On Nov. 15, the Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Denver Broncos, 37-12, to move to 6-3 for the season and seemed to be hitting their stride on a three-game winning streak.
Derek Carr was reestablishing himself as a top-10 quarterback, the running game was imposing itself and the defense had just recorded its best performance of the season.
However, the Raiders' playoff hopes are now gone. Five losses in their last six games have left them out of the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
In a season in which it looked like they could be taking the next step toward being a dark horse contender, they instead find themselves back in the dreaded middle.
All of which begs the question: where did it all go wrong?
Ironically enough, it came right when the Raiders were so close to proving that they were real contenders, as they held a last-minute lead in their second game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs on a game winning drive to score with 28 seconds left.
Being able to taste a sweep of the defending Super Bowl champions, only to have it taken away in the most gut-wrenching of ways, seemed to have a bigger residual effect than anyone could have imagined.
It led to an epic letdown against the Atlanta Falcons and from there the Raiders have shown no resemblance of their former selves.
They’ve seen their average rushing yards per game drop from 139 in their first nine games to 92 since they beat Denver, losing their desired identity on offense.
And their defense, which hadn’t played well to begin with during the season, got to be so bad that it warranted firing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, the man Gruden brought in to run his defense in 2018.
The effect the loss to the Chiefs seemed to have on the Raiders' psyche was the starting point, and losing their identity on offense meant that a defense that was below average already wasn’t able to get the support it needed from the team's other phases.
It all proves that this was a Raiders team that was flawed and unable to make a true run. Now, Gruden and general manager, Mike Mayock must change that outlook.
It is unfair to discuss where the season went wrong in 2020 and not mention the impact of COVID-19 and injuries, and we will after the season. But, both of those important factors were faced by every team.
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