Raiders vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from Oakland's 31-24 Loss to Dallas

Michael Wagaman@@mwagamanContributor INovember 29, 2013

Raiders vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from Oakland's 31-24 Loss to Dallas

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Another blown lead. Another wasted opportunity to get back into the playoff race. The Oakland Raiders did plenty of good things, but they were far outweighed by the bad in a 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

    For the fourth time in the last five weeks, the Raiders came up on the short end, continuing a second-half slide that is beginning to mirror the team’s late collapse in 2012.

    Once again, the breakdowns came across the board. An offense that started out so well went stagnant in the second half, continuing a troubling trend under rookie quarterback Matt McGloin. The defense also came apart at the seams, allowing the Cowboys to take control after they were outplayed in the first 30 minutes.

    Here are eight takeaways from Oakland’s loss to Dallas.

Fast Start

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    For the second time in three weeks, the Raiders forced a turnover on the game’s opening kickoff. This time, Greg Jenkins recovered the fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.

    That was big in a road game on national television and put Dallas on the ropes early.

    Oakland has been one of the NFL’s fastest-starting teams this season. The touchdown against the Cowboys upped the Raiders’ scoring advantage in the first quarter to 86-34, a tremendous accomplishment for a team that struggled out of the gates for so many years.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum is the fourth quarter. Dallas scored a touchdown and field goal in the final 15 minutes. The result? The Raiders have been outscored 95-40 in the fourth quarter this season.

McGloin's Up-and-Down Day

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    Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin didn’t do much to distinguish himself as the unquestioned starter. If anything, the undrafted rookie cast even more doubt over the situation.

    His fumbled snap directly led to a Dallas touchdown, and his interception in the end zone was just as costly. Granted, he’s young and still seeing many defensive looks for the first time, but those two turnovers were critical in a game that the Raiders lost by seven points.

    For the day, he was a pedestrian 18-of-30 for 255 yards with no touchdowns.

    McGloin wasn’t all bad. He made several crisp throws and continued to make quick, decisive passes. At one point, he completed seven straight throws. He has also formed a productive relationship with fellow rookie Mychal Rivera.

    Still, he was a far cry from the quarterback who threw three touchdowns and played almost flawlessly in his first NFL start two weeks ago. Anyone who believes he’s clearly outplayed Terrelle Pryor might need to re-evaluate the situation.

Costly Silly Mistakes

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    Discipline. Or lack thereof. Whatever you want to call it, the Raiders were their own worst enemies in many situations.

    From Pat Sims’ personal foul on third down for a hit on the quarterback, to Matt McGloin’s fumbled snap that resulted in a turnover, to Andre Gurode’s three false start penalties (not to mention a head slap by rookie linebacker Sio Moore), Oakland made about as many foolish mistakes as one team can make.

    Every one of them was costly and preventable.

    Sims went low at Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, while McGloin and center Stefen Wisniewski simply botched the exchange. Gurode, filling in at right guard after Mike Brisiel went out, needed to do a better job of paying attention to the ball instead of the noise. Moore’s personal foul? A rookie mistake that needs to be rewarded with a rookie-type fine.

Rivera Returns

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    Coming off a concussion he suffered after absorbing a brutal hit from Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin a week earlier, Oakland rookie tight end Mychal Rivera wasn’t expected to have much of an impact in the game with Dallas.

    Instead, he made a pair of nice catches to cement his status as one of McGloin’s most reliable targets.

    The two have formed a solid bond since McGloin took over for injured Terrelle Pryor, which will be pivotal going forward if the Raiders decide to stick with McGloin as the starter. At the very least, Rivera has proved to be no worse than Oakland’s third-best receiving option.

Jennings-McFanden Duo a Dud

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    Playing against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses should have played right into the hands of the Raiders offense, which countered with one of the league’s top running games.

    Instead, the duo of Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden accounted for just 48 yards as part of a ground game that averaged barely more than two yards a carry. Jennings did score a pair of touchdowns but was mostly ineffective.

    The worst part was that Oakland had built an early lead and was in position to milk the clock in the second half with a solid running game. That didn’t pan out, which opened the door for Dallas to roar back and steal the win.

2nd-Half Blues

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    The Raiders have been one of the NFL’s worst teams at making adjustments in the second half. Heading into their Week 13 game against the Cowboys, they had been outscored 140-77 after the first two quarters. This trend once again continued against Big D.

    Dallas scored two touchdowns and a field goal over the final 30 minutes, while Oakland could only muster a 45-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski in the fourth quarter.

    This troubling pattern has followed the Raiders for most of the season. It is a prime reason why they have fallen to 4-8 only a week after a win would have put them in the driver’s seat for the second wild-card spot in the AFC.

Run Defense Just Offensive

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    Oakland was able to contain Dallas quarterback Tony Romo for most of the afternoon, but the Raiders could not get a handle on the running back combination of DeMarco Murray and backup Lance Dunbar.

    The two combined for 145 yards rushing on just 29 carries. Murray scored three touchdowns, while Dunbar ran for a career-high 82 yards.

    That wasn’t surprising because Dallas went into the game with a fairly solid running attack. But Oakland countered with an equally strong run defense, or so it seemed on paper.

    While the Raiders held Romo to 225 yards passing and one touchdown, they couldn’t stop the running game, which consistently pounded the middle of Oakland’s defense for big gains.

    The most pivotal play of the game came when Dallas was backed up onto its own side of the field facing a 2nd-and-4 when Dunbar busted loose for a 45-yard gain. He juked one Oakland defender on the play, sliced through a huge opening and then sped into the open field before finally being dragged down.

    That sustained a drive that was capped by the Cowboy’s game-tying touchdown in the third quarter before Oakland’s meltdown in the fourth.

Where's the Heat?

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    Middle linebacker Nick Roach recorded a pair of sacks; both came on perfectly designed blitz plays when he came through untouched.

    The problem was that those were the only two times the Raiders were able to get to Tony Romo. In addition to the two sacks, Romo was hit five times, but all too often Oakland allowed him to escape the pocket and get out of trouble.

    The Raiders are the second-most blitz-happy team in the NFL, and they continued that pattern against the Cowboys. Yet for the third time in four weeks, they were unable to close the deal once they got close to the quarterback, which allowed Romo just enough time to get the throw off.