The Las Vegas Raiders dropped their second straight game on Sunday night, falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers as their fourth-quarter comeback attempt came up just short. But it is one decision in particular from head coach Josh McDaniels that is the source of debate and frustration.
Down by eight points with under three minutes remaining, the Raiders faced fourth-and-4 on the Steelers’ eight-yard line. While many believe McDaniels and the Raiders should have gone for it, he instead chose to kick a field goal in hopes that his defense could get the ball back, as the team still had all three of their timeouts plus the two-minute warning.
The Steelers would pick up a first down, and the Raiders would not get the ball back until there were 12 seconds remaining in the game, and they ultimately lost 23-18. Many were critical of McDaniels’ decision, but the Raiders coach explained his thought process in that moment via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN:
“You have two choices there,” McDaniels said after the Raiders fell to the Steelers, 23-18, on Sunday night. “You try to make it a five-point game [with the field goal], where you have an opportunity to win it with the touchdown if you get the ball back. Or you try to go for it there. And then if you happen to convert then you’ve got to make the two-point conversion.”
McDaniels insisted that his decision was not due to a lack of confidence in his offense and, in his defense, the Raiders had forced two consecutive three-and-outs. The momentum was on the Raiders’ side, and the defense was playing well at that point.
But being so close to the end zone and settling for a field goal is always tough, and the margin for error that late in the game is extremely slim. The Raiders’ defense had to be perfect, and they were not, ultimately ending the Raiders’ chances at getting a win in their home opener.
These are the difficult decisions that coaches have to make, and McDaniels did what he felt was best in order for the Raiders to come away with a win. Those decisions will always be questioned, especially when the team loses, but in the end, the head coach has to go with his gut. But any time you kick a field goal inside the 10-yard line, it’s a disappointing end to a possession, and if more of McDaniels’ decisions go this way, his seat could begin to heat up.