The Las Vegas defense lost several key figures on the road and ultimately collapsed late in Pittsburgh in a must-win game for the team.
In essentially an elimination game, the Raiders gave up a score late in a 13-10 loss to the Steelers Saturday, Dec. 24 from Acrisure Field. Both teams entered the contest with 6-8 records.
“It’s disappointing,” head coach Josh McDaniels said. “The guys work hard and to not be able to pull out some of these. We’ve pulled out plenty and then to lose in this fashion when you have a shot to win, you realize you’re close but close doesn’t really count in this league.”
A win or tie by the Miami Dolphins or Los Angeles Chargers this weekend means Las Vegas will be officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Dolphins play the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Day while the Chargers will play the Indianapolis Colts Monday, Dec. 26.
“We are talented but talent doesn’t mean wins,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I’ve seen that first hand in different years.”
Allegiant Stadium awaits for the Raiders for a New Year’s Day matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
This most recent matchup between Las Vegas and Pittsburgh marked the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” that saw then-Steelers running back Franco Harris score from 60 yards out on a deflected pass.
Earlier in the week, Harris died at 72 years old. Pittsburgh retired Harris’ No. 32 jersey at halftime, making him the third player in team history to be recognized that way.
Steeler rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett cited Harris’ presence during the team’s outing that saw them take the lead away from the Raiders for the first time with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Pickett found fellow rookie George Pickens across the middle from 14 yards out to put Pittsburgh on top.
“We were late,” McDaniels explained. “We had a double [team] and we were just late getting to the double. Obviously, there was too much space between the two guys that had [Pickens] but [Pickett] made a good throw.”
On the play prior, Pickett picked up a first down from a yard out on a 4th and 1. To that point the Las Vegas defense had been nearly lights out, holding Pittsburgh to just six points on 2-of-4 on field goal attempts.
“I thought the defense hung in there,” McDaniels said. “They played really well most of the game and tried to hang in there with a running game of a physical group with a good runner [in running back Najee Harris].”
Linebacker Denzel Perryman injured his left shoulder early in the fourth quarter sliding to a stop following a play. He would leave the game and not return.
Earlier in the game, Perryman picked off Pickett for his second interception of the year. With that, he became the first Raiders linebacker since 2007 to record multiple interceptions in a season.
Defensive lineman Chandler Jones also left the game due to injury after colliding with teammate Maxx Crosby, injuring his elbow. He would be carted off and not return to the game.
“I don’t have anything yet,” McDaniels said. “Obviously, when it happened they said [Chandler] wouldn’t come back so we’ll get more tests on it here as we go forward. But nothing on him or [Denzel].”
Though the finish wasn’t as planned, the Las Vegas offense had a fiery start to the game on a blissfully cold night of eight degrees. But three second half turnovers ultimately led to the downfall of the Raiders.
“If you lose the turnover battle in this league, most of the time you lose the game,” McDaniels said. “Our ability to take care of the football was a strength early in the year and obviously we haven’t done a great job of that in the last month or so.”
Receiver Hunter Renfrow caught his first touchdown of the season during an eight-minute, 22-second drive to open the game and put Las Vegas up, 7-0. He finished with 42 yards on four catches and that touchdown.
Tight end Darren Waller followed that up in the second quarter with a 34-yard grab that set up a 40-yard field goal from kicker Daniel Carlson to put the Raiders up seven once again.
The turnover trouble began with an interception by Carr on the first play of the drive following Perryman’s interception.
Carr threw his second interception of the game on the very next drive targeting Renfrow, who previously hauled in back-to-back catches on the same drive.
“I thought he actually threw the ball decent tonight,” McDaniels said. “Once the game started the wind died down a little bit and was a little bit toward [the Pittsburgh] bench.” The third and final interception from Carr came on the team’s final drive of the game with a chance to either tie or take the lead.
Carr went 16-for-30, passing for 174 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He has now thrown an interception in five straight games with two or more in three of them (nine total and 11 on the season).
“Everyone had to play in [the conditions],” he said. “No matter what, you’ve got to do your job as best you can. For me, I’m just trying to hit my guys and find the open receiver as best I can.”
Receiver Davante Adams was held to just two catches for 15 yards despite nine targets.
Running back Josh Jacobs was limited to 44 yards on 15 carries for an average of 2.9 yards per carry.
“It’s bullshit,” Jacobs said after the game. “It’s on us. Everybody wants to talk about the defense but they made their stops when they’re supposed to. We have to help them out, and I’m tired of saying that.”
Early in the first quarter, Jacobs eclipsed the 1,500-yard rushing mark for the season for the first time in his career. He entered the game as the NFL’s leading rusher.
Late in the third quarter, Jacobs broke a 36-yard run that would’ve been the longest play of the day for Las Vegas but a facemask penalty on tight end Foster Moreau negated it. The run would’ve put the Raiders in field goal position with a chance to go up 13-3.
“I’m tired of dealing with this shit,” Jacobs said. “Everyday I come in here and bust my ass, I see the guys bust their ass and the result is not there. For me, the last four years the result hasn’t been there. Quite frankly, I don’t know what else to do.”