The Las Vegas Raiders took flight to Mile High, facing a familiar AFC West division rival in the Denver Broncos. While the Week 17 game had no playoff implications, ending the season on a high note is always a positive.
The Las Vegas Raiders entered Week 17 having lost five of their last six games. However, after the season finale in Denver, they’ve finished their 2020 campaign with an 8-8 record after pulling off a last-second thriller over the Broncos by the final score of 32-31.
While the Raiders came away victorious and largely benefited from completing a two-point conversion in the final seconds, they still showed their variety of ups and downs on both the offense and defense.
Gruden has swayed back and forth this season on when to take his shots on aggressive play calls, and after the game, he explained his decision to go for the two-point conversion to secure the Raiders’ win in the end.
“I think we changed our mind three times,” Gruden said after the game. “Really for us, they used the timeout that they could’ve used at the end of that game. It’s fitting that we give the ball to (Josh) Jacobs on fourth and goal and throw the ball to (Darren) Waller to win the game.”
Aside from the victory in the win column, the Raiders achieved several franchise records — many of which were by the team’s offense.
Darren Waller broke the Raiders’ single-season reception record set by Tim Brown in 1997. Waller capped off his record-setting season with 107 catches.
“I know Tim Brown,” Gruden said. “I got a great history with him. I know what an unbelievable player he was. When you start throwing around Tim Brown’s name and you say you’re breaking Tim Brown’s record, you’re in rare territory.”
Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs also got in on the mix, reaching record milestones. Jacobs went above the 1,000-yard rushing threshold in back-to-back seasons — an accomplishment that hasn’t been reached by a Raiders running back since Marcus Allen did so in 1983 and 1984. Adding to the list of achievements, Carr reached 4,000 passing yards for the third consecutive season — a feat that no other Raiders passer has ever done.
“Josh Jacobs going for over 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons,” Gruden said when talking highly about his second-year running back. “First time since Marcus Allen. It excites me to hear those names again. And then Derek Carr throwing for over 4,000 yards. No ones ever done that three years in a row in Raider history. Our kicker broke Sebastian Janikowski’s all-time record, so there were some positive things that happened this season. I’m going to enjoy the moment.”
Kicker Daniel Carlson became the Raiders’ all-time single-season scoring leader. Carlson passes Sebastian Janikowski’s previous record of 142 points scored in 2010.
The back half of the Raiders season was a major letdown after getting off to a 6-3 start. Against the Broncos, you saw why teams late in the season were able to dethrone the Raiders. Offensively, the red zone efficiencies, the conversions on third down (five of 13 today) and a lacking running attack all remained constant problems.
On defense, they still haven’t proved they can apply enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. A limited pass rush paired with a young secondary caused the Raiders into situations they just couldn’t pull themselves out of more times than not this season.
Luckily enough for the Raiders, they were able to rally back against the Broncos after digging themselves into a late fourth quarter deficient. However, against playoff teams that’s not always going to be the case.
“It’s a credit to our whole team,” Gruden said when asked to reflect on his team’s outing. “We had some really great moments today. We had some ugly moments. Like we always have seemed to do this year — we hang in there, our defense gets us a stop and our quarterback is as good as anybody I’ve been around in those situations. He loves the two-minute drill.”
The Raiders improve to an 8-8 record and will hold the No. 17 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft this offseason. They’ll need adjustments on offense, but the bulk of retooling the roster will likely be centered around the defensive unit.
General manager Mike Mayock and Gruden will have seven draft picks over the three day 2021 NFL Draft. They’re currently on the books for being $7.6 million over the salary cap for the 2021 season. A flurry of moves this offseason to get below the cap figure, and explore other team needs outside of the current roster are destined to occur once the NFL calendar year comes to a close.
“I’m emotionally very sad to see the season end. These are my friends. I’m excited about the future,” Carr said.