiders can ill-afford to miss any opportunities to put points on the board, as it showed Sunday afternoon.
“We’re not making them, not consistently enough," Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the field goal struggles. "We have to continue to work to get better there. I feel like Sebastian is going to work through this. I still have all the confidence that when I send him out there that it’s going to go through. So it’s just something that we have to go through and we have to get better in that area.”
Much of the Raiders demise can also be attributed to the defense's inability to get off the field on third down. The Titans were able to rip apart the Raiders defense on third down, finishing the game 10/18 on third-down conversions, including ending the game by converting six of their final seven third-down attempts.
The most important third down came with the Raiders clinging to their 19-16 lead on a 3rd and goal from the ten-yard line with just 15 second left. Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick dropped back and was able to find wide receiver Kendall Wright for the touchdown in front of Raiders corner Tracy Porter, giving the Titans the 23-19 lead with just ten seconds remaining.
Allen said after the game that the Titans just simply made the correct play call and read, finding Wright in between two defenders in zone for the touchdown, Porter confirmed that.
"He made a great read," Porter said of Fitzpatrick's final play. "The position I was in was on purpose and they threw a pitch right between me and the corner and it was difficult for both of us to make the play. It's just what happened."
The Raiders ran two final plays but failed to complete a miraculous play for the victory, giving the Titans the victory.
The Titans final drive included 14 plays for 80 yards while eating up 6:00 of the quarter. Fitzpatrick and the Titans were able to convert on three third downs, all of five yards or greater.
"They just out executed us, plain and simple," Allen said of his team's struggles on third down defensively. "Game plan, whether guys were out of position on certain things, coverages, we were just out executed. They have a pretty good quarterback that can make things happen with his arms as well as his legs and we didn't wrap up on our tackles. I, myself, definitely need to wrap up on tackles as well."
Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin and the offense were able to move the ball but struggled to finalize the drives with touchdowns, settling for three field goals in the first half.
Despite taking a 9-6 lead into halftime, the Raiders could of held a bigger lead.
Raiders backup running back Jeremy Stewart bursted through the Titans punt-blocking formation to block Brett Kerns' punt, giving the ball to the Raiders on Titans 37-yard line with 11 seconds left. McGloin then completed a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Rod Streater down the left side to put the Raiders in prime field-goal range, but Janikowski was unable to convert as he missed a half-ending 32-yard field goal. The blocked punt by Stewart was the fourth blocked punt of the season for the team.
The first touchdown of the game didn't happen until the third quarter with both defenses holding in the first half.
Fitzpatrick took a shot downfield and found wide receiver Justin Hunter who was wide open, and completely shook Raiders defensive backs Phillip Adams and Brandian Ross before scampering 54 yards for the touchdown and to give the Titans the 13-9 lead early in the third quarter.
Oakland's offense was unable to achieve a touchdown of its own until midway through the fourth quarter, down 16-12.
On 1st and 10 from the Titans 27-yard line, McGloin stayed in the pocket just long enough to get the ball off and drop in a perfect pass to fullback Marcel Reece for the 27-yard touchdown pass. The undrafter rookie, making his second-career start, finished 19/32 for 260 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
The interception, his first of the season, came at a costly time in the first quarter as he locked in on Reece and the Titans linebacker undercut the pass to intercept the ball and give the Titans the ball on the Raiders 11-yard line. Luckily, the Raiders were able to hold the Titans to just a field goal.
"Just a bad decision by me, that's really it," the young quarterback said of the mistake. "I didn't put the ball where it needed to be."
Allen did state after the game that McGloin's play did warrant him another chance to start Thursday against the Cowboys in Dallas.
“Yeah, I thought Matt played well. And for him to lead us back when we needed a touchdown, he got us the touchdown we needed to give us the lead; we just couldn’t hold it defensively. So yeah, I thought Matt played well.”
Running back Rashad Jennings had another nice game filling in for the injured Darren McFadden, rushing for 73 yards on 16 carries and hauling four receptions for 49 yards.
A scary moment occurred in the second quarter when rookie tight end Mychal Rivera attempted to haul in a pass but was hit as he was going down by Titans safety Michael Griffin, knocking his helmet off and knocking Rivera out. Rivera laid on the ground for a minute or two before getting up and walking off under his own power. Rivera returned to the sideline to rejoin his teammates after being diagnosed with a concussion.
The Raiders look to get back into the win column on Thanksgiving when they take on the Dallas Cowboys.