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Oakland Raiders' Playoff Hopes Take Critical Hit in Sloppy Week 13 Loss

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2015

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Josh Mauga (90) and defensive back Tyvon Branch (27) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson told local reporters that Sunday’s game against division-rival Kansas City Chiefs carried a playoff aura.

Woodson’s description explains exactly why he took the loss like a kick in the gut. According to San Francisco Chronicle writer Vic Tafur, the 18-year veteran defined his most recent defeat as one of the toughest to accept. 

Vic Tafur @VicTafur

Woodson: "I've played a lot of football in my life but today was probably one of the hardest losses that I've been a part of in my career."

The Raiders stood one quarter of smart, instinctive and productive football away from knocking the Chiefs out of a playoff spot and keeping their own hopes alive.

As a team, Oakland did enough in the first three quarters to beat Kansas City soundly.

The run defense held the opposition to under 100 rushing yards. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce only caught two passes for 42 yards. Although Kansas City’s No. 1 wideout Jeremy Maclin found holes in the pass defense, he didn’t score within the first 45 minutes of the contest. 

Furthermore, quarterback Derek Carr took care of the football and spread his targets among wide receivers and tight ends for the first three quarters. Running back Latavius Murray gave an early boost to the offense.

As the Raiders marched down to the Chiefs’ 33-yard line in the fourth quarter to potentially take a two-possession lead, it all unraveled. 

A flurry of interceptions and a missed field goal put the Raiders on the backburner as another team with potential for next season. It stings more so knowing this young team had a legitimate shot at bucking the learning curve and sneaking into the postseason as a contender. 

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The feeling in Woodson’s stomach symbolizes the aching reality of finishing the season with nothing to look forward to after 16 weeks of sacrifice.

Nonetheless, like any game for the Raiders, there’s excellence, a silver lining and a black cloud.

Commitment to Excellence: Mack Attack

Josh Dubow @JoshDubowAP

Mack gets 2nd sack of game, giving him 9 for season. #Raiders now have 13 in their past 3.5 games after 15 in 1st 8

Defensive end Khalil Mack continues to climb the sack-leaders column. He’s logged nine sacks through 12 games and resembles one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

On Sunday, Mack logged two sacks and led the team in tackles. His presence allows other defensive linemen to rush the pocket with success. Rookies Mario Edwards Jr. and Ben Heeney also scored takedowns on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith due to heightened awareness directed toward the Raiders' best defensive lineman.

As a solid tackler in the trenches, Mack contributes more than pocket pressure to the defense. He sealed the edges as a solid run-stopper, which helped the Raiders defend against Chiefs' dynamic running back Charcandrick West (nine carries, 35 yards). 

Without good field position, the Chiefs struggled to move the ball for a majority of the game. Although mobile, Smith couldn’t find comfort in the pocket, which gave the Raiders defense an early advantage.

Silver Lining: Run Defense Stands Tall

The Raiders run defense limped into this contest with major question marks. Oakland allowed 100 rushing yards to three of its last four opponents, so the Chiefs' combination rushing attack was a primary focus.

Oakland’s run defense didn’t reach impenetrable levels, but Kansas City didn’t walk all over the defensive line. 

As a team, the Chiefs failed to reach 100 yards for the first time in five games. 

Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense in Last Six Games
WeekOpponentRushing Yards
Week 7PIT138
Week 8DET206
Week 10@ DEN106
Week 11@ SD153
Week 12BUF158
Week 13@ OAK89
Pro-Football-Reference.com

Oakland stifled Kansas City’s strength but shortened the field on too many occasions to capitalize on the advantage.

Nonetheless, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. deserves credit for devising an effective plan to neutralize the offensive strength of a team literally steamrolling its competition en route to Oakland.

Black Cloud: Young, Talented and Flawed 

When the offense flowed harmoniously, Carr and rookie wideout Amari Cooper deservedly owned the spotlight.

The Raiders’ effective passing attack heightened expectations week-to-week, and most disregarded the youth behind the arm and hands carrying the offense. 

Cooper will likely eclipse 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie, but that doesn’t make him perfect or as reliable as a perennial Pro Bowler. 

Josh Dubow @JoshDubowAP

Amari Cooper no catches in 1st half for 2nd time this season (Det also). Did have run for -7 on lateral play #Raiders

He’s talented but flawed. He’s going to give you the "oohs and aahs" with incredible catches, but he’ll cause you to rage at your television on some critical drops. 

The same frustrations apply to Carr. He’s talented, confident and capable of making all types of throws. However, when he’s too confident, he may try to make an extra play that’s not available.

During the the postgame news conference, head coach Jack Del Rio told local reporters his quarterback went above and beyond his means, which factored into the fourth-quarter meltdown.

Vic Tafur @VicTafur

Del Rio said the "fourth quarter got away from us" and that Carr "was trying to do too much"

In most cases, you would want a quarterback to trust his arm but know the circumstance. 

On Sunday, the Raiders played a football game with playoff implications in December for the first time in four years. It’s Carr’s first rodeo in terms of high-stakes games in December. 

He’ll learn from this disheartening experience, but he’s due for more growing pains in his decision-making and ball placement against experienced teams loaded with talent.

Carr should be mentioned in a conversation concerning the next wave of talented quarterbacks in the league, but he’s still fine-tuning his accuracy and thought process in critical situations.

Follow Maurice Moton on Twitter for news, updates and intriguing discussion about the Oakland Raiders.

All statistics are provided by Pro-Football-Reference.comPro Football Focus and Team Rankings, unless otherwise noted.

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