When you look at the Raiders 2018 4-12 season, it may be hard to find bright spots. But there were several and we’ll look at the Top 3.
No playoffs. Again.
Yes, it can be tough for Raider Nation to forge on but despite the team finishing with a losing record six of the last seven seasons, there were some exceptional moments. and here are Top 3:
An Overtime Thriller
The Raiders started the season 0-3 and were going up against a rejuvenated Cleveland Browns team who started 2018 NFL Draft No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback for the first time. The Raiders got off to a flying start with a pick-six from Gareon Conley, but the offense sputtered and Mayfield was able to pick apart the Raiders secondary. Trailing by 14 in the third quarter, Derek Carr stepped his play up a few notches, bringing the Raiders back to a 34-28 lead with just 10 minutes to play. The Raiders defense continued to let the offense down, and with just four minutes left in the game, the Raiders were down by eight points. Carr led the Raiders down the field, throwing a touchdown to Jared Cook in the left corner of the endzone. The Raiders still needed a two-point conversion just to tie the game. In a play that was reminiscent of Michael Crabtree’s conversion against the Saints in 2016, Jordy Nelson made a contested catch on a fade route to send the game to overtime. Overtime was a back-and-forth affair, one in which neither truly appeared to want to win the game. Rookie kicker Matt McCrane made the game-winning field goal and Jon Gruden finally got his first win as Raiders head coach in nearly 17 years.
Nerves of Steel against Pittsburgh
When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down with a rib injury in the first half of their game against the Raiders this season, Gruden’s gang knew that this was a game for the taking. The Raiders offense simply could not get into gear until Carr put the team on his back in the fourth quarter. Carr threw a touchdown pass – off of play action – to tight end Lee Smith to give the Raiders a 17-14 lead with under five minutes to play. The Steelers, who had been without Roethlisberger due to injury most of the second half, inserted Big Ben back into the lineup and he naturally sliced and diced the Raiders defense on a touchdown drive to put the Steelers back on top with under three minutes to go. The Raiders would not quit in this one and Carr answered right back setting up the Raiders with first-and-goal after a spectacular 39-yard strike to Seth Roberts. The Raiders were unable to score a touchdown on their next three plays, leaving it to a win or go home fourth-down try from the six-yard line. With nerves of steel, Carr threw a touchdown to backup tight end Derek Carrier, who freed himself open after wide receiver Jordy Nelson was double covered. The game was not yet over though. Pittsburgh quickly got into field goal range on a fluke hook-and-ladder play but kicker Chris Boswell slipped on the muddy Coliseum turf to ensure the Raiders would win a thriller at the House of Thrills.
A Christmas (Eve) Miracle
On the night before Christmas, the Raiders quite possibly played their last game at the Oakland Coliseum. If so, it was a near perfect ending. Punt returner Dwayne Harris set the Coliseum alight with a 99-yard punt return for the first score of the game and the Raiders kept the Denver Broncos lifeless for the majority of the game. Rookie tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker kept elite pass rushing duo Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in check and the Raiders were able to establish a solid foundation on the ground through Doug Martin. The game was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but this one was a celebration for the fans. The extreme wet-weather conditions did not deter Raider Nation from filling out the parking lot and cooking up a storm on the barbecues pre-game. For potentially the last time, fans from all over the Bay Area (and beyond) had one last opportunity to gather together with their Raider family. It was a time to reminisce on the past and look forward to the future, as the Raiders now firmly have their sights set on the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nevada.