It wasn't really a surprise, but somehow it was still disappointing Thursday night to the faithful at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders fell to a superior team (that's been a theme lately) in the Denver Broncos by the score of 26-13.
The problem is, the Raiders did have a chance in this game.
After spotting the Broncos a 13-0 lead that easily could have been 21-0, the offense had perhaps its best offensive drive of 2012, marching 80 yards on 14 plays to make it 13-7. The touchdown play was something we hadn't seen much out of from Greg Knapp this year: deception and variety.
After stopping Peyton Manning and Denver's offense with a sack, they opened the second half with a run from McFadden of 2010 and 2011, a nifty 36-yard gallop down the right side that seemed to suggest the Raiders might punch Denver in the face (metaphorically of course) and make this a game.
Alas, it was not to be. The offense immediately stalled and continued to stall for the better part of the second half. And it was a shame, because the defense played its heart out, amassing three sacks (most of 2012 in a single game) and largely holding the Broncos despite bad field position.
Ultimately it was not enough. The only thing positive about the fourth quarter was Darrius Heyward-Bey's catch and run for a 56-yard touchdown. By then, the game was over, and now the Raiders are 3-10 and perhaps in a position for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Here is a recap of the five keys I had for a Raiders stunner Thursday and how they measured up.
I wanted to see the vertical game.
Not because of anything Al Davis glowingly spoke about, but because the Raiders seemed best suited to get big bursts rather than try to sustain offense against Von Miller and Denver's exceptional pass rush. And there was one thunderclap, a perfect bomb to Rod Streater that put the Raiders in position to get back in the game in the first half.
Would you start Terrelle Pryor against Kansas City?
Then Carson Palmer promptly threw behind Brandon Myers and was intercepted by Denver's Champ Bailey. So much for that. Beyond that throw, the Raiders didn't really take big shots down the field. And that's because in the second half, the offensive line was dominated by Denver.
At Least Make Peyton Beat You
The rationale was simple: Peyton Manning is tough to deal with without a run game. If he gets one going, forget about it. Well, the numbers are a little deceiving.
The Broncos wound up with 140 yards on 39 carries. The problem wasn't the Raiders defense breaking down. It was being stuck on the field because of an ineffective offense.
Denver ran 31 more plays than the Raiders, and if it wasn't for the Raiders defense playing well in the red zone, the Broncos could've had 40-plus points.
Pray for Bad Weather
Well, the weather was fine. And it wasn't about tricks like a waterlogged field or altered game plan. This was about execution.
Oakland got beat with the Broncos basically playing at about 75 percent of their capability, which is about as clearly as this season can be summed up.
Which position would you want addressed with the No. 1 pick?
No Special Teams Mistakes
There were no turnovers or large returns allowed. Really, only Mike Goodson's decision to return a deep kickoff from Matt Prater qualifies as a bad play on special teams. But again, it's execution.
The Raiders didn't make anything happen either. That said, they played decent on special teams, and that hasn't been the case for much of 2012.
Win for Coach Allen
Three nights after losing his father, Dennis Allen was on the sidelines coaching the Raiders. And to his team's credit, they played very hard for their leader. I give them all the props due for that.
But the loss was just as much about poor execution as it was about a lack of talent. That is the bottom line. So applaud the effort, but the 11 penalties, the untimely turnovers, the breakdowns in coverage...it looked like the same old Raiders otherwise.
The Raiders should be playing guys like Terrelle Pryor to see exactly who/what they have going forward. With the holes this team has all over the place, quantity is probably a little ahead of quality for the next year or two.
The No. 1 pick can be dealt for a solid first-round pick plus perhaps another first- or second-round pick (something the Raiders don't have).
This is not a draft with a franchise-changing player at the top. So the best hope is to evaluate over the last three weeks and then start eyeballing who could be had from the first 10-11 slots. One or two trades could go a long way on draft day.