The Raiders went toe-to-toe against a tough Dolphins squad for four quarters on Sunday but came up short, losing 20-13 in Miami.
It was Las Vegas’ first loss under interim coach Antonio Pierce, but the Raiders had a chance to tie the score late until quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw an interception in the end zone with just seconds remaining.
The Raiders’ defense forced three turnovers and overcame a Las Vegas offense that sputtered in the second half, not allowing a single point to the high-flying Dolphins in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for coach Pierce, the Raiders failed to score a point of their own after the break.
Here are the winners and losers for the week, as the Raiders fall to 5-6.
Winner: Raiders defense/DC Patrick Graham
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham led an effort the Raiders defense can be proud of. The Dolphins offense had their share of impressive plays and ended up with 422 total yards, but two recovered fumbles by Las Vegas and an interception by safety Isaiah Pola-Mao on Miami’s first play of the second half helped hold off any sustained Dolphins charge.
The Raiders red zone defense impressed as well, forcing a turnover on downs inside the 10-yard line early in the second quarter. Las Vegas also forced Miami into three field goal tries, which is a high number of attempts for their potent offense.
Their effort in the fourth quarter gave the Raiders offense a chance to capitalize, but three second-half interceptions from O’Connell —with two coming in the final frame — loomed large.
Winner: S Isaiah Pola-Mao
Pola-Mao helped cover for an injury to S Marcus Epps and made a positive impact. First, he was in on a 4th-and-1 stop in the red zone, as he and cornerback Nate Hobbs stopped superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a loss on a swing pass.
Pola-Mao’s interception gave the Raiders solid field position, but the offense failed to convert points on that possession. Overall, Las Vegas scored just six points off of turnovers.
Winner: LB Luke Masterson/CB Nate Hobbs
Linebacker Luke Masterson and Hobbs each forced a fumble, recovered by Epps and LB Divine Deablo, respectively. Each play occurred in the first half, and the Raiders converted each turnover into a field goal.
Considering the Raiders didn’t score at all in the second half, those missed chances for six points instead of three became the difference in the game. This includes a conservative approach on offense after Hobbs’ forced fumble just before the first half came to a close.
Winner: WR Hunter Renfrow
We had a confirmed Renfrow sighting on Sunday. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow had a spectacular catch and run in the second half, as Vegas desperately attempted to even the score at 20 in the final quarter.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 19, 2023
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the drive ended in one of O’Connell’s interceptions (this one a wild attempt as O’Connell fell backward to the ground on fourth down), but Renfrow displayed elite, jaw-dropping athleticism as he hurdled a Miami defender.
Winner: QB Aidan O’Connell/WR Davante Adams
O’Connell was on fire in the first quarter, posting a 143.8 QB rating. That was largely because of a 46-yard touchdown toss to superstar WR Davante Adams, which gave Vegas a 10-7 lead. Notably, O’Connell didn’t mind the extra defenders in the area and gave Adams a chance to make a play.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 19, 2023
The entire Raiders offense slowed to a near halt after that play, and O’Connell had his three interceptions after the break. But these two are on the winner list because, despite a missed connection in the fourth quarter, their chemistry is improving by the week. If the Raiders are to make a move down the stretch, O’Connell and Adams have to lead the way. On Sunday, they made a huge step in the right direction.
Winner: Coach Antonio Pierce
The Raiders fought hard in this game and gave themselves a chance to beat a superior opponent on the road. It’s a tough loss, but coach Antonio Pierce deserves credit for having his team ready to play. If Las Vegas gives that level of effort every week, they’ll eventually start winning more than they lose.
Honorable mention for the winner list is LB Robert Spillane, who had 13 tackles (six solo) and continues to lead an over-achieving defense.
Loser: RB Josh Jacobs/Run game
A week ago against the Jets, the Raiders kept pounding the run game, featuring RB Josh Jacobs, and eventually broke through. Against the Dolphins, that wasn’t the case. Jacobs ended up with just 39 yards on 14 carries.
Given how close the game was, just a few more timely runs could have made a huge difference, especially in short-yardage situations.
Loser: Short yardage offense/OC Bo Hardegree
The Raiders were 4-for-14 on third-down tries and failed on two fourth-down attempts that came in the fourth quarter.
Las Vegas had plenty of chances before the final frame on third and short, including a failed flea flicker attempt on 3rd-and-1 in the third quarter. Additionally, Jacobs was stuffed for a loss on 3rd-and-1 after Pola-Mao’s interception.
New offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree faces the same issue as his predecessor: a suspect offensive line. Somehow, he has to find some short-yardage plays that can overcome Las Vegas’ inconsistent group up front.
Loser: CB Jakorian Bennett
It’s been a year of lessons for rookie cornerback Jakorian Bennett. After beginning the season as a starter, he’s only seen intermittent action and had some rough moments.
In the first quarter in Miami, a hold on Bennett wiped out a QB sack from defensive end Malcolm Koonce on a 3rd-and-11 play. The Dolphins scored a touchdown on the drive to take a 7-3 lead.
The Raiders took a step back in the standings on Sunday, but they perhaps took a step forward as a franchise. It’s hard to imagine the previous regime playing the Dolphins this tough, and if Pierce can get the same effort out of his team in each remaining week this season, things could get interesting in Vegas. They’ll have yet another massive test next week against the Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium.