- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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No staying power: For the fourth straight home game the Raiders had a quick start, only for the offense to play the second half as if stuck in neutral. Against Washington, it was a 14-0 lead before losing 24-14. Against San Diego, the Raiders led 17-0 before hanging on for a 27-17 victory. Two weeks ago, it was a 7-0 lead at Kansas City that would have been 10-0 were it not for a missed field goal. And Sunday, the Raiders led 21-3 before beating Pittsburgh 21-18. Without saying it outright, quarterback Terrelle Pryor hinted the play calling got conservative in the second half against the Steelers, and the Raiders were trying to salt away an 18-point lead. Oakland, though, lost its momentum and had but one first down and 35 yards of offense after halftime. Coach Dennis Allen admitted the Raiders need to find a killer instinct.
FedEx for Tarver? So incensed was defensive coordinator Jason Tarver at a personal foul call on cornerback Mike Jenkins with 8:48 left in the third quarter that Tarver was caught by TV cameras giving a one-finger salute to the officials. And no, he was not telling them they were No. 1. Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira wrote an online column saying he took it upon himself to alert the NFL about Tarver giving the refs the bird, er, business, and Tarver should expect a fine from the league. Three years ago, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil was slapped with a $40,000 fine for flipping off the refs when he disagreed with a penalty. Oh, and the flags thrown at Jenkins were picked up, resulting in no penalty.
Ford stalls: Three years ago Jacoby Ford was a playmaking game-changer for the Raiders. Sunday, he could not get out of his own way. Ford badly misplayed two punts, allowing one to be downed at the 1-yard line, the other to nearly glance off him for a turnover. He fumbled another punt return out of bounds and lost a fumble on a short pass catch in the flat. The Steelers turned that turnover into their first touchdown. “You put the ball on the ground in a game like that, you’re giving them an opportunity to get back in the game,” Allen said. “Good teams don’t do that.”
Of explosive plays VII: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air or 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had four such plays against Pittsburgh: two runs, including Pryor’s 93-yard scamper on the first play of the game, and two passes, while the Steelers had five explosive plays, all passes. In seven games, the Raiders have 49 explosive plays (17 runs, 32 passes), with two TD runs and four passing scores. Oakland’s opponents, meanwhile, have 46 explosive plays, nine runs and 37 passes with a touchdown each way.