New England Patriots 16 Oakland Raiders 9: Controversial holding call costs Raiders potential season saving win


Sep 21, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (75) celebrates after making an interception during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 16-9. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Few had high expectations for the Oakland Raiders heading into their Week 3 clash on the road against the New England Patriots. After two straight losses to start the season against the Houston Texans and New York Jets fans along with those around the league had little reason to. However after battling all game with the Patriots on Sunday the Raider Nation once again had to deal with heartbreak at the hands of the officials in what could have been a potential franchise building win.

After staying in the game to get on the five yard line with over a minute to play in the fourth quarter down 16-9, running back Darren McFadden broke through for a touchdown on first and goal that looked like it would give head coach Dennis Allen a chance to tie the game or go for the win with a two point convert attempt. That was before Gabe Jackson was called for a questionable hold in the second level on Patrick Chung, pushing Oakland back to the 12 yard line.

Denarius Moore dropped a pass on the next play right into the hands of Vince Wilfork, ending the game for the Raiders on a play many will feel shouldn’t have even happened as McFadden was nearing the plane of the goal line when Jackson “held” the defensive back in the second level. Costing the Raiders a chance at winning the game that they arguably should have won after coming to play following a flat performance in their home opener against the Texans.

Now at 0-3 after failing to do enough to pull off what would have been one of the upsets of the early 2014 NFL season as 15 point Vegas underdogs against the Patriots the Raiders season continues to go where it was expected before the game as things continue to go downhill in the standings despite things on the field looking a lot better on Sunday.

Leading up to the long road trip continuing in England next week in their London game against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium it is safe to say that any hopes of a miraculous return to a .500 record in 2014 have gotten a lot harder with the toughest slate of their schedule coming after the bye week following their road trip across the pond. That makes next week a game in which the Raiders need to bring the same effort with far more touchdowns on offense as three field goals and a controversial call negating the one they did score cost the struggling Oakland team their chance at an upset for the ages to breathe life back into what has been a disappointing September. A win in London is now necessary to make sure that this team at least gets something out of a month where little has went the Raiders way.

Quick Hits

Justin Tuck continues reputation of big games against Tom Brady

Raiders fans were wondering where Justin Tuck was most of the time in his two debut games for Oakland after his accomplished career with the New York Giants as the potential future Hall of Fame talent didn’t do much to answer the critics who claimed his production last season was merely a ploy to squeeze out one last payday. That wasn’t the case on Sunday as Tuck looked as close as he has looked to the player who was a driving force on defense behind the Giants two Super Bowl victories over the New England Patriots.

Tuck got in the face of Brady often on Sunday, finishing with a sack and plenty of disruptive moments after making little impact to begin the season. Perhaps the good game against Brady will be motivation enough for Tuck to bring back to back performances for the Raiders into next week where they will need his presence again to get after Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Needing to lead to avoid an 0-4 start, Tuck will need to show that experience will continue to make him an important player in the NFL by helping lead by example at Wembley Stadium. If today was any sign of Tuck stepping up that will be a big positive for the Raiders defense.

Defense continues to stop drives away from the endzone on the road

One of the best positives about the Raiders defensive performances in the opening three weeks has been their ability to hold defenses to field goals on drives that get into Oakland territory. That continued again today as the Raiders prevented the Patriots from scoring a single touchdown in the second half, a Rob Gronkowski touchdown catch marking the only time Tom Brady found a way to drive New England into the endzone.

It is clear that even with significant absences on defense in starting middle linebacker Nick Roach and Sio Moore (who missed today after impressing all season so far) the Raiders are good enough to keep the team in games. The problem on the road so far has been scoring on offense and not the defense’s ability to keep their opponents from outscoring them. After two under 21 point performances on the East Coast it is time to give defensive coordinator Jason Tarver some credit after he was under fire following the Texans loss. Facing one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the league without significant starting talent on the field the Raiders defense showed that they are still up to the challenge to keep the offense in games.

That starts with defending the endzone, which after all is the goal of the defense whenever they step onto the field. If Oakland can keep holding teams to 16 points on the road things should get better as Derek Carr and the offense develop.

Running game, drive finishing lead to offense falling short

Like in the New York Jets game the Raiders offense just couldn’t get the touchdowns needed to win a game in which the defense held their opponents to a manageable amount of points. Settling for three Sebastian Janikowski field goals in the game and the aforementioned controversial no-touchdown call on the McFadden run, Derek Carr’s drives just could not find the back of the endzone for whatever reason on Sunday.

Part of that was an over reliance on the running game as Greg Olson went to two running plays on 2nd and 1/3rd and 1 to Latavius Murray in the second half that led to a punt, in addition to a running game that only amounted to 67 yards on the day. The passing game fared slightly better with 176 yards, but with drives falling short of the endzone being the factor in losing the game it will be difficult for fans to stop their criticisms of the offensive coordinator from the opening two weeks as in Week 1 along with Week 3 the offense has let the team down to say the least.

Growing pains were expected with a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr along with an unspectacular running back and wideout core, but the lack of touchdowns has been the biggest problem for the Raiders in the opening month. Part of that problem can be laid on execution, but Greg Olson’s playcalling will continue to be questioned as long as the results don’t improve. Signs are there that it could get better, but that means little as long as the team can’t find the endzone.