American Football

Raiders’ quick slants: Steelers edition


Las Vegas Raiders v Pittsburgh Steelers
Hunter Renfrow’s 14-yard touchdown catch and run on the first drive was the Las Vegas Raiders’ only end zone visit this past Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. | Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

Another lead gone as offense disappears stranding defense yet again

Perhaps one day, the Las Vegas Raiders will make complementary football second nature. Until then, however, the Silver & Black are stuck suffering through disconcerting losses, like the 13-10 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Eve.

Losing another lead, watching the offense disappear, and leaving the defense stranded is far more commonplace than sound football for the Raiders. And that stone cold reality was only matched by the bitter temperatures at Acrisure Stadium Saturday night. The frustration in the Raiders locker room boiled over after the loss and at 6-9, there’s nothing much more left for Las Vegas.

“Yeah, man, it’s bullshit, for real. It’s bullshit,” Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, who finished with 44 yards on 15 carries, said post game. “And it’s on us, you know? Everybody wanna talk about the defense before. They made their stops when they were supposed to. Shit, we’ve got to help them out. And, you know, I’m tired of saying we’ve got to fucking help them out, and it’s just frustrating.”

At the onset, things looked promising for Las Vegas.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) applies a stiff arm to Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during Saturday night’s game.

Head coach Josh McDaniels’ offense started off hot going on a methodical 14-play, 72-yard drive that was capped with quarterback Derek Carr firing an accurate pass to slot wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who was able to elude a defender, and juke his way to a 14-yard opening-drive touchdown. He was even wearing a Raiders-branded bandana/beanie hybrid upside down on that drive.

But, once he fixed it and turned it right side up, the offense disappeared. Carr and Co. couldn’t muster anything else than a Daniel Carlson 40-yard field goal just before halftime. By that point, all the Raiders defense surrendered was a field goal and Las Vegas held a 10-3 lead before a halftime memorial for Steelers legend Franco Harris, who passed away before Saturday’s clash.

Patrick Graham’s unit continued to show up yielding another field goal before finally allowing a touchdown with 46 seconds left — a Kenny Pickett 14-yard strike to George Pickens — to take a 13-10 lead.

Carr did get the ball again for a potential game-tying field goal or game-winning drive and that too, went kaput. Instead of hitting a wide open Renfrow deep down the middle of the field, Carr overshot the throw and it was intercepted — his third of the evening — by the Steelers: Game. Over.

Jacobs didn’t want to hear about the defense giving up a touchdown late, knowing full-well he and the offense were presented numerous opportunities to add much needed points to the Raiders paltry 10.

“We still had opportunities to make plays,” Jacobs said. “I feel like in times where we was close and we felt like we was about to get a big one, we went away from it. You know, and the pass game was working early. So, you know, that is what it is, but to win these games, you know, especially in the stretch, especially you’re up, against a team like this in the cold, you’ve got to run the ball. So that’s a factor on everybody involved, top to bottom.

“I’m tired of dealing with this. Every day I come here and bust my ass and I see the guys busting their a— and the result is not there. For me, the last four years, the result has not been there. And quite frankly, I don’t know what else to do.”

Let’s hit the quick slants as fast the Raiders offense froze against the Steelers Christmas Eve:

—Carr finished 16 of 30 for 174 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He was sacked three times and sported a 42.2 quarterback rating when all was said and done. The franchise quarterback is now 0-6 in temperatures under the 37-degree threshold.

—Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams has become a ghost as he finished with two catches for 15 yards in Pittsburgh. He was targeted nine times but his nine catches for 114 yards and zero touchdowns in the last there games is appalling.

—Tight end Darren Waller led the Raiders receiving group with 58 yards on four receptions. Renfrow also finished with four grabs for 42 yards and the lone touchdown.

—Undrafted free agent linebacker Luke Masterson had to man the middle linebacker spot after starter Denzel Perryman was lost to a shoulder injury. The rookie racked up a team-high 10 total tackles and continues to be all over the field.

—Other Raiders defenders who stood out were cornerback Tyler Hall and defensive end Clelin Ferrell. Despite his smaller stature, Hall provides physicality and tackling ability in the secondary while Ferrell has found a niche as a strong linemen at the point of attack.

—The usually reliable AJ Cole struggled in the cold, too. The Raiders punter booted five times for 208 yards for an average of 41.6 — well under his 48.7 average.

—Steelers kicker Chris Boswell similarly had issues going 2 for 4 on his kicks.

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