The Oakland Raiders will end the best season they've had since 2002 next week. Coming into the Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts was the latest that the Raiders were in contention for the playoffs since then as well.
But the Raiders learned that they had come up short of the 2010 playoffs with a Kansas City Chief win earlier. The Raiders then came up short against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday.
Turn the page to see how.
What happened to the "bully" Hue Jackson was trying to build in Oakland?
They had the perfect opponent in the Colts to display all of those "bully" tactics with. But yet McFadden only had 11 carries in the ball game, while he had a 26-yard run early in the game.
Hue Jackson has done a wonderful job with the offense this year, but I have to question Sunday's gameplan. The Colts are undersized up front on defense and the Raiders run outside when they do run.
I understand the desire to use McFadden's speed outside, but the Colt defense is small and fast. McFadden is a good inside runner too, so the Raiders should have ran right over the top of the Colt defense.
Jackson even had Michael Bush running outside.
The Tampa Two is a bend, but don't break type of defense.
It's the exact defense that is meant to deal with the speed that the Raiders have on offense. The Colt safeties were 20 yards back and back-peddling as the play started.
That's another reason why the Raiders should have been running the ball inside. They just might have gotten a few deep balls off of play action had they got the running game going.
The Raiders did adapt with some dink and dunks, but it was too little, too late.
Perhaps they should have used that strategy if they weren't going to run inside earlier. Instead, they waited until they fell behind, and it cost them dearly.
The Tampa Two is one way to take away the deep ball. The best way to take away the deep ball is not to give the quarterback time to throw it.
Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and company did just that one Sunday. Freeney had a sack on the day where he was at Raider quarterback Jason Campbell's dropback point before Campbell.
The Colts had three sacks and six quarterback hits on the day.
Rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer and Mario Henderson were no match for the Colt sack masters.
Richard Seymour is the heart and soul of this team.
He was out with a hamstring on Sunday and badly missed.
I'm sure Seymour did what he could to make sure the Raiders wouldn't let down after finding out they didn't make the playoffs. However, he was needed on the field because he makes plays and gets attention from opposing offensive coordinators.
Seymour's absence was felt in the Raiders' defense of the run and pass.
The Raiders had no sacks or quarterback hits.
When Oakland blitzed, Colt quarterback Peyton Manning carved up the Raider defense with quick throws. Plus, the Colts worked overtime on protecting Manning from the Raiders' vaunted pass rush.
So what happened to that pass rush? Seymour out is what happened.
There was no one to take on double and triple teams so others could make plays.
The Raiders couldn't stop the Colts from running for 191 yards on Sunday. The Raiders are ranked No. 26 against the run but the Colts are ranked last running the ball.
The Raiders were an improving run defense until they lost rookie linebacker Rolando McClain to injury against the Jaguars. They got McClain back and stopped the run against the Broncos and now this.
Not having Seymour is an even bigger loss to this defense against the run. Linemen don't have to double and come after McClain when running the ball with Seymour out.
This means McClain has to make a decision right away on which gap to shoot. He had more time to assess where the running back was going because Seymour and fellow defensive tackle Tommy Kelly take double teams.
Seymour's absence had a huge impact on this game. Dominic Rhodes of all people ran for 98 yards.
Nnamdi Asomugha is Nnamdi Asomugha.
He covers receivers and they do next to nothing when he is on them. Manning did challenge him a couple of times but to no avail.
The Colts even had to throw receiver screens to get Reggie Wayne involved in the game. Asomugha is the main reason why Colt receivers combined for less than 100 yards receiving and Manning didn't kill it Sunday.
The Colts tight ends had to do most of the damage through the air for the Colts.
With the deep ball taken away, Zach Miller did his damage with nine catches for 66 yards. That may not sound like damage to youm but many of those catches were for drive-sustaining first downs.
He also had a six-yard touchdown catch on the day.
Miller should have been more involved early in the game.
Sebastien Janikowski and Shane Lechler were definitely bright spots for the Raiders on Sunday. Janikowski was four-for-five on his field goal attempts on the day with his lone miss coming from a ridiculous 54 yards out.
His makes came from 38, 45, 51 and an even more ridiculous 59 yards out.
Lechler had a 47-yard average on his six punts with two punts inside the 20-yard line.
I'm starting to wonder if there is a Pro Bowl in the cards for Janikowski. We already know about Lechler.
Jacoby Ford got the Raiders started the right way with a 99-yard touchdown return. I sure hate to see this young man's third touchdown return on the season not go toward a win.
The Raiders certainly wouldn't have been in the game at all without it. This special teams unit of the Raiders really has to be considered special.
It's one of the reasons the Raiders aren't worse than 7-8 on the year.
Playing the corner position opposite Nnamdi Asomugha has to be on of the toughest jobs in the NFL. Chris Johnson gave up a touchdown to Pierre Garcon but still showed he was up to the task.
Johnson had an interception to go along with three passes defensed on the day. He is the other part of why Garcon and Reggie Wayne were held under 100 yards receiving combined.
Johnson could always cover, but is he learning how to play the ball and prevent catches now?
I still want to see Michael Huff at corner, but I now see that Huff has become physical enough to play safety. Huff had five tackles on the day and showed his range in coverage.
Huff's range led him to an interception of Manning on the day. He also had a pass defensed and shut down his man while in man coverage on Sunday.
Huff was a big part of why Manning didn't have such a big day.
The Raiders know they are first and foremost a running team.
Yet Darren McFadden and Michael Bush had a total of 14 carries combined. I can hardly understand the Raiders' lack of commitment to run the football.
On the other side, the Colt running game was the real story of the game. Dominic Rhodes goes from the UFL to help win the day for the Colts.
The Raiders were already eliminated from the playoffs before the game. This game as well as others this season showed that they are not too far from being the team that they want to be.
Raider Nation should pack the house every time out if there is a 2011 season.
There will be a good product on the field.