It was a first half that was the makings of a Thanksgiving Classic, and a second half that fit the pregame script in a game between the underdog 4-7 Raiders and the NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys in the second game of Thursday’s tripleheader. After going up 21-7 in the first half, the Raiders crumbled under the pressure in a loss to a clearly superior Cowboys team.
A Greg Jenkins fumble return for a touchdown on the opening kick off started things off strong for Oakland, who bounced back even when things got tough in the opening half. A botched snap led to a DeMarco Murray two yard score for the Cowboys to tie the game up, but the Raiders recovered with second quarter haymakers to go into the drivers seat nearing halftime.
Some spectacular throws from Matt McGloin, who once again showed chemistry with pass catches Rod Streater, Mychal Rivera, and Andre Holmes, led to two one yard touchdown runs from Rashad Jennings in the second quarter to put the Raiders up 21-7 with less than two minutes left in the second half. With Oakland getting the ball back, a stop would have seen the Raiders going into halftime with a serious cushion heading into the final two quarters.
With time running out, the Cowboys decided to show the talent gap between the star studded Jerry Jones assembled team and the rebuilding Raiders. Two throws for large gains by Tono Romo to Jason Witten and Dez Bryant set up a DeMarco Murray run inside the ten to cut the score to 21-14.
Mike Jenkins forced a fumble on the drive, knocking the ball flush out of Dez Bryant’s hands before the Cowboys recovered. That sequence would turn out to be the turning point in Sunday’s game.
The second half would be all Cowboys as the team scored 17 unanswered points in the second half in a game that has fit the script of many Raiders losses in 2013. A motivated 4-8 team with a lack of depth comes out with a flurry of effort to hang with a more talented opponent before the holes of a banged up roster with $70 million in dead cap space shows through four quarters.
Tony Romo seemed to find a first down on every third down and the Cowboys pass rush started to overpower the Raiders offensive line who lost Mike Brisiel on the first offensive snap of the game after just getting healthy with the return of Jared Veldheer. With Menelik Watson being ruled a healthy scratch, the Raiders were forced to go with fill-ins on the line once again, something that resulted in more punts in the second half. In a game where the Raiders needed to answer a high powered Cowboys offense punch for punch and score for score, a lack of touchdowns in the second half was too much too overcome.
After a passing touchdown to Dez Bryant in the third quarter the Cowboys took the lead early in the fourth quarter with a DeMarco Murray rushing touchdown to go up 28-21. Oakland’s offense would answer the bell with one last drive into the Cowboys red zone, but in a script similar to the Raiders near upset in Week One against the Colts, an endzone interception from their underdog quarterback would ice the game for the home favorites.
This time it was Matt McGloin, whose jump ball to Jacoby Ford was a head scratching decision that could have been the result of bad playcalling and poor awareness from the rookie, who forced a throw to a tiny Ford when much better options in Streater and Holmes could have been chosen for a jump ball throw.
The two teams would trade garbage time field goals, but when the final gun sounded it was a familiar place for the Raiders, who have had to suffer the bitter pill of second half collapses far too often in 2013. With Dennis Allen’s road record sitting at 2-12 over two seasons as head coach and the Raiders season all but over at 4-8 some fans are choosing to ignore the challenges of a handcuffed roster. $70 million dollars in dead cap and a long list of injuries showed in the second half on Thursday, but after raising the expectations by keeping the Raiders in the hunt Allen needs to find a way to inject some positives as the season nears its final month. After two fourth quarter collapses added to a “What if” season, an impatient Raiders fanbase got a little cranky after its Thanksgiving meal. Whether Mark Davis feels a different way is another story, but for now the case against Dennis Allen took a huge hit with the Raiders season all but over. Patience will likely grant the head coach another year, but the hot seat got just a notch warmer on Thursday.