As Tre’von Moehrig made the perfect read followed by the perfect break on the football Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, everything was available to him and the Raiders.
A late-game pick six to seal a critical late-season win. A second straight victory to put the 6-6 Raiders in position to continue their playoff push.
All the Raiders’ hopes and dreams were inches away from remaining intact. All Moehrig had to do was make the play.
But just as the rookie safety cut in front of Washington Football Team wide receiver Adam Humphries and reached up to pluck Tyler Heinicke’s pass out of the air, the inexplicable happened.
And it perfectly crystallized a frustrating Raiders season that now hangs on the brink after a stunning 17-15 loss to the WFT that leaves them virtually no room for error as they navigate a five-game sprint. Ahead if them awaits matchups against the Chiefs, Browns, Broncos, Colts and Chargers.
Rather than securing the football for a game-saving interception, Moehrig let it slip through his hands. By the time it innocently bounced off the grass, Washington had new life.
Three plays and nine yards later, Brian Johnson kicked a 48-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining to essentially drive a stake through the heart of the Raiders’ playoff hopes.
“It was a mistake,” Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs said of Moehrig’s misplay. “Mistakes happen.”
But the six-second sequence completely capsulized everything that is wrong about the Raiders. Including their inability to better handle their business across any number of prior sequences that led up to it.
Had they done so, the Raiders would have avoided such an important game coming down to a first-year player’s rookie mistake.
Specifically, their season-long habit of starting slowly offensively and their equally habitual struggle to finish off promising drives with touchdowns rather than field goals.
Both of which pushed the Raiders to the edge of their patience on Sunday.
“I feel like we come in just stiff and dull in games sometimes,” angry running back Josh Jacobs said.
Said Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia: “We gotta come up with some plays, somehow. Find a way to make a play with people on us. Find a way to make a throw even when we’re under duress.”
The Raiders wasted nearly a whole half trying to find an offensive rhythm. It took until their last drive before halftime to come up with their first three points of the game.
Meanwhile, four trips to Washington’s side of the field resulted in just one touchdown.
Their three field goals — rather than touchdowns — deprived the Raiders of the wiggle room to survive Washington’s late-game push. Most frustrating of all, the Raiders were coming off a 36-point game against the Cowboys in which everything was clicking.
“It looks good one week … and then it’s not,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. “We just got to keep working. As hard as it is to say that for me, that’s the only choice that I have.”
Yes, not having tight end Darren Waller because of a knee injury did not help. But so too did an inability to produce an effective run game or consistently give Carr clean pockets from which to operate.
“Very frustrated,” said Carr, who contributed to the issue by missing the mark on a throw to Zay Jones in the end zone and Foster Moreau on a deep seam route.
“Field goals, they’re not going to win you games,” Carr added. “You got to get touchdowns, especially the teams we have coming up.”
The Raiders have been repeating that point all season. Their .500 record after 12 games is the frustrating proof of their inability to consistently turn talk into action.
“We have to get better at scoring touchdowns and not field goals. We know that,” said wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. “Until we get that fixed we’re going to keep losing games.”
The Raiders’ defense surrendered just 298 yards to Washington. After giving up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, they didn’t allow another point until the fourth quarter.
That left the Raiders, who finished with 310 yards of offense, more than enough time and opportunity to get even and build a big enough lead to put WFT away.
But they didn’t.
“I think it’s a mindset,” Jacobs said. “I think people just coast a little bit too much. And that’s definitely frustrating.”
It’s put the Raiders’ season on the brink.