The Oakland Raiders found themselves in a hole too deep to overcome against a playoff team.
The Raiders needed a clean, precise and full 60-minute performance against a perennial postseason contender and came up with about 30 competitive minutes; that’s not going to fulfill a winning objective.
Quarterback Derek Carr threw interceptions on back-to-back offensive drives in the first quarter of Sunday's 30-20 loss, which helped the Green Bay Packers’ struggling offense.
Packers fullback John Kuhn powered through the Raiders’ goal-line defense after the first interception. Green Bay returned the second interception for a touchdown.
The Raiders’ resilience propelled the team into a competitive balance, but the energy seemed to wear off by the fourth quarter, when the offense flatlined.
Oakland scored zero points in the first and final quarters, which tells the story of Sunday's contest. The Raiders dug a deep hole early and failed to bail themselves out late.
As a result, the 6-8 Raiders will move forward without a chance at the postseason.
Commitment to Excellence: David Amerson’s Reboot
Washington’s trash became the Raiders’ treasure over the past few games.
Cornerback David Amerson continues to perform at a high level. He intercepted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' ill-advised red-zone pass late in the fourth quarter to provide one final opportunity for the Raiders offense.
Opposing offenses continue to target Amerson, but he’s answering the challenge as a league leader in passes defensed, per Silver and Black Pride's Levi Damien:
Amerson’s solid play puts D.J. Hayden’s future into question. Both cornerbacks have squandered initial opportunities as starters, but Amerson, a former second-round pick out of North Carolina State, seems primed for a reboot in Oakland.
Amerson's development has impressed the Oakland Tribune's Jerry McDonald, Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson and CSNBayArea.com's Scott Bair:
The free-agent pickup has another year on his rookie contract, per Spotrac. Will the coaching staff push general manager Reggie McKenzie’s coveted 2013 first-round pick aside to explore Amerson's upside going forward?
Silver Lining: Jon Feliciano’s Debut
The Raiders placed right tackle Austin Howard on the injured reserve list after he suffered a knee injury in Week 14, causing a shift within the offensive line. J’Marcus Webb moved to right tackle, and Jon Feliciano made his debut start at right guard.
The Raiders didn’t shy away from testing their rookie with early run plays to the right side, as McDonald noted:
Running back Latavius Murray ran through gaping holes on his right side behind a solid push from Feliciano and Webb. In the first half, Murray accumulated 64 yards on 15 carries, gashing the Packers on the right end and through the middle.
Unfortunately, Oakland chose to rely on the passing attack in the second half, allotting only six carries to Murray. On the positive side, Feliciano’s outlook next to center Rodney Hudson looks promising for the Raiders offensive line.
Black Cloud: Derek Carr’s Home Jitters?
Most teams and players perform better at home than on the road. For Oakland, it’s the opposite.
This season, the Raiders are 2-5 at home and 4-3 on the road. The disappointing home record ties into poor quarterback play. Carr has thrown most of his interceptions in Oakland. He struggled in crucial back-to-back home games with playoff hopes on the line in December.
Josh Dubow of the Associated Press and Bair provided some statistics from Carr's home games this year:
It’s too early and somewhat inaccurate to categorize Carr as a choker in high-pressure moments. He has engineered three game-winning drives in 2015. However, he must settle down when the stakes reach a boiling point with postseason hopes on the line against well-coached playoff-bound teams.
He commented on the second interception, which became a pick-six, in a postgame press conference with local reporters.
"The pass just got high on me. It did,” Carr said. “I wish that if I had the play over, I’d love to bring it down obviously, but that’s where I wanted to throw it. It was just high.”
After two first-quarter interceptions, Carr seemed to relax in the pocket. His ball placement and decisions propelled the team to a brief 20-17 lead in the third quarter.
Nonetheless, miscommunication on routes cut the Raiders’ rally short of a complete comeback. The early deficit gave the Packers an insurmountable head start.
In his second year, Carr has excelled and struggled at certain points. Most importantly, he must extract lessons from each experience as the season comes to an end.
As the Raiders progress, taking care of home-field advantage will became an essential component of their growth—especially as a team with intentions of competing for an AFC West division title.
Oakland will play its final home game against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.
In the future, whether it’s in Oakland or Los Angeles, Carr must lead this team with an even-keeled approach on the field—not too high and not too low.
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Raiders roster and transactions provided by Raiders.com.
Raiders Week 15 play-by-play provided by NFL.com.