Las Vegas Raiders Josh McDaniels Week 16 review
You don’t have to be a football scholar to know that 10 points — even in the elements — won’t often cut the mustard in the NFL.
So it was no surprise to hear Las Vegas Raiders coach Josh McDaniels talk about just that in his media session Monday after his team fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-10 last Christmas Eve.
“So 10 points on the road is hard to come by when you do that, it puts a lot of pressure and stress on the defense. I thought the defense did a good job for the most part,” McDaniels said in his opening statement. “At the end of the day, it’s hard to win by 10 points. It’s just hard to do that. Like I said, no I thought we went in there and the conditions affected us, that’s not the case. I thought we played well in that regard, but we just didn’t have enough to show for it.”
Las Vegas showed a lot on a cold Saturday night in Pittsburgh. But most of it was lackluster offensive football that saw the Raiders score 10 points in the first half and come up short in the second. McDaniels’ team led 10-3 going into halftime, and instead of answering the Steelers’ field goal and late touchdown, the Raiders went quietly into the bitterly cold night.
Quarterback Derek Carr struggled mightily in inclement weather that featured single-digit windy temps. The ninth-year signal caller finished with three interceptions and a touchdown while going 16 of 30 (53.33 completion percentage) for 174 yards. That’s par for the course for the Raiders quarterback throughout his career, as he remains winless (0-6) in temperatures below 37 degrees. Carr’s accuracy was erratic as were his hands of targets who waited as it was a sad melody of unfortunate circumstances. But McDaniels won’t attack his quarterback.
“Obviously there are many reasons for this. It’s never about one person,” McDaniels said when asked about Carr’s struggles forcing him to throw nine touchdowns and nine interceptions spanning five games. “That’s our responsibility, my responsibility. At the end of the day, the passing game and the production of the passing game usually has a lot to do with how we defend, the routes we run, the ability to read coverage together, throw and catch. There’s a lot to it. I know that stat only applies to one person, but of course there are other factors.”
However, McDaniels made it clear that performances like the Christmas debacle are not acceptable if Las Vegas has championship aspirations. Because at this time of year, regular-season anime won’t all be in climate-controlled environments, and the road to the postseason tends to run through cold-weather teams, too.
“So, I mean, it looks like that’s not good enough,” McDaniels added. “And for us to be able to win this time of year and be productive, offensively we have to throw the ball better than we’ve ever thrown here in the last month and a half. We’ve been able to win some despite that, overall, but that’s clearly not the goal. The goal would be to be more productive than we have been.”
Las Vegas has two more games coming up and both are against extremely talented teams in the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. Both have locked up their respective divisions (NFC West and AFC West) and are firing on all cylinders. Unlike the Raiders, who take two steps forward, stumble and roll back down the hill starting over.
While it may seem like a far-fetched scenario to see Las Vegas leading either San Francisco or Kansas City at the half — stranger things have happened — the record-breaking streak is something that continues to eludes McDaniels’ crew. He won’t point the finger at the defense, which has held up its end of the bargain before finally breaking down in the face of an absence violation.
“So we have a lead, we have to build a bigger lead, and that’s the way the league goes,” McDaniels said. “And if you don’t, then you’re going to have to play great defense the whole game and hold them to single digits and everything to win, and that’s hard to do.”