The Oakland Raiders hosted the San Diego Chargers in the season finale, needing a win and a Denver Broncos loss to get in the tournament. Denver did its part by losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Raiders wasted an opportunity to get in the playoffs, losing 38-24.
Much was learned about the current state of the Oakland Raiders from this game.
Turn the page to see what.
Stanford Routt is clearly the best defensive back the Raiders have, but $10 million for all the touchdowns he's given up is too much. Not only the touchdowns, but every time there's a third-and-long, along with the rest of the secondary, he gives up a big catch.
Sure, he has a top-five burn percentage among corners, but he needs to bring his A-game on third down and in the red zone. Those are the most crucial times on defense because you need to get off the field and not allow points.
If you can't do those two things, why are you getting paid $10 million a year. I expect a better year from Routt next year, but you can't have years like this making $10 million.
Routt took a step back from last year.
The Raiders might as well have had DeMarcus Van Dyke out there for what Lito Sheppard was doing out there. He could have at least been getting valuable experience while Sheppard's experience didn't help at all.
Every time the Chargers needed something today, they went Sheppard's way and got it, especially on third down. The man had a good game or two this year but the Raiders need corners that can cover Chargers receivers.
Sheppard isn't one of those guys.
Jared Gaither visited Raider Nation this summer during training camp, but didn't get a contract offer because he didn't pass the physical. Then he went to the Chiefs and was put on the PUP list until he healed before getting cut after one false start.
San Diego then picked him up on waivers and the man has played lights out every since. In fives starts, Gaither didn't allowed a sack and only allowed two quarterback pressures during that stretch.
Kamerion Wimbley, who has four sacks in the Raiders first game against the Chargers, didn't even get a pressure. Every pass rush move Wimbley made was shut down so easily, it looked like a man against a boy.
The Raiders will get a chance to revisit this over the offseason.
I knew defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan was bad but he showed me today that he is the worst in the NFL. If he gets another job in the league any time soon, I fear I will go into shock, never being the same again.
You'd think he would have learned from the debacle against the Detroit Lions where he had Rolando McClain covering Calvin Johnson. But no, two weeks later, he runs that Tampa two with McClain covering Vincent Jackson.
Did he really expect the result not to be a touchdown?
Without superstar running back Darren McFadden in the lineup, the Raiders offensive line has been exposed. They've done a great job of pass blocking but they can't run the ball very well with this current lineup.
Michael Bush came up just short of 1,000 yards this season while averaging under four yards a carry. That's below average and Bush clearly isn't a below average running back, so the problem isn't him.
Bush had 157 yards against these same Chargers last time they played and this time, they're starting outside linebacker was ejected. The Chargers were worse but the Raiders were much worse because of who they chose to start on the offensive line.
Second-year left tackle Jared Veldheer and left guard Stefen Wisniewsk were solid but Wisniewski was misplaced. In the first matchup between the two teams, Wisniewski played center and Stephon Heyer played left guard while Satele was injured.
Holes were wide open and the Raiders ran the ball up-and-down the field with ease. Today, Samson Satele was back at center and Bush went from 5.23 yards-per-carry in the first game, to 3.5 in today's game.
Don't wonder why.
Satele, Cooper Carlisle, and Khalif Barnes don't need to be retained.
The Raiders need bullies.
Darrius Heyward-Bey removed himself from the bust list by managing to finish a hair short of 1,000 yards. What's made it impressive to me is he did so despite all of the transition he went through at quarterback.
But he obviously still isn't the guy that he was supposed to be when drafted in the first round in 2009. He is so close now, needing to take just one more step to be an elite receiver in the NFL.
His first year, he could catch a cold butt-naked in Alaska, but has managed to drastically improve that. Last year, he caught the ball better but hardly ever got open because his route running wasn't that good, but he immensely improved there.
This year, he began the year as a guy that couldn't track down a deep ball but he's improved that by season's end. He has wowed Raider Nation with some nice plays but now only needs to add consistency to his game.
If he catches that ball thrown to him in the end-zone in the third quarter, it's a different ball game with the Raiders needing only a field goal at the end. That's the type of play the Heyward-Bey will use to drive him to work tirelessly toward finishing his development.
My money is on him to be a big-time player next year.
This was a huge game for the Raiders and they have such a young team, they just might not have been ready for it yet. The Raiders weren't too bad with penalties today, but there were several mistakes, including key dropped passes in the game.
Sebastien Janikowki, Shane Lechler, Lito Sheppard, Carson Palmer, and Richard Seymour are the only Raiders I can think of that play in a game of this magnitude. I'm sure all of the youngsters on the team got to feel something they haven't felt before, making them a bit tight.
I look for the way they react to pressure to chance next year.
It was a roller-coaster year for quarterback Carson Palmer, who came in off the couch at mid-season for the Raiders. Today, he showed that he had a much better grasp of the offense and receivers.
Was then able to put that together with his explosive arm and accuracy to play his best game. On the day, Palmer was 28-43 for 417 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception that clearly wasn't his fault.
Wide receiver Jacoby Ford slipped on the play and was unable to get to where the ball was thrown. He shot it out with Philip Rivers at his best, coming up a bit short with young receivers that had crucial drops, defense, a horrible defense, and no running game.
I can't wait to see him next year with McFadden, receivers more seasoned, and a better defense.
Unfortunately, the 2011 season has come to a close for the Raiders, as they came up just short of the post-season. The talent is there for them to go all the way but it is a process in which you have to endure heart-break.
I expect this young team to remember this next season and take advantage of any breaks they get. The defensive coordinator and some of the offensive lineman don't need to be on the team next year at that.
As hear-breaking as it was, we now have a clearer picture of what the Raiders need for next season.
I can't wait until next season comes.
Just win baby!