For one three-week stretch at the end of the first half of the 2015 season, the Raiders had morphed into an offensive powerhouse. In consecutive weeks they scored 37, 34 and 35 points in going 2-1 against the Chargers, Jets and Steelers.
Quarterback Derek Carr was connecting with his dynamic receiving corps and the offensive line was giving him time and opening holes.
After eight games, the Raiders offense ranked No. 8 overall in the NFL. The passing attack was also ranked No. 8 and Oakland was 18th in rushing.
But over the final eight games of the season, Oakland went 3-5 en route to a 7-9 record and the Raiders scored 20 or more points just four times. In the season-ending 23-17 loss to Kansas City, the Raiders could muster just 205 total net yards.
Oakland finished the season ranked just 24th in the NFL in total offense with an average of 333.5 yards per game and 17th in scoring at 22.4 points per game.
When the season was over, first-year head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters that his offensive unit had “lost their way” at some point.
“We kind of sputtered to finish the year,” Del Rio said. “At one time we were red hot. I feel we lost our way a little bit, got off the rails. We had nowhere near the productivity we expected to have. We have to take a look at it.”
Over the second half of the season, the offensive line didn’t protect Carr as well, and the quarterback’s efficiency suffered. The running game, too, tailed off. And, over the final few games, a foot injury to star wideout Amari Cooper hampered his big-play capability.
But as he looks forward to the offseason and 2016, Del Rio is optimistic. He says he has faith in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and Carr and thinks another year together – with the addition of some new talent through the draft and free agency – can produce more continuity and the explosive plays the offense produced with more regularity in the season’s first half.
“I think you have an opportunity when you’re in your second year to grow and go to an advanced level of an understanding of exactly what we’re trying to get done,” Del Rio told reporters this week. “I think that goes with coach to player. I think that goes from coach to coach. I think within our staff, we’ll be stronger as a staff and understanding how we do things and how the flow of communication occurs and just the different things that we have to be really good at.”
Carr, too, was disappointed, but he’s optimistic. The Raiders went from 3-13 to 7-9.
“We all wanted it to be better, but last year after the last game, it was sad,” Carr told ESPN.com after the loss to the Chiefs. “In the locker room today, everyone was hurt because we didn’t get the job done, but at the same time we know what we’re building here and it was kind of exciting.”