DENVER – The Raiders miss Derek Carr. Really, really bad.
Their first game without their starting quarterback was a complete disaster that goes down as a 24-6 loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field.
The Raiders came unglued early and never came back together, clearly still reeling from Carr’s broken fibula in last week’s win over Indianapolis.
He’s likely done for the season, leaving little hope the Raiders can recover and win a playoff game.
That will have to come on the road. The Raiders blew an opportunity to win the AFC West, secure the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. A win in Denver would’ve sealed the deal. A Kansas City loss would’ve done the same, but the Chiefs stayed in the race by beating San Diego.
Now they’re a No. 5 seed, headed to Houston for a playoff showdown with the Texans.
The Raiders will have to remedy their quarterback situation if there’s any hope of winning in the postseason.
Matt McGloin was in charge filling in for Carr, but his first start of the season didn’t last long. He suffered a shoulder injury late in the second quarter and did not return.
It became clear why Carr was an MVP candidate in the first half, when the Raiders offense struggled mightily with McGloin calling signals. He was inaccurate most of the day, and was worse after getting hit in the shoulder and neck area by Broncos defensive end Jared Crick.
Connor Cook took over late in the second quarter, and finished by completing 12-of-21 passes for 150 yards. He lost a fumble in the third quarter that led to more Denver points.
Cook was solid in spurts, especially on a three-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard touchdown strike to Amari Cooper. It was Cook’s first professional touchdown, which came in his first NFL game on the active roster.
Cook made some rookie mistakes including his fumble and a poorly thrown interception midway through the fourth quarter.
The rookie showed some arm talent but wasn’t able to get the Raiders going consistently, though a fumble lost by Johnny Holton hindered positive momentum after the Cooper touchdown.
It wasn’t just offense still unsettled after Carr’s injury. The defense seemed rattled as well. They didn’t tackle well, and got lethargic as the offense struggled. They were penalized heavily in their worst showing of the year.
The Raiders were never in this important game, and limp into the playoffs following an embarrassing display to end the regular season.
Crabtree over 1,000: Michael Crabtree went over 1,000 yards in the fourth quarter, making him and Amari Cooper the first Raiders receiving tandem to exceed 1,000 yards since 2001. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown accomplished the feat then.
Raiders weak at strong safety: Veteran safety Nate Allen suffered a concussion in the first half, which left the Raiders without quality options at strong safety.
Karl Joseph was inactive with a toe injury and Keith McGill was terrible stepping in for Allen. The Raiders turned to Brynden Trawick, primarily a special teams player, after that.
What’s next: The Raiders head on the road to play the Houston Texans in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs.