The Oakland Raiders lost their eighth game of the season in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday night to the Dallas Cowboys. Here are the five big takeaways.
Even though the result wasn’t what the Oakland Raiders wanted, it wasn’t all bad in the heartbreaking loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in Week 15. Sure, the Raiders looked about as flat in the first half as they did in the Kansas City Chiefs the week prior, but they came out with better energy in the second half to at least make this a ball game.
One would have to believe that a three-quarter effort would have had the Raiders back to .500 at 7-7. Instead, the Silver and Black are at a frustrating 6-8 and almost certainly out of the AFC playoff mix. The Raiders have been eliminated from contention in the AFC West, but are still somehow alive in the wild card race.
Of course, this game was marred with some strange officiating calls and on-field situations. For a game featuring two teams fighting for their playoff lives, it did not disappoint. The Raiders just made a few more mistakes than the Cowboys did to cost them the ball game. This loss stings incredibly because you felt that the Raiders were going to find a way to win this one.
But they didn’t and 6-8 isn’t anywhere good enough to make the playoffs in the awful AFC in 2017. We saw glimpses of what made this team so solid only a year ago on display in primetime last night, but here we are. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Raiders’ most crushing loss of the season at the hands of the Cowboys in Week 15.
The front-seven has definitely improved under John Pagano.
It has to make you wonder why this move wasn’t made sooner. Ever since John Pagano replaced Ken Norton Jr. as the Raiders defensive coordinator, we have seen varying players on this defense make great strides in the second half. For a few series there, it all really came together for the Silver and Black on Sunday night.
Even though he didn’t record a sack, outside linebacker Bruce Irvin was a massively impactful player. His persistent pressure and on-field awareness helped set up his pass-rushing buddy defensive end Khalil Mack on a pair of sacks on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Irvin has taken his game to another level in the last month. Even defensive end Denico Autry is emerging as a third viable pass-rushing candidate.
While the Raiders’ rookie class has been largely a massive disappointment, we cannot overlook the fine job that linebacker Nicholas Morrow is doing in coverage. He has been a sponge to savvy veteran NaVorro Bowman’s teachings. They are feeding off each other in the middle of Pagano’s defense. It looks like Oakland has found a gem in the form of Morrow going forward, a former Division III star at Greenville College.
By getting constant pressure on Prescott and Morrow being in the right spot in coverage, this allowed cornerback Sean Smith to haul in two interceptions on the night. The secondary is still a work in progress, but the improved play of the front-seven is making that unit look good as well.