LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas Raiders coach Josh McDaniels insists the confidence he has in his offense is intact.
He just didn’t necessarily show it Sunday on a crucial fourth down with 2:25 left in the game and the Raiders trailing 23-15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
McDanielels sent kicker Daniel Carlson onto the field for a 26-yard field goal to make it a five-point game.
Though they got the ball back on their own 15-yard line with 12 seconds left, it wouldn’t matter as Pittsburgh cornerback Levi Wallace intercepted Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garappolo to help the Steelers secure a 23-18 win.
“No! No!” McDaniels answered emphatically when asked if going for the field goal showed a lack of confidence in his offense. “You’re going to need another possession anyway. It’s not a lack of confidence. We went for it multiple times.”
Twice, the Raiders went for it on fourth down earlier in the game, converting once.
Once, the Raiders went for it on fourth down in their first two games.
Fact is, with an underwhelming rushing game that ranks second-to-last behind the Steelers with 116 yards, and a passing game that has the third-fewest passing yards (385). Making matters worse for Las Vegas’ rushing game was the fact the Steelers came into the game having allowed 386 yards on the ground through two games – worst in the NFL. After Sunday, they’re second-worst in allowing 455 yards.
McDaniels tried to rationalize his decision.
“You have two choices there,” he said. “You try to make it a five-point game where you have an opportunity to win it with a touchdown if you get the ball back, or, you try to go for it there and if you happen to convert then you got to make the two-point conversion and all the rest of it.
“Those are the decisions you got to make.”
So why the decision to attempt the field goal?
Perhaps because the NFL reigning rushing king Josh Jacobs has struggled to find his footing through three games, rushing for just 108 yards on 45 attempts, an average of 2.4 yards per carry. It’s his fewest amount of yards through Week 3 when he’s played in every game.
In 2019 he ran for 228 yards and in 2020 he topped that with 252. After playing in only one game through the first three weeks of the 2021 season, he rushed for 192 yards by Week 3 last season.
“I think the running game is a function of a lot of people doing their job well,” McDaniels said “It was last year when he was the rushing champion, a lot of people did their job well, including him. And I don’t feel like we’re quite there yet, obviously. We haven’t done a very good job of running the football for three games.”
Then there’s Garappolo, who has thrown a league-worst six interceptions, including three on Sunday.
“Those are plays obviously we don’t want to make,” McDaniels said. “Jimmy makes a lot of good plays, but obviously when the quarterback holds the ball, he holds the fortune of our team also in his hands when he’s doing those things. He understands the situation and … had a couple plays where we got to make a smarter choice and just go ahead and go to the next play, whether it’s second and long or whatever it may be. But turning it over, this team is a team historically, they win when they get turnovers and they have a harder time when they don’t. A big key obviously was for us to take care of the ball. We didn’t do a good enough job of that tonight.”
Garappolo didn’t speak to the media after the game because he was being evaluated for a concussion.
Not a good sign for a struggling offense and a date with the AFC West-rival Los Angeles Chargers in Inglewood next Sunday.
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