There is no specific data, no scientific research as to why the pendulum is swinging one way or the other. The NFL presents a weekly lineup of one-score games. They are more common than blown calls.
It tends to vary from season to season how your team performs in those games that are decided by eight points or fewer. Striking with the Raiders between this season and last.
The team that qualified for the 2021 playoffs was 7-2 in one-score games, a major reason being their ability to make the biggest plays at the most critical times.
Or at least having one of the best kickers in the league in Daniel Carlson.
They finished the regular season 10-7.
Not so much in 2022 — a 2-7 team going into the game in Denver Sunday is 0-6 in one-score games. They cannot clutch the near ones to save their lives.
Although they have owned the ball with a chance of winning or drawing in all six.
I haven’t done it yet.
“I think a lot of that boils down to a game or two on offense breaking off an explosive play or causing a turnover on defense,” said Pro Football Focus analyst Ben Brown. “It’s more random than anything. I would say it has never been studied exactly why they occur. There just hasn’t been much research into why things break one way or another.
“There is always an element of luck in everything. I would say the same about one-score games.”
A new coaching staff. new system New philosophy. The Raiders are now led by Josh McDaniels, whose attack over the course of games hasn’t yielded the results that would at least even out the one-point results.
The team perspective narrative follows a similar theme and never changes – that a play or two, no matter when they occur in a game, goes a long way in determining which side can prevail when things get tight.
A recent example: The Raiders lost 25-20 to Indianapolis at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. The Colts drove 20-19 down late in the game when cornerback Sam Webb forced a fumble from Indianapolis receiver Michael Pittman.
But linebacker Darien Butler failed to secure the ball for the Raiders, and the Colts recaptured the ball. They then scored in the next game to finally take the lead. The little (big) things.
If only Butler had fallen on the ball… one play.
“The way I see it, there are things we can do at every stage of our team that would help us win those games going forward,” McDaniels said. “So I look at it as if we’re close to the results we’re looking for, not very far off or not within our reach.”
One of his key takeaways: That the raiders only need to identify areas to fill gaps that would ultimately tip the results in their favor. That the team has spent much of their practice time finding solutions over the past week. That anyone can talk about possible problems, but it’s their job to make things better.
“And,” said McDaniels, “we will.”
But given the difference in one-point results between this season and last, it’s fair to ask: Was the run to a playoff berth in 2021 more fool’s gold or because of an actual playoff roster?
Which says more about who the Raiders have really been in tight games lately – 7-2 or 0-6?
Brown talked about happiness, and there’s that part of things. In fact, the Raiders were the happiest team in the NFL this past season, according to a metric that showed study wins over projected totals.
It’s simple: a lot had to go wrong for them to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. More than most thought possible in terms of losses and tie breaks for other teams. It would take hectic last few weeks of the season.
They would win four straight to secure a berth, the most recent win being a classic 35-32 overtime win over the Chargers.
It was one of four overtime wins in a season that would see Carlson take five game-winning kicks.
Happy or good?
“It was a playoff roster within the program,” said Lincoln Kennedy, a former Raiders All-Pro Tackle and current color analyst for the team’s radio show. “They had structure. I thought they were a playoff-caliber team with the plans they had and that’s just not the case this year.
So did they: An insatiable desire to play for interim coach Rich Bisaccia.
The Raiders said to one man they would walk through the proverbial wall for him in hopes their strong finish would allow Bisaccia to get the job full-time.
How much such a focused goal had to do with them winning all those one-score games is unclear, but never ignore the power of emotion.
“It’s really about the execution,” said Raiders tight end Darren Waller, who is currently on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. “It all boils down to that. At the end of the day, it wasn’t there for us this season. We were definitely a playoff roster (last year). But you don’t play the game on paper. What happened this year, no one wished or imagined. You can’t just automatically make 7-7 out of 2-7.”
If you’re the Raiders, there are two ways to look at one-score games this season: wallow in the fact that six of them resulted in losses, or see the positives in how close you are to each were in victory.
You can let it gnaw at you and tear things down or inspire confidence that you’re not that far from flipping a script.
Derek Carr knows which way he prefers.
“I think that was really good news for our team, especially for some of the guys that didn’t go through something like that, like, ‘Guys, we’re right there,'” the nine-year-old quarterback said. “It doesn’t matter like it doesn’t matter. But what it shows us is that we’re not a terrible football team that doesn’t stand a chance every time we go out there.
“Every time we’ve been out there, except for the Saints game (a 24-0 loss), we all felt like we had a chance of winning and we put ourselves in position. I think we want it to happen now. It just didn’t go as quickly as we would like.”
There is no specific data, no scientific research as to why the pendulum is swinging one way or the other. It just didn’t swing in the direction of the Raiders.
Not like last season, luck or not.
You can’t dress up 0-6.
Or, for that matter, 2-7.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for writing sports columns and can be reached at [email protected] He can be heard Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on The Press Box, ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 11 a.m. consequences @edgraney on twitter.